February Ordinary Days

Tidbits I want to remember:
Abbey had a chance to get great seats at basketball game and was sent some pictures of herself and her roommate on TV...it was so exciting to watch, and I'm sure for her, to be there so up close.

Janey loved her sledding experience...we finally had a snow day this winter.  When I told Janey about the chance of the boys not having school the next day she said, "Oh good. I can play with my Patrick and my Andrew." 

I felt pressured enormously by a certain son (Andrew can be very persuasive once he gets something in his head) to take everyone sledding, even though I will admit it was NOT what I wanted to do. I am done with snow, whether we had a lot or a little this winter, I'm done. But I sat in the car and let them have their very wet and very muddy fun for 2016.  And now I want to put away all the winter boots and snow pants, as premature as that really is.

Abbey sent me a text of a special delivery she received on Valentines Day. :)
As Patrick and Andrew would say, with rolling eyes, "True love!"

Isaac sent me this photo as a joke with orders to tell Patrick that he can indeed make his own peanut butter and jelly. Patrick always teases him, because Isaac has taken the longest to step up in independent meal fixing skills.  I remember when he came home from college a few months after Janey was born and asked me to fix him something and I snapped, "Everyone has been fixing their own lunches and breakfasts around here since Janey has been born. Your five year old brother can fix his own sandwich!" (This was in the throes of colicky baby.) I think a lot of the times he just would choose to not eat, which is a valid choice I guess. And it's funny because I've found that college meals plans just make kids that we want to become more independent, the opposite. They have all these choices at their fingertips and someone serves them! BUT this year he has his own kitchen, and has really learned to like to cook.

A selfie?

I took Patrick to a MI game and he was so so cute. I want to remember it forever. They had a great win, and he just watched every single second. He so wants to be a MI basketball player. He told me he is going here for sure. 

Matt had a great CYO basketball season-it was fun to watch them. The kids always end up doing better than they thought they would-the team really comes together.

Caught this one morning-Janey will do anything for "her boys".

She sat in here for at least an hour.

Picking up Daddy for lunch makes her so excited.

We went to an auction for Make-A-Wish and this was the puppy they were auctioning off. This is our Sammy exactly. It's crazy how much they look alike. I sent this pic to the older kids and said we donated him. (That would be my make-a-wish?:) He went for $1700!  Sigh.

Our neighbor dropped off some fun new things for Janey that her daughter has outgrown and someone has been in heaven and quite busy. Perfect timing for these long boring winter days.

What are we going to do? One more wonderful Sunday, and then it's gone. I sure hope they have something just as good to replace it. I have loved this season so much. I usually don't get a chance to watch the episodes till Monday or Tuesday, and do so when I workout and Janey will ask, "Can we watch Abbey Downtown?" I swear she thinks it has something to do with Abbey, but can't quite figure out the correlation.

Between picking up kids here and there and everywhere, Janey and I sometimes kill time down by the river-I love this spot.  Amazing how much it changes over one week.


A Simple Whole30

I did a Whole 30 in January (and am continuing on-Day 45 today) and some of you have asked me some questions about how I did it etc.-here's that post!

First off, my friend Jane helped me a ton and really got me started and motivated.  Here is her post on her Whole30 experience (she is still going strong months and months later with I think a more than 30 pound weight loss!)

If you want to read about what the Whole30 is, this is the basic information you need to know. I really didn't read either of the books (first one, second one) until after I started and then had to return them mid-journey. I also read a book the Whole30 authors refer to a few times as they have based their program off of it, called The Paleo Solution by Roff Wolf and I really liked how this guy explained the paleo philosophy and also gave some weight training information as well.  All books are very motivating and interesting.

There are a TON of recipes on the internet for Whole30 (and Paleo-which is not the same as Whole30 as Whole30 excludes some things basic Paleo plans do not.) BUT I did not want to overwhelm myself and wanted to start slow and simple.

I know enough about my lifestyle, my appetite and what will work for me especially the time I have for all of this. I love Whole30 and it worked for me because it is not restrictive on the amount of food you can eat. I know I hate being hungry, I hate not having food choices, I am very much an "all or nothing" person (called an abstainer instead of a moderator, thank you Gretchen Rubin).  I kept a very simple "meal plan" for myself and kept up cooking normally for my family. I know my weakness is sugar and I must go all or nothing because it slowly creeps into my life and before I know it, it is my main food group. My older sister has been telling me for years to control my sugar cravings by eating more protein and finally I listened to her, and you know what, she was right.

Eating out I've just figured out what I could have. Parties-I eat before I go, and go saying to myself I will eat nothing the entire time. I feel good when I get home instead of gross like I used to.

Benefits of Whole30 for me:
I have never once been hungry on this plan. I am usually too full by dinner time to eat much dinner.

I've slept better, lost weight, tons more energy, no afternoon slump, no sugar cravings, no sore joints, clearer skin, better mood all the time, think about food less, and life more.

