Food is so overrated

You mean you buy food at a Farmers' Market???

Apparently a rolly polly home/pirate booby trap.

Found use for a non-working water fountain. :)

Purchases: Cranberry scone- thanks Marcia! One bottle of local raw honey for BigBoy's allergies. Honey stix for the boys. Two brats.

We had a fantastic time enjoying the sunshine and company. The boys were totally into their project and it gave us time to chat with everyone at the market. perfect! We strolled downtown and bit and then hit a local park. On the way home we decided the perfect ending to the day would be a mom and son ice cream date.


Making the rounds.

I'm walking the walk and it feels great! Today BigBoy and I went back to a local strawberry patch we visited on Monday. Unfortunately, we got there too late (Memorial Day) and we ended up waiting over an hour and then got the leftovers. But the kids had fun, we spent some time with friends and got a some berries in the process. I ended up talking to the owner about coming back later in the week, which he suggested since there usually isn't many people picking during the week.

BigDaddy is off recruiting this weekend in CA and actually took Sassy with him! So this weekend is all about BigBoy. We woke up and dashed out of the house to visit our local patch again. This time it was perfect! About 5 other people there and it was nice and cool. The farmer was just hanging out with us, chatting and talking to BigBoy about getting dirty. He told me he doesn't use any spray and weeds about 1/2 the patch, but just lets the other part go. They were a pretty decent price ($1.69 lb) and were no spray- which I can't even find in the stores! We, well I, went to town and 45 minutes later I had over 10 lbs. BB quit after about 15 minutes, but hung out talking to the owner and playing in the mud. After we were done, Mr. Farmer took my berries and walked me down to the register. Before we did any transactions he looks over at my son and says "Big Boy we gotta hose you down! C'mon!" (and yes, he actually said Big Boy!) He proceeded to actually hose down BB and rub down his feet, legs, hands and arms. How's that for customer service?! I found an extra shirt, but no dice on the bottoms. "Son, looks like your ridin' home in your underwear." All matter of fact. Yep. He was right. We said our goodbyes, waved to the other pickers and off we went.

We changed, cleaned up some berries and off again! Pit stop to a friends to drop off some berries, post office and then to a nearby farm I've been wanting to check out. We stopped and I found out that they had some produce and EGGS!!! yahooo! At $2.50 a dozen, they were cheaper than the store brand cage free, organic eggs we were buying. Big Bonus: they were from a farm just one town over. They even had their own personal label on the side with the family name, farm address and phone number. I hit the grocery in town and stopped by again on the way home. Once again, Big Boy chatted with the farmers, this time a family of Mennonites, and pet their big black Lab, Willie. We said we'd be back for sure, said our goodbyes and waved.

It felt good to buy local, natural food and in the process support some families in our community. Real Good.


Whatcha Doin'? Phase II

The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want. -- Ben Stein.

Well, DUH. That seems pretty easy doesn't it? But how many of us really think about that? When was the last time we all sat down and really discussed your personal/family goals for your lifestyle, for eating habits, for reducing the size of your eco-footprint. I can tell you that we never did as a family until recently.

I've had quite a few people ask about being more organic, but they really don't know where to start. One friend actually had her doctor say it was almost impossible to get rid of High Fructose Corn Syrup from your diet. WHAT?! A doctor?? That really floored me and motivated me to put together a post on getting started. It's sad that our medical community, for the most part, lacks a lot of knowledge on nutrition. If you are interested in cleaning up your eating habits and the food you feed yourself and your family, then you really need to make that moment happen. Decide to do it. It really is that easy. BigDaddy and I talked about our game plan and then we had a family meeting with the munchkins about being "healthy" and treating the earth better. But even then, we didn't talk about specifics. As Queen Bee of the house, it was my duty to really figure all of this out, come up with a plan and then execute. BigDaddy still doesn't want all the details, but he is my sounding board. And thankfully will eat just about anything. As will Sassy. BB, not so much, but he is getting better. What's really amazing is seeing the munchkins totally get into our overhaul. And honestly, it's more of a side effect. They see us, the parents, exercising and eating healthier and want to be like us. How easy is that?

I know what some of you are thinking.... Lunzy has really gone off the deep end this time. Growing a garden, buying organic, getting rid of processed foods, hanging her laundry. WHAT? But honestly, these are things I've been playing with for a while. With BigBoy I had a natural birth, used cloth diapers, and felt really good about getting more crunchy. I breastfed for a little over a year- no bottles mind you, and made a lot of my own baby food and then bought organic or at least all natural babyfood. The bottle strike was NOT my idea btw. But I went natural for him. Because at the end of the day, it wasn't about me anymore, it was about BB and his little body. I didn't want a bunch of junk in his little system. Then Sassy came along and I really thought I'd do much of the same. I was able to have a natural birth with her too, but unfortunately, she got the exhausted, married-single mom of two, instead of the totally fixated, focused mom of one. So she got some crunchiness, but not like BB.

So what do I want? I want to take it another step. Go Big or Go Home, right? Well, I'm not totally there yet and I'm a firm believer in moderation and using the 80/20 rule. And for most of us, doing something, ANYTHING is more than what we did before. So if 80% of what we eat is "good for us" than I'm pretty happy. Some total junky popsicle during summer once in a while won't be all evil. I'm going to stick with the Dirty Dozen List of produce, but not worry too much about the other stuff and produce that is peeled before you eat it. We are growing food in our own yard and will try to buy as much local produce as possible.

