Friday, August 7, 2020

Four Friday Thoughts

Hello and Happy Friday! 

Yesterday was a great day that started with a mile run with Lola plus a workout that left my shoulders on fire and ended with shrimp for dinner, lime wine with Brooke, and almost finishing Harry Potter.

I took two pictures - one is the salad below and the other involved Mira discovering her potty training seat that was in the garage, ready to be given away, and her using it, and, um, not aiming well. Although I won't share the visual horror with the internet, I will say that she carried the whole thing inside like a present ready to be opened and Dan, Brooke, and I laughed so hard we could barely breathe. 

Let's just say that thing went straight to the trash can, which I had dug through only hours before to find my retainer that the sweet woman who helps clean had accidentally thrown away. That's right, never a dull moment around here. 

A few thoughts to share:

1. I am trying to consistently get some greens in for my mid-day meal and am seriously loving a modified version of this Chinese chicken salad. If you like texture, flavor, and crunch, you will not be disappointed. I added kale to this, used grilled chicken breast instead of chicken thighs (although the chicken thighs are great with it) and didn't have oranges, carrots, or sesame seeds. Still amazing. 

2. Habits. I am 75% through listening to Atomic Habits by James Clear and my mind is a frenzy, alternating between being surprised by his anecdotes, reaching a moment of clarity, thinking of new habits I want to try and old habits I want to break, and all of the ways I can implement those changes. I plan to completely organize my thoughts and planned actionable steps here in bullet format once I have finished reading the book. You have been warned. 

3. Macronutrient tracking - a concept I have heard about for a while, but have never really done before. Lexi has encouraged all of her members to look into this, so I am giving it a try, using My Fitness Pal. I have to be careful with this type of activity, because I can tend to be a little obsessive about it, so I am giving myself grace and using my goals as loose guidelines instead of hard and fast rules. 

Two things that have surprised me: first, is that even though I would consider my diet high in protein, it wasn't high enough to reach my goal of 35%, so I had to strategize ways to add more. I am really enjoying Vital Proteins Collagen Whey, that doesn't have any artificial sweeteners, and is instead very lightly sweetened with a hint of banana powder. Second is that when I focus on that much protein, my overall calorie intake is lower because I am much less hungry

4. We have decided to send Ina and Cora back to in person school starting on August 24th. There are so many choices out there and things to take into consideration, but this is the clear right decision for our family. We have, however, decided to keep Cora is preschool one more year, as her birthday is so close to the cutoff and we hope school kindergarten will be a little more "normal" in 2021. 

I have ordered masks on Etsy, school supplies on Amazon, and new shoes from Gap, so judging by my credit card statement, we are all ready to go.

We are headed to the lake tonight after work, so yay for the weekend! <3 I hope your's is a good one. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Laundry and Lemonade

Good morning! 

Swimming in temperatures under 80 degrees requires warming up in the sun while mom hurries to grab the towels. Now that we are all caught up, I can actually blog in close to real time. Yay!

Last weekend was the first weekend in a while we didn't have any plans, so I took full advantage of the opportunity to get my life back together. First on the list was clearing out the laundry room. I took Marie Kondo's advice and removed every single thing from the room, closet, cabinets, and drawers. The contents of this one room spread out over my entire living room and kitchen. Just when I thought I was close to being done, I opened another door and the clown car of stuff continued to pop out. 

We threw some stuff away, deposited other things in their intended spot, placed a few items on a "Free" table at the end of the driveway, and carefully selected what would be allowed to return to the room. What resulted was a neat, organized, and USEFUL space that still makes me smile every time I walk in. 

The true challenge will be keeping it this way, as with most laundry rooms, ours' is the family dumping ground of random bags, stained clothes, and stray toys.

Ina took full advantage of her parents being distracted and the "Free" table outside luring people to our house and decided to start a lemonade stand. 

Our sweet neighbor and friend Kim (Who also had just cut the girls' hair and later knit them masks. No, you can't have her.) called the police department and told them she would buy if they stopped by for a cup of lemonade.

Ina was so excited you would have thought she was serving celebrities. She ran into the house and squealed, "The police are coming!" and ran back outside. (I wasn't a part of the original conversation, so you can imagine how confusing this was for me until I walked outside for the clarification. Ha!) 

We also had so many other sweet neighbors stop by to purchase Ina's 50 cent lemonade, but judging by her profits I think everyone was overly generous for powdered Country Time.