Just an important side note-there are times in life when we have more time for ourselves than others. If someone would have tried to get me to do this plan, as simple as it is, one or two or three years ago when Janey was a high needs baby and there were other stressors in my life, I might have said a bad word or two back to them in my head.  I just didn't have the mental energy, the time to sit down and eat a nice meal some days, the extra space in my soul for motivation, the ability to deprive myself of some major stress relief chocolate eating. I was doing my best giving most (all?) of my energy caring for this gorgeous baby and five other children and a husband and keeping it all together. If this is you, you know that's okay right?  I know that might not be the message we hear-(take time for yourself, go on date nights, exercise, look sexy after baby, fit back into those jeans, eat frequent small meals, make sure you get enough sleep blah blah blah shut up)-SOMETIMES IT IS NOT POSSIBLE.  Like you don't have ONE second to go to the bathroom, how could you do any of this??? IF THIS IS YOU RIGHT NOW, JUST KEEP DOING WHAT YOU ARE DOING IT IS GOD's WORK. Give it-it being mothering-your all. You will never regret it and will be rewarded for the rest of your life, and once this hard stage of mothering passes, or ebbs till the next baby, know one day you WILL be able to sit down and eat a healthier breakfast, and might have time to make a salad or even do a few leg lifts, lose a few pounds if so desired, and pay a little attention to yourself. 

So here are my basics:
Every morning for breakfast I have the same thing. I take a small frying pan, put MILD olive oil in it, saute some spinach, tomato, and chopped peppers (maybe some mushrooms and onions) and once those are soft I add two or three scrambled eggs right on top. I turn heat on low and cover the pan, and it "souffles" into a nice little meal.  I make normal breakfast for the kids while I am doing this whether it's eggs, waffles, pancakes, or cereal.

For lunch almost every day:
A big salad.  Romaine, some broccoli slaw for crunch and color, tomatoes, onions, maybe a hard-boiled egg, or avocado cut up and grilled chicken. I cut up the chicken when I get home from the store and freeze some with the garlic in freezer bags, keeping what I will use that week in the fridge. I usually grill up a batch about every four days as needed. I also have made taco salad with ground beef, avocado, cilantro, etc. and used the Ranch dressing with cilantro added as a dressing.

I use these three dressings-your really have to make your own and honestly, homemade dressing makes a salad, so I didn't mind, although it does take more time. I would double the recipe so I'd have the dressing to use all week.

Ranch -scroll down when you get to this post. This is delicious and I use this for sweet potato fry dip and also in place of ketchup on burgers. (I thought I'd die without ketchup (and there are Whole30 ketchup recipes that you can make-but I haven't missed it at all and now it's gross to me.) I printed out this entire post and put it in my recipe binder, but have only used the Ranch so far.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

My Greek dressing

A handful of cashews or almonds or walnuts and black berries or maybe grapes. I try to go easy on the fruit although it's part of the plan because I am afraid of awakening my sugar cravings.  I have also used this snack a few times as a meal stand-in if for some reason I didn't have time for the salad or dinner.

For Dinner:
I still plan my meals for the family weekly (very simple ones), but think about what I can eat too with each meal. For my spaghetti stand in, I made a batch of these meatballs and froze them, and either eat them with zoodles or broiled eggplant and added store-bought "pure" marinara to put on top of meatballs and eggplant. I would highly advise always having a back-up like this frozen as it makes it easy on those hectic nights. 

Many times (especially the busy sports evenings) I make sweet potato fries and ate those alone. I have made burgers for everyone (ate mine with the fries, no bun, a big tomato and lettuce) or maybe I've made pork chops, didn't bread mine, had a baked apple on the side. Or we've grilled steak and I made asparagus (but didn't put parm on it like I usually do.) I made blackened cauliflower as a side a few times and then Jeff ate it all. :) Janey steels my sweet potato fries all the time.

A few times I've had leftover salad from lunch and have eaten that for dinner, maybe with some sweet potato chips for a little extra hot side dish.

Essentials for me that I make sure I am never without: Sweet potatoes, spaghetti sauce, eggs, (and hardboiled eggs for salads), tomatoes, Romaine lettuce (I use one "stalk" for every salad), broccoli slaw to add crunch and color to salad, avocado...

...zucchini for zoodles, MILD olive oil (so the taste doesn't overtake my food especially eggs), red wine vinegar and balsamic, and the water is because I have to be reminded to not wait before bed to be thirsty. 

Mandoline slicer ($15) for sweet potato chips (another good irresistible side), my perfect sized salad bowl, plastic container to store coconut milk that I use for Ranch dressing, and glass jars for storing homemade dressings, and zoodler ($12).

Cocount milk essential for my favorite ranch dressing, see below.

I marinate my chicken in this-very simple.