I know what you are thinking again. But Lunzy, It's soooo expensive to eat organic. Yes, it is. Kinda. I'm not going to argue, it does cost more, but usually not that much more. I promise. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods nearby by, it's ridiculously easy (we don't). Lots of stores now now carry their own label of organic, many times it's the same or CHEAPER, kid you not.I know Meijer and Martins have their own organic lines and Wally World has a ton of options for canned and boxed goods now. Side note: Walmart has Cascadian Farms products super cheap. I honestly thought is was some lame, cheapo label but then saw it at other stores for waaaay more. Newman's Own is also a great product line to look for.

You will find that if you are actually cutting out junk food and processed foods (which, btw is ridiculously priced for what you get--talk about expensive food!) overall you budget should be about the same. We cut out juice, cut back on processed foods and are making more meals and baked goods from scratch. Also, if you are buying pure, natural products, they usually last longer in your kitchen since you don't use as much. Plus they taste better. I buy maple syrup, not colored corn syrup for pancakes. It's more money, but I use less and it's soooo much better than Aunt Jemima. sorry Jemima, no offense.
So without further ado... cut to bright lights...

My Food Doctrine:
  • Eat from our organic Victory Garden. :)
  • Buy only organic dairy and organic, free range eggs. Just found a great post on organic eggs!
  • Buy organic produce when listed on the Dirty Dozen. (Not worrying about other produce) Try to buy at local farms or farmer's markets. Also look for local labels at the store. I'm still going to buy canned veggies. We already get the no salt added variety.
  • Eat more in season, also called Slow Food eating. Learn how to can this year, possibly get a dehydrator.
  • Significantly cut back on processed foods. When buying them try to buy all natural/organic and avoid Dr. Oz's yucky 5. We also don't do anything with MSG, excessive sodium, lots of nitrates, food dyes, or corn syrup. We've also decreased the amount of diet coke we drink and make sun tea or just drink more water.
  • Make more meals from scratch. (Plan more batch cooking!)
  • Buy organic/more natural meat and wild fish. Investigate local grass fed meat options like Polyface.
So there you have it. What I want. Remember, this is all a process. It doesn't happen overnight. If you are interested in doing becoming more earth friendly and eating more natural foods, then figure out a starting point. Start buying Organic Dirty Dozen produce or free range eggs. What do you eat the most of? Maybe just switch that out for better options. Do what makes sense for you and don't get overwhelmed. I'm also available as a resource. Post a comment (see that little section below?) or ask a question via email: lunzy [at] lunzygras.com. I'm happy to help and love researching. Also let me know if there's a topic you'd like to hear more about. I can point you in the right direction or do my own post.

I'm here for you people!

Listed below are the top most and least contaminated produce items.
12 Most Contaminated
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
12 Least Contaminated
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

Some other resources
www.organic.org Organic made easy. Life made better.
Environmental Working Group - this site is a wealth of information. Lots of info about home toxins, baby products, and every day chemicals


Down on the farm.

Last week we drove out to visit our Babysitter Extraordinaire's family farm- about 2 hours away. She graduated last Sunday. Don't even get me started on THAT one! sniff, sniff. And left for France yesterday for two months. Yes, France. So not only is she not coming once a week and seeing the munchkins, but she's out of the country. Just kick me while I'm down wouldya?

We thought it would be good for the kids to see her at her "real home" to understand the concept of school housing vs. real home and why she doesn't live down the street anymore. So off to the farm we went!

Had I known where we were going I might have done it a lot sooner and then hid under her bed as a stowaway! We had a wonderful day. Top 10 in my book. This is a picture of me relaxing in a hammock during one of my many moments of bliss.

One pool, 7 kids, 60 acres, cows, horses, dogs, and cats. I never thought this would seem "perfect" to me. But it was. We all had a blast and left the day full. Filled with yummy food, friendship and relaxation. It was great. To say I wasn't deeply moved by this trip would be a big lie. We didn't do anything involved. Ate chicken salad, fruit, fresh bread and sweet tea for lunch. Swam in a pool. Enjoyed Popsicles in the sun. Discussed dragonflies. Fed a calf. Played with kittens. Swung in tree swings and hammocks. Drank wine and talked. Easy. Simple. Perfect.

Yes, I realize I'm a city kid and all of this is still a novelty to me. But it felt right. I felt at ease and comfortable. We may not live on a big ol' farm, but I can definitely bring some of the farm to our home. It was the Big Picture for me. Scaling back the clutter in ours lives and focusing on what was really important. It was the push I needed to get motivated again.


I think I can... I think I can.

I'm feeling overwhelmed with eating better and going green. It takes a lot of thinking and planning at the front end. I know that, but when the kids are hungry NOW and we've been outside all day, and the pre-planned meal will take at least 45 min or needed to simmer for 2 hours and I didn't plan right, this just seems like a lot of work. Can you tell I'm cranky?

Two days ago we rushed to the easy dinner. Pizza. We tried the new joint in town for take out. I saw the pizza and it looked reeeeally greasy, too greasy. On slice 2 I had to stop and was out of commission for the rest of the night with stomach cramps and then I just crashed. for 12 hours. BigDaddy rocked my world but just taking over and I didn't wake up until the next morning at 6:30. So my point. I did the cop out and it hurt me, literally. On the positive side, I've turned a corner. My body rejected the crap I tried to put in it. This was not the norm for me anymore. Hooray!

I KNOW this is good for me and my family. But I'm whiny right now. And tired. Last night was my semi-norm of 5 hours of sleep. And we played all day with friends. And I desperately need to go grocery shopping. Which will make my head hurt. And my body even more tired. But somehow I managed to have dinner simmering already, my meal plan ready to go and most of my grocery list set. I CAN do this. I WILL do this.

I actually have a post in the works about organic shopping, the how and the why. It's taking longer because I have a lot of research to do. And I'm tired. Did I mention that yet? It's taking a while because we need to prioritize and figure out what's important to us. Buying local vs. organic. What organic things are a MUST be vs. not a big deal. That kind of stuff. I'll share with you my Food Doctrine when we finally figure it out.