She has spent each day since counting her money, searching for things to purchase online (including, but not limited to AirPods, and iPad, slime galore, and a tomagachi), and begging to make more lemonade.

After church on Sunday and a delicious salad for lunch (that I had to share with Mira who spotted me eating and followed me to the dining room), I tackled the kitchen cabinets in the same way that I did the laundry room the day before. 

I only got to the top half before I decided I had done enough work, but am again really happy with the removed excess and increased organization. Having a junk drawer that I can open is a very big deal.

I woke up to a surprise on Monday - my nephew Kauffman helped with one of Lexi's workouts. He made the workout even more fun than usual.

We spent Monday and Tuesday as a family, swimming while dinner cooked, cleaning up together (how can I make this continue?), and jumping in bed early to listen to Harry Potter. We are almost done with the second book and the girls continue to beg to listen every night. 

We had small group with a few friends last night and sat on their back patio having growing, life giving conversations in the beautiful 70 degree evening while watching the kids play. 

Recipes from this week: 

Magic mushroom powder - I know it sounds weird and I know dried mushrooms aren't easy to find, but I just added them to my Amazon subscribe and save monthly delivery so I can always have this deliciousness on my grilled chicken and roasted veggies. The flavor is oh so good.

BLTs - no recipe link, just a friendly reminder that this is fresh tomato season and YOLO. 

Curried beef and cabbage with turmeric rice and beans - all three of the girls cleaned their plate with this meal of different spices and vegetables. Although this kind of dinner success is rare, Dan and I were excited to finally see some payoff in our attempt to expand the girls' eating habits. Full disclosure - they still eat Golden Grahams for breakfast and I buy Goldfish at the store weekly. 

Oven braised Mexican beef - amazing flavor with very little effort.

Have a good Thursday! The weekend is almost here!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Cora's Fifth Birthday

Just how is Cora five years old?

Wasn't it just a few months ago that I held her pudgy little body for the first time?

Now she is all freckles and limbs and wears her heart at the tip top of her sleeve I don't think I could love her more. 

Yesterday, as we were packing her bag for summer camp, I told her she could pack a normal swimsuit instead of a rash guard, because they were going to the indoor pool. She looked at me in defiance and pride and said, "But Mooommm, you said I am a ginger."

She is even so special she gets a double rainbow. 

Before we get to her birthday, the Friday before we attended a COVID wedding. Our friends Sarah and Phil's May 2020 wedding was rescheduled to the last weekend in June. I was worried that they might need to reschedule again, but thankfully everything went very well. It was beautiful and creative and small and perfect. 

The preacher did an amazing job, leaving Dan sobbing so loud I am certain it could be heard on the video. Then, just when he stopped crying, Sarah's dad Mike gave his speech, which sent Dan into yet another round of tears for a completely different reason. Dan and I both love weddings and always walk away from them a little more inspired. 

These are the same people we went camping with - we just look a little different after we have showered. 

My dress is from Stitch Fix (<--referral link). I continue to LOVE the service and told my stylist that I wanted a dress to wear to a wedding. I love that other than requesting a few items, I don't have to think about clothes and continue to get a few new fun items every month.

This was a date night for us - thanks to my dad who watched the girls!

We had so much fun in the photo booth, including some pictures I chose not to post as it appeared I forgot about the slit in my dress. 

The next day was Cora's actual birthday, but the bounce house we made the last minute decision to rent wasn't available until Sunday, so we went to Big Daddy's Donuts, swam, and gave Cora her requested birthday dinner of chicken pot pies (the 60 cent ones from the freezer section at Aldi). 

That evening we celebrated Brooke's birthday with a few friends. 

I made her my favorite carrot cake with candied pecans a few days later for her actual birthday.

BUT, back to Cora's birthday. Dan and I had decided that our family was over birthday parties and instead would go on trips or to a fun place as a family to celebrate each girl's birthday. However, when we tried to think of all the places Cora would enjoy, they were either closed, required masks, or didn't seem the safest. 

So, an inflatable bounce house waterslide it was. 

Thanks to my aunt and uncle who sent the fun party decorations - Cora felt all of the love. 

I made FOUR of these giant chocolate chip ice cream cookie cakes (add M&M's), cut up some watermelon and veggies, and Dan made salsa and cheese dip.

After all the kids went home, the girls and I spent the last few hours we had the slide going down over and over and over again. I had to grip my feet up the ladder, strategically fling my body over the top, and I was so sore the next day. But, I rarely take that much time to just play with them. It was an absolute blast.

While prepping