I printed this out and hung this list on the fridge which helped me at first (it's SO basic-fruit, vegetables, some nuts, some fat, meat and eggs. No dairy, no processed foods, no flour, no sugar.)

That's it!  I have some simple recipes I've saved on my Pinterest Whole 30 board that I may plan to try when I have time (I made a goal of trying one new recipe a week and have done pretty well at it) but the key for me is not being overwhelmed by it all.

Any questions, feel free to ask.


Ordinary Days

I always find some sort of photo like this on my camera. Matt and Janey.

One of her Christmas presents-she just loves it and when she wears it when we go out everyone thinks it's the cutest thing ever.  (It's this one here-she can wear it in back or front, and I cross the straps so it stays on.)

We went on a giant cookie making spree for the college kids. 

Chocolate chip cookies for both Abbey and Isaac and Abbey's special request was snickerdoodles.

I had the chance to go BY MYSELF ALL DAY to visit Abbey. It was so much fun, honestly I could do it every weekend, but darn, we'd be too spoiled (and that would be a lot of driving!). We went out to lunch and dinner (this the way to Abbey's heart, that girl likes to eat out!) and went shopping here, and there and everywhere.  It was nice seeing her beautiful face, and knowing she is doing great. We text everyday but there is something about just seeing them in person that makes a mother's heart feel better. 

Dropping her back off at the dorm again and it always feels like the first day of leaving them at preschool. I want to say, "No, no, just come back home, don't leave!!!!", and they do just fine but it makes my heart feel a little sick.

Whole 41!!! 
This the day I am on, I mark it off on a little calendar I have on the fridge. I loved loved loved Whole30 and followed it exactly. Day Two I forgot and put a piece of popcorn in my mouth at a basketball game and felt like spitting it out again. So I guess that counts as a cheat, but I'll just call it forgetfulness.  I am going to keep going till I am happy where I am at weight and fitness wise, we'll see where it leads me.  I am on a roll so I'm sticking with it.

And by the way, if you have never made sweet potato chips in the oven, this is my weakness now-if the kids don't eat them first. (I am feeding my family "normal" but it's funny how many things they are eating-roasted cauliflower etc, so it's been good for all of us.)

Trying to drink more water, as I am waking up at night thirsty, thank you furnace. :(

It is so fun spending every day with this girl. We shop, we cook, we bake, we clean, we watch Sesame Street, (she watches I get things done), we do laundry (she knows which item of every piece of clothing belongs to which person), we listen to music, we color, we drive kids to soccer practice or pick them up from high school or take them to tennis, we don't take walks because my face freezes off, but can't wait till it gets a little warmer out.

I set her up at this window to watch for Daddy's car in the evening during the "witching hour".

Jeff and I got up to a MI game by ourselves.

Love when I can see a beautiful sunset beyond the trees and this time I knew it was worth driving to the river to see, but darn, I forgot my Matthew had my van, so I had to be content with this view. It's such a pretty, quiet time of evening, and always reminds me of Anne of Green Gables for some reason.

Isaac came home, and the games get heated (our neighbor is in this pic too and for some reason Isaac is not.)

His speciality-popcorn. He tortures me (but then he gave up cookies, candy, cake for Lent so I am sure it might be torture for him when I make cookies for the college kids.)

Valentine's Day baking.

A little kindergartner picture of my oldest that I adore. He has always always been such a good boy and I am proud of him. Graduating this spring from college, how can that be???  I think back on how school was never easy for him-he was never a student that excelled, and he sometimes was forgetful and I was always so worried about it. If this is your son, it will be OK, boy I wish I would have known that. 

If he forgets his binder in junior high when he has homework, or studies for a quiz and knows it all but gets a C, or just doesn't absorb all the material lectured in class, I want to tell you that it will be OK. Some kids are "school kids" and some aren't, some need more help and reminders certain years and some don't ever need one bit of help or reminders, and I have both and looking back see that our kids are all blessed and challenged in some way or another. Sometimes I think the ones that struggle learn how to work harder at it (at everything?), or just know what they are capable of and have an easier going personality, which are good traits-to learn to work hard, and not always be the one who gets all the rewards, but to get along so well with others, and take things in stride. 
Isaac has had a job since day one of college and sometimes worked that job and an internship, and attended full time classes and he's made it through (in four years, yay!) and loved his college experience, and made such good friends, and I am so so proud of him.

Last, I took this in the car wash-scared but excited! Now on Tuesday we go pick up our 1/2 price bagels at Panera for the boys and get a car wash. 


John Beilein Interview-Sacrifice and Dedication

Love this interview with my Uncle John (my mom is his oldest sister) and everything he has to say about hard work, competition, the drive that is necessary as the sole provider for his family, growing up in a big family, peas and toast mentality (you get what you get and you like it!), the "Greatest Generation", and my wonderful Aunt Kathleen who is one of my top mother mentors.