Here's my plan for the week or so. Lots of my go-tos since we are down to old Mother Hubbard status again. This plan looks crazy, not my general template per se. We have some visits to friends' houses, some travel, BigDaddy gone some nights, etc. I also need to get a stash of quick, easy and healthy summer meals that the kids will eat too. If you have any suggestions, please, PLEASE leave a comment and/or link!

Thursday- Turkey Bolognese w/ Spaghetti Squash (also making a batch of turkey meatballs and patties to freeze)
Friday- Muffuletta Sandwiches with Greek Salad (we'll be gone all day so this will sit all day and be ready to go when we get home for dinner)
Saturday- Homemade Pizza & Watermelon?
Sunday- Breakfast for dinner and fruit salad
Monday- Chicken Cacciatore (crockpot)
Tuesday- Tilapia Pimiento w/ quinoa This is my current favorite recipe!
Wednesday- TBD
Thursday- Sunday Mac & Cheese, homemade chicken strips, homemade turkey meatballs

Neglecting Peonies

Here's BigBoy yesterday with our just blooming peonies. note the cheesy, practiced smile. I only have 4 flowers this year. But I'll take it! I had low expectations for these guys: tossed into a huge pot, moved in the back of the mama-mobile in July last summer, and neglected for the most part.

This is why Peonies have my heart. They may get a little pissy when you transplant them, but for the most part they don't care a whole lot on how you treat them. I'm serious. BigBoy went with me to visit the "family farm" in Nebraska when he was just about a 18 months old. We met up with my dad and stayed with my great aunt on the same farm that my grandfather was born on. It was so wonderful staying there, getting to know her better (the last time I was there was with my dad when I was about 4). It turned into a bit of a reunion. My uncle showed up with my aunt. My dad's cousin flew in with her hubby. Other cousins drove up, over and down. We did a big dinner at the local "fancy place." The whole nine. Basically because my dad had a business trip nearby and he decided to extend the trip, see the family and have me and BB join him. Viola! Family reunion.

So back on the farm. We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with my great aunt. On the last day I was there, I think my dad was already gone, we hung out in the yard just chatting. BB was chasing a farm cat-- who knows WHAT that fur ball was traveling with. We talked about flowers and plants and how I wanted to plant a bunch at our then new home back in Indianapolis. I mentioned I was thinking about planting Peonies. How I love them, yada yada. Apparently there was a patch in the yard with my Great Grandmother's Peonies. seriously? I had no idea what they looked like, we didn't have peonies in CA. And in summer they look like dying bushes. See pic: circa 2005, Nebraska. And yes, BB is wearing a John Deere hat! My little Buddha boy. pitter patter.

Then she suggested digging up a bunch with BB and taking them home with me.Wait, what? On the plane, back to Indy?? Um,okay. Before I could really think about it she grabbed her pitch fork and looked at BB. C'mon buddy! Let's go dig 'em up! This is why Farm Women have the other part of my heart. You don't pussy foot around. We had an idea and you just do it. You drag an 18 month old over to a flower patch and start using a pitch fork and you get him working too. He picked them out of the dirt.

Now how to get them home. We threw them all into plastic grocery bags and tossed them into my suitcase. I planted them a while after being home (I think it was volleyball season and BigDaddy was gone a LOT) and just hoped for the best. I really, really hoped they hadn't gotten all moldy in the triple layered, knotted, plastic bags. I know. My bad. After the first hissy fit on year one, they were GORGEOUS.

Now mind you, Peony Enthusiasts will have heart attacks right about now. We did this is August. GASP! Not September??? We didn't worry about splitting the eyes properly, washing off the extra dirt, handling them "just so." These plants last forever, are everywhere around here and I doubt they managed to do that on farms with everyone handling them "just so." I don't cage them or give them supports nor do I plan to.

As a new gardener, I tend to get so hung up on the "have to's" especially since I typically google subject matter. INFORMATION OVERLOAD. Instead of researching, planning, and figuring out how to do something, I need to remind myself it's okay to just go for it sometimes. And if it doesn't go as planned? Well, we learn from our mistakes. Tweak and move forward...


Lunzy Likes: California Baby Sunscreen

I'm starting a new type of post since some people have asked me about certain products I use. These are things that I use and like, not things that I get sent/paid for reviewing. I find myself talking to other moms about what works for them and vice versa. So I thought I'd start sharing here too.

I've been using California Baby Sunscreen Lotion for a little over a month now. Sassy has super sensitive skin and I have rosacea, so I've been on the hunt for something better than your normal Coppertone or Banana Boat varieties. I tried Aveeno and Eucerin last year for myself and I wasn't totally blown away. The Eucerin was the Redness Relief line and it totally burned my skin. I had to wash it off immediately.

I found California Baby through a website a family friend sent to me: Environmental Working Group or EWG. Personal care products and their ingredients don't need to be approved by the FDA. This totally blows me away. With sunscreens especially, many don't even work as well as we expect them to, based on their claims. You mean they LIE?? This article from EWG discusses sunscreens and California Baby was rated 12th on the list but was a product that was far better than what I was using and I was able to find it at Target. Done. It's expensive, but it's something that goes on our skin, my BABY'S skin.

California Baby products don't contain Sulfates or DEA. Their ingredients are organic or sustainably grown, they are fragrance and Phthalate free. Basically all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff. More details about ingredients can be found here.

The lotion itself goes a loooooong way. So overall, I think it is more money, but a better product that I will use less of each time. At first I spread it on Sassy way too thick and she looked like a ghost. She still looks a little pasty, but it fades and at least I know where she's covered. It's worked pretty well as far as I can tell and NO rash or reaction. Hooray! The tube also make s me happy when I look at it and see a happy sun smiling at me.

Anyone else have a sunscreen product to recommend? I'm still on the lookout for a moisturizer with sunscreen it in for me-- minus the pale, pasty look. I would love to hear what works for you and your family.


This one time, at WordCamp...

I had a fantastic, but super busy weekend. I feel refreshed and focused and overwhelmed and inspired. Friday I headed out to Baltimore and stayed with a family friend. Should have been a 3 hour drive but hit DC's nightmare traffic and it took more like 5. Great time but I'm bummed I didn't get to hang out longer. Saturday I was off to find my inner geek at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic-a WordPress conference. *note #1: this is NOT the best pic I know, but this was first thing in the a.m. after drinking waaay too much wine the night before. Oh yah, and a dirty martini. note #2 Thank you to Dawn Casey for the pic! note #3 I'm not on WP but wanted to get more info and hear the speakers and I "won" a free ticket! Check the main site for more info: WordCamp

I met up with Roni a la ronisweigh.com and Jaye (the other "winner"-- we actually won by default.) But I felt like the new kid in high school. No clue on who's who. who the cool kids were. or who the seniors were (even though I might have seen their faces or heard their names before.) or who the bullies were and what pissed them off. or who the smart kids were and if I would understand what they were talking about. or where the bathrooms were when I really needed them. Fortunately, it didn't really matter. I sat in my non-geek sessions and soaked it in. And fell in love again.

The keynote, Anil Dash from Six Apart really fired me up. I love how he spoke about being connected, no matter who/what you are. This is why I started out in public relations in the first place. I'm fascinated with relationships and how people are interconnected. Finding people and sharing mutually beneficial relationships. Anyway, I guess this was a big deal since he is from Six Apart (TypePad and Moveable Type) and it's a competitor, and blah blah this is where I got lost on why it was weird to have him here. He's like the senior that wasn't the Football Team's Quarterback, but everyone knew him cuz he was class president and he was cool for totally different reasons and he would NEVER be hanging with the QB, but QB was throwing a party cuz his parents were out of town and THIS GUY shows up. huh? WTH? Follow now? yah, me neither. But he was great and I really enjoyed his keynote. It was interesting, fun and informative-- even for a total novice like me. Here's breakdown on Anil's keynote.

Blog Draft Day: Making it Into the Big Leagues -Aaron Brazell

Focused on how to take your blog to the next level. Marketing/Message/Brand. Lots of great tips for blogging. This was interesting and helped me tie it together with my marketing/PR background.

Being a Balanced Blogger - Jared Goralnick

So NOT what I thought (using your voice to be neutral on topics .i.e. journalistic style) but liked it nonetheless. Great info about working more effectively, time savers for blogging, tips and tricks. I didn't see any info floating around twitter yet, and my notes are super long. One thing that is sticking with me more than anything was about multi-tasking. When you multi-task it's like your brain is a computer, more windows open = slower response time. Good rule to follow: don't do two things that take away from each other. Yes: fold laundry and talk on the phone. No: watch a movie for enjoyment, to relax while doing work. Neither one gets totally done as it should be. regarding social media- Get in and get your value and then get OUT. Unplug yourself and focus on what is in your real world. Good stuff to remember. He also talked about purging your mind when you're swimming in things to do. Get it out of your brain and de-clutter by writing it all down. "Sit still and make a long-ass list" to be exact. Full slides here.

Lunch time! Roni invited a few other guys from the conference to join us. I had a great time talking with everyone and eating some yummy sushi (heeeeeeaven!)
Jim, Roni Jaye (girl, get on twitter would ya?) Rolando Zac and me.

It dawned on me that this is what I missed most from working. The fun part. Hanging out chit chatting with interesting people about interesting things. Things that are interesting to me. I love brainstorming. I love learning from other people. Having mentors.

I talk to BigDaddy all the time about my blog, cool web stuff, other blogs, etc. And he is very nice and listens. More than I can say for myself. I get volleyball overload. Or Lakers overload. I can't add a whole lot to his discussions and he can't add a whole lot to mine. And most of my friends aren't into anything techie. So this was so fun for me. And I never got interrupted by a munchkin at any point. Double bonus!

After lunch we headed back. Jaye and I sat in on more non-geek stuff, but I quickly lost interest in photoblogging with WP since that's not what I do or want to do right now and we bailed. this is not considered rude here btw- they encourage you to leave if you aren't getting anything from the session and find something else. For me, being in the lobby with Jaye was more interesting and I loaded and tweeted our lunch pic. You know, important stuff.

The last few sessions our lunch bunch all sat together. I felt like the kid that had been at school for awhile now. We cracked up, made jokes, commented to each other, glanced at each other's notes, took pictures, and tweeted, of course. I had found my peeps.

Next up:
Twitter, Friendfeed and Social Tools - Extending the blog beyond the blog - Dan Zarrella
State of the Word (presentation slides here) - Mark Jaquith

It felt great being around other people like me, even if I was the newbie, the rookie that was a bit lost but wanted to hang with the seniors. And I WAS hanging. kinda. The conference really opened the next door for me. I'm hooked and interested and totally fired up. My head is still swimming on what to do next, but the path in general is clear. I want more. Somehow I also won a contest for free hosting by tweeting during the event! Now I guess I need to figure all that out. Thankfully I now have friends to help me out.

All in all the conference was a wonderful experience for me. I met some great new friends and took away a lot of value for my time spent. It did a great job of having something to offer all levels. The comments have been really positive and personally, I want to attend more if they are all like this. The community of this WordCamp was smart, friendly and fun. Maybe I'll even switch over to WP in the near future! I won't be this geeky in my next post. Back to mommyville and semi-crunchy stuff. Pinky promise.

Other links:
Organizer Aaron Brazell's recap.

A cool blog post from the event photographer and a link to her flickr set page

Here's a collection of info. for WordCamp Mid-Atlantic for anyone interested in a more in depth view: WordCamp Recap you can also do a search for #wordcampmidatl on twitter. I will also update with more links as I see them.



This is really a post about nothing. A non-post if you will. I've been MIA a bit. Blame it on nice weather, working on the yard, a fun playdate, graduation BBQs and children eating me out of house and home. Really the munchkins must both be dealing with a growth spurt. eating. all. day. long.

I'm off to Baltimore for WordCamp Mid-Atlantic this weekend. Overnight trip without my family, staying with my friend, meeting a blogger friend, and spending a whole day in techie-geek heaven. yeehaw! If you are on twitter and want to live vicariously, check out #wordcampmidatl I even ordered mom cards for the event. I'm pumped! Super excited to meet Roni and fellow reader Jaye (we were the winners of her contest) and it'll be fun to be around real bloggers I still feel like this is just me pretending to blog.

We have homeschool coop tomorrow and then I'm off. I have a few posts in the works, but just haven't done much with them and probably won't til next week.

Find something fun to do this weekend and do it! :) Catch ya next week!



My kinda country kids.

I can't fight the fight. I've surrendered to summer. And to Sassy. She's a country girl now and there's no denying it. She runs all over the place after kicking off her shoes (weeds be damned), she loves horses and asks me daily, yes DAILY, if she's big enough to ride them, she adores "wormies" and is happiest outside- usually with the least amount of clothes she can get away with. Yeah, I live in the house around the corner, you know the one with the nekkid baby running around outside.

We spent a lot of time, Big Daddy and I, looking around this weekend at where we have ended up this time around. Married, two kids, living next to a horse pasture on a college campus. huh? How in the world did that happen to two people from Los Angeles (oh excuse me, I'm from the LA Area and not allowed to claim LA proper.) But never in a million years could either one of us imagined being here after meeting in San Diego 10 years ago. But now that we are here, or more specifically NOT in Southern California, I can't imagine being "back home."

This feels right. Feels good. And it's getting better. My kids will probably hate us for not living in California when they get older. But for now they are happy being kinda country kids. Big Boy climbed his first tree on Friday at our homeschool group. He's been eyeing that tree since September. Watching. Studying the big kids as they hopped right up. Friday was the day. He looked out from his perch and beamed with pride. LOOOOK Mom! I did it! I'm in the tree!!

Then he kicks back and tells me This is the life mom! Yeah BigBoy, I think you're on to something.


Mama's Day

Yesterday was MY day. Mother's Day. So of course I got to be a mom. At 3 a.m. to be exact. Poor BigBoy is just miserable with his allergies. The Claritin and saline drops help, but now he has a cough. Probably from breathing through his mouth so much. So at 3 I started to hear the incessant cough down the hall. I knew it was coming. The door opened.

I dashed out of bed and met him in the hallway, guided him back to bed and then after about 45 min. got him to settle down and crash again. I crashed along with him. He woke up around 6:45 with that goofy, sleepy grin I love so much. Good Morning Mom! We cuddled back up and he fell asleep again. I was totally awake by then but just enjoyed the snuggle time with my big 5 year old boy.

I watched him sleeping. Listened to him breathing. Stayed totally still when threw his whole body into me fetal position. I soaked it all in on MY day. This little guy came from me, grew in me and was totally nourished from me. He was all mine and half me. I studied his face. Tried to see what looked like me or BigDaddy or Papa or Nana. Curly hair- Nana. Freckles- all daddy. Nose- totally Papa (none of us escaped that German, farm-breed nose.) Then I just stared at him some more and listened to his cooing. Yes, he still coos. Pitter Patter goes my heart.

A few days ago he looked over at me all matter-of-fact-like and then threw this at me: Have I told you how much I love you?? To the moon and Saturn and Jupiter and the Dorf* planet and to the mailbox and back. THAT's how much I love you! Oh and this much too (arms spread out behind his back.)

I love these kids like nothing else. They help me learn how to be a mom, totally forgive me for any mistakes I make along the way, and love me unconditionally. I'm the Yeller. The Disciplinarian. The one that says "No." on a regular basis. But they still come back for more, again and again. It just makes it all worth it. So on Mother's Day, cuddling up with BB after our 3 a.m. hall meeting and waking up to the goofy grin is just fine with me. This is really what it's all about, right?

* In case you didn't know, As of 2006, Pluto is now classified as a Dwarf Planet.

Weekend Recap:

Trip to the Mennonite Greenhouse for my mother's day gifts!

BigBoy picked watermelons as his crop. This is the "before" pic.

It must be summatime!


Mom of the Year

It's official!! Finally, all my hard work has paid off! I'm touched, really. Thank you, Thank you! I'm Mom of the Year!


Ice cream makes it all better

I had one of THOSE days yesterday. Really, really....really challenging. BigBoy is going nutso and literally climbing the walls. Sassy is just that, aaall sassy and being mean. I had fires to put out here and there and everywhere. My Babysitter Extraordinaire was going to be late due to a final (she ended up being an hour late on a two hour job.) THAT kind of day. The kids wouldn't sit down to eat, I had already cleaned up two glasses of milk that spilled (it ended up being three by the end of the day.) The only time it didn't rain was during Sassy's nap so I lost my window to go outside with them. BB's allergies are non stop- so I was also wiping his snotty nose all. day. long. I was beyond spent. They wouldn't listen, everyone seemed to need me for something and everything. Wipe a snotty nose, clean up some more milk, get a snack, wipe a poopy bottom, change of clothes. You know the drill. Oh yah, and I have a house to clean up, phone calls to make and laundry to do.

And then I lost it. Sassy would not sit and finish her lunch. Warning #1. There she want boppin' around again. So I scooped her up, threw a diaper on her and put her in her crib for a nap. no book. no song. no cuddle. Then I proceed to sob in the living room. BB felt bad and was trying to make me feel better. To say I'm tired of hearing "Tomorrow will be better" would be a huge understatement. Both of them, fighting, yelling, whining, bickering and NOT listening to me, not using manners, you get it. When BB seems to be out of whack his sister usually follows suit.... x 10.

I'm not sure what is going on. BB and his allergies have me really questioning what the deal is. The tree pollen here is unreal. I seem to be fine for some reason, but was miserable in Indy (ragweed, hay and corn fields gets me.) Benadryl, we soon found out, makes him PSYCHO. And the zyrtec? I'm not sure how much better it is. He's also not sleeping due to being so stuffy. So he's overtired to boot. I'm not really sure how to move forward on this. Maybe get some local honey and see if that helps....

So what's a sobbing mom to do? I thought about drinking some wine, a LOT of wine, but I had promised BB a date for some ice cream due to the Chicken Incident. I couldn't get out of it and that meant I needed to drive after dinner. Which meant no sloshed mommy. Spending one-on-one time was the last thing I wanted to do with BB, but deep down, I knew it was what I should really do.

We hopped in the van and off to the Golden Arches it was. He got a monster cone and I got a sundae. Then we drove to the park and parked under a tree. It was pouring rain, starting to get dark and totally perfect. He had no idea what I had in mind.

Gimme your cone buddy and come on up here. As in the coveted Front Seat. You have to remember, as a 5 y.o. he doesn't ever get to sit up front. He was pumped. "You mean in the front?!?" I even let him climb over the center, cuz I'm a cool mom like that. He was thrilled and I was happy to have an hour with my son, my normal son. He was chatty, happy, interested and sweet. We turned off the radio, open the moon roof cover and listened and watched the rain. Listened to some birds chirping. It was great. Then I got real crazy and let him play with the hazard button and windshield wipers.

A little ice cream and some special time made a world of difference for us both. We laughed a LOT and got to reconnect again. Who knew a little ice cream date would have made my crappy day end so much better?


Plan B

So remember when I was talking about how a meal plan is just that: a "plan", Plan A? And how sometimes you need Plan B for whatever reason. Well, I needed Plan B. The very same day I posted my plan. HA!

We had another rainy day and poor BigBoy has been dying with allergies. I think it's tree pollen, and I had hoped the rain would make it better. It did, but only a tad. When BigBoy doesn't get good sleep, he is crazy, really crazy. We also found out that Benadryl makes it worse. He goes psycho. So think about a sleep deprived 5 yo who is cranky, snotty and has swollen eyes. Now add crazy juice into the mix. You get parents who literally want to lock themselves in a closet and do tequila shots. That was my end of the week and weekend. good times.

We were also forcing ourselves to purge. It was slim pickins for sure, but we could do it. I made some d'lish berry oatmeal muffin cups. (I used molasses instead of sugar btw.) BigBoy and I so love oatmeal. These would work for a healthier snack and/or breakfast. Or dinner, as it turned out-- he ate three after we baked them. I also planned on doing roast chicken on Monday in the crock pot (instead of Wednesday) since that was beyond easy and we had everything and then I could use the rest as needed. * I will get to that in a bit.

Well, back to the rainy Monday after the crazy child weekend and a BigDaddy-less Saturday Night/all day Sunday. I wanted to get them out of the house, someplace to run around that was close to home and cheap. I thought about the bounce place, but Stubby is hurting and I didn't want to be jumping on it-- not an option if we go to the bounce place. Chick-Fil-A it was. We'd go before the lunch rush, get home in time for Sassy's nap, eat lunch at home and then I could hit the store for groceries after BigDaddy got home. Viola! Perfect! I finally get everyone loaded up in the van, after running in the house for the forgotten snuggle buddy... then over to the gutter tube that got knocked off... then back inside to grab the cell phone I forgot. I should have known. It was just too hard to actually get going. And then it happened. We were cruising along, pouring rain and Sassy fell asleep. Great.

The dilemma. Do we move forward as planned, waking her up when we get there and having a possible crankygirl meltdown? (The answer would have been YES.) But I didn't. We turned around, I told BigBoy we'd go later after her nap. We get home, she refuses to go back to sleep. She's tired. I know she's beat. But she plays, yells, sings. Everything BUT sleeping. Of course. I finally get her to sleep. The kids eat peanut butter toast on homemade bread for lunch. We get there for round two. "I'm hungry mom. REALLY hungry." uuuuugh. So I got us food. And me a classic sandwich as I realized I had forgotten all about feeding myself. Fast Food for dinner at 3 PM. What a mess. Totally NOT what the game plan was. Totally NOT the wonderful roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots for a nice sit-down family dinner after a perfectly planned day. Plan B.

Now about the roast chicken deal. One of the biggest challenges I've had with meal planning is figuring out the flow of everything. I had a whole chicken in the freezer, left it in the fridge to defrost last week knowing I was going to cook it on Monday. Monday morning I dug out the crock pot, added LOTS of thick carrot chunks, quartered potatoes with the skin on, and some sliced (or quartered) onion. I rinsed the chicken and set it on top of it. Sprinkled some garlic salt and Lawry's seasoned salt (NOT a lot). And then forgot about it for the rest of the day. I left it on high as I didn't put it in as early as I would have liked (we eat dinner early, like 5:30), but you can leave it on low if you are doing it before leaving for the day. If you don't have a crock pot, you really should get one. You can find them on sale all the time and you don't need a fancy one. They are life savers and allow you a very easy way to cook a meal. I have two, plus a big roaster.

So end of the day: You come home and smell the yummies filling your house. You now have a roasted chicken with veggies!! When you're done eating your fabulous home cooked meal, de-bone the meat and put it in the fridge for another meal (chicken salad sandwiches, enchiladas, BBQ chicken pizza, etc.) take the bones and any juice and throw them into a big pot for later.

Be very careful of "helpers" who eat all the goods!

Whenever "later" is convenient- that night, the next day, cover the bones with some more water, add some spices and bay leaves. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for about an hour.

When it's done, strain the bones. I use a colander over a pot/big bowl first, then a strainer to make sure all the little bones are out. You now have AWESOME homemade chicken stock. I got 4 1/2 cups from mine. Isn't that super easy? Now you can freeze it in ice cube trays for 1 oz. portions for other recipes or use it to make brown rice (soooo good) or make a pot of soup. I made minestrone soup so we would have lunch that day. We still have the chicken meat and leftover soup. Totally manageable right? If you buy those rotisserie chickens from the store, you can do the same with the carcass. But who needs those chickens when it's so easy with the crock pot. We used to get them ALL the time. Now I can't remember the last time we bought one.

There you go. My Show-And-Tell with roasting chicken. I'll try to do this more often. I love getting a peek into how other people do things. Hope you find it helpful too!


Good Enough

Wouldn't you know it. As soon as I let go of the whole "trying to do it all" and "Sweating the Small stuff" we got a ton done this weekend. Of course. BigDaddy was home all day Saturday and none of us had any plans. Not the norm. We did a bunch of laundry, worked in the weeds, er... I mean the yard, and even planted part of garden. The kids were great and hung out with me outside "helping." BigBoy and I even planted the garden together during a toddler nap. I kinda jacked up my placement in the boxes of the plants, but oh well. I did it! After I was admiring our handy work, I realized I should have flip-flopped the plants, but it will be fine. Not perfect, but good enough. And sometimes all you need is Good Enough.

I really think after I got over not being able to get EVERYTHING done at once, I was able to see the pieces that make the bigger picture. And it was doable. So I did some. And then some more. And then a bit more. What a concept! I'm a genius I tell ya.

I'm beat now though. Worked in the house and then in the yard. Prayed for the rain to come late today. Prayed some more. And then the Carnival started. Not just any carnival. The carnival across the street. Yes, ACROSS THE STREET. As in, right on campus in the field by where we live. We saw the trucks come in last week. Then the Ferris wheel went up. Then the seats in the wheel. Then they tested the lights. My children saw every step happen and gave us a play-by-play from the living room window. The weather forecast? RAIN all weekend. We were walking on eggshells all day on Saturday. I did NOT want to deal with heartbroken munchkins with their mechanical love affair mocking them from across the street.

It decided to spit on us here and there, but overall it was only cloudy and the heavy rain stayed away! Good Enough for us! We were able to get there right at the start, hit the carousel (5 times), the scrambler, the swings,the dizzy dragons and some other rides that I have no clue what they were called. We popped the kids in and tried not to notice the duct tape holding my restraint bar together, or think about how many filthy germs were getting on us. We pet some baby farm animals, dunked a few students and ate some food at the buffet.

It was great and get this:. totally free. yes, FREE. Put on by the school for the college community. (The General Community was invited too, for an entrance fee.) I think it's great that the school realizes these types of events are good for its community of worker bees and their families. We got to see some neighbors again, after being in hibernation all winter. Saw a bunch of students and hung out with people BigDaddy works with. It's nice to reconnect with everyone. We also saw the family we met at BigBoy's open house. Yeah!

We also live in campus housing and saw lots of the people that keep the school, and our house, going: campus police, maintenance guys, housekeepers, etc. Some haven't seen the kids since we first moved in (we had a LOT of work done on our place.) It's so cute for them to see SassyGirl and be amazed at how big she is or not believe BigBoy is starting Kindergarten. We don't have family here so this is our extended family. The grown-ups that gush over how big the kids are. The friends that join us for "one more ride" before heading home. We had a great night and were exhausted when we walked all the way home.

In other news...

Food and Diet
I know I said I'm not worrying about the scale, but truth is, I am. It's not going down at all. Our diet has improved, I've been working out 3 times a week consistently. My body IS better and I feel better. But I just want more. I'm thinking about counting points Weight Watchers style again. I really don't want to, but I kind of feel like I'm losing my focus on portion control again since I've been so concerned about what we eat being better quality, natural, etc. Maybe I just need to figure out point values for our "new foods" so I can mentally keep track. Before I was able to keep track of pretty much everything I ate. I'm not sure how to tackle this yet. I'll keep you posted. Mr. Snarky (wii fit) is keeping tabs on me. A few days ago my BMI was actually at it's lowest to date-- I've been doing it for 32 days now! I just feel like I need another kick start. I wish it were time for ridiculous amounts of fresh produce. That would make this a lot easier.

I have mentioned the swing set before, but I haven't given you the full scoop. The swing set, bigger than what we had planned, came completely disassemble. As in, not. a. single. piece. was. connected. to. another. really. BigDaddy and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named put it together over the course of a weekend- on and off. It was a huge task and they did a great job. Big props to you guys!! The kids looooove it and Mama loves that they are semi-enclosed at the deepest point of our yard and I can sit happily on the back porch or patio and still see them. Hallelujah!

I also noticed my Peonies are happy and might actually bloom!! These aren't just any peonies, these are peonies BigBoy and my Great Aunt dug up from the family farm in Nebraska (paternal grandfather was born there.) My Great Grandma's Peonies. We threw them into a plastic grocery bag during a visit there a few years ago and I packed them in my suitcase and hoped for the best. After Peonies are transplanted, they are a bit pissed off (in shock) and won't bloom the first year. I didn't know this and was heart broken. But the next year they were beeeautiful! When we put our house on the market last year, I told our Realtor they were coming with me no matter what. I dug them up and tossed them into a huge pot and prayed they would be okay. I just saw that the buds are sticky and it looks like I'm going to have Peonies our first year here!!! Peony buds secrete a sticky sap, then usually ants will cover them and eat the sap. It's totally fine- they don't hurt them. But we must not have many ants here as the buds are totally ant free.

Amazingly, all I could do was Good Enough with these bad boys, not once but twice, in transporting them across multiple states. Perfect shipping was not an option. Lo and behold, I have been rewarded none-the-less.


Meal Plan 5/3

If you haven't read Meal Plan 101, see the previous post.... This is a follow-up post.

Meal Plan 5/3 (and kind of next week) When I haven't been to the store in ages and we are purging the cupboards, I like to do more of a 1 1/2- 2 week meal plan. I think most, if not all, of my recipes are on delicious.com under sassyaztec.

Roasted Chicken (crock pot or roaster)
Potatoes and carrots

Tilapia Fish Tacos
white yogurt sauce
Slaw, beans

Spinach/zucchini lasagna, homemade bread

Turkey Bolognese on spaghetti squash? or pasta?

Pizza Night
Greek Salad

Chili Verde w/ Mexican Rice

Turkey Parmesan Meatloaf

Eggplant Parmesan?

Salmon Stir Fry
"Fried" rice

BBQ Pork Sandwiches (crock pot)


Pizza Night
Fruit Salad?

BigDaddy Special as I will be in Baltimore! woo hooo!


Meal Planning 101

As I sit down to plan my week o' meals, I thought I'd share a little on Meal Planning 101. The basics are pretty easy. I promise if you take a bit of time up front, you will save TONS of time and money in the long run.

I also think it good to KISS your meal plan. Keep It Simple Stupid or Keep it simple, stupid. I don't feel like it's SUCH a huge task when I just need to fill in the blanks. Each day is a specific type of meal day. Of course you can change it if you feel the need, but this is Plan A. Plan B will happen at some point, and that's okay. I've also tweaked this quite a bit the longer we do it. Look at what your weekly schedule is like and plan around THAT. If you have to take the kids to soccer practice and need some quick and easy, make it panni night or breakfast night. If you are going to be gone all day, use the crock pot. My current version looks like this:

Monday- Vegetarian Meal (grocery store trip during the day)

Tuesday- Fish Night (workout , park day and EZ Lesson day)

Wednesday- Crock Pot (this is mainly because our sitter comes from 3:30-5:30 and I'm usually gone. this will probably change this month)

Thursday- Pasta Dish/or Breakfast for dinner (workout/EZ Lesson/ Farmer's Market?)

Friday- *New!* Pizza Night with homemade pizza dough (Funschool)

Saturday- BBQ or try a new recipe night (workout/EZ Lesson/Farmer's Market?)

Sunday- Batch cook breakfast and dinners (still working on getting this going). Plan out next week's meals.

This seems to work for us. We want to have fish once a week and now we are adding a veg. meal once a week. We tried out the pizza dough in our bread machine and it ROCKED and super easy. Before that I have used pita bread for mini pizzas. The kids love it, but BigBoy said the homemade dough was delicious and he liked it better. Hooray!

I really need to find some great summer recipes. It just gets warmer and we want lighter food (haven't made soup or chili in weeks.) I need to have BigDaddy sustenance and Munchkin approved food that's easy and quick and healthy to boot. Salads will be key. We all like them, just need to make sure BigDaddy has enough to eat.

There are literally a ton of meal planning sites. I found this one a while ago and it was a great basic website to get me started.

Menus 4 Moms
By no means are these meal plans healthy. But it's a good start, just generate some ideas. Sometimes I would see a recipe and then google it for a different version. This site also has a ton of worksheets and print outs to get you in the right mindset of planning out meals. You can also sign up for their weekly menu via email here.

My current favorite places for ideas/recipes:
Roni's Green Lite Bites
101 Cookbooks
simply recipes
and of course, google.

Hope that helps! Now, get on with your planning!


Wake up!

Just when I think I have this whole priority thing down, something kicks me in the booty and brings it all home. I've mention our babysitter extraordinaire many times. She is a gem, really, and will soon be leaving us due to graduation.

I always rush a bit more on the days she's coming over. Our house is always messy. It's just a fact. And the kids' rooms might be clean, but the basement playroom isn't. The kitchen could be spotless, but I didn't have time to get to the bathroom. You know how it goes. So sometimes I start to get embarrassed, but just have to suck it up and run to the store while she is here instead of using the child-free time to clean up.

And then I got a card from her yesterday. Not just any card-- a completely handwritten card thanking me for being a part of her life and sharing my family with her. She gushed about how wonderful we are and how amazing my kids are and what is blessing it is to be a part of her life. No mention of the mess, no comments on my piles of laundry next to our basement playroom. Only how smart and imaginative and fun my kids are. And how thoughtful we are. And how much she enjoys sitting for me. Wow.

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed again. The yard is gross, really gross, with weeds. Our weather didn't work out on the "right days" for us to work in the garden- we still need to plant it. I still need to get our meal plan together. I need to work out more. The list goes on and on.... Granted, you can't be super happy if you are surrounded by messy chaos. But having great relationships and happy kids is so much more important than the fingerprints on the TV or or a spotless kitchen floor or the beautiful yard. I've been handed my wake up call. Back to reality, back to remembering my priorities.

*btw, yes, that is actually our backyard "lawn" of dandelions.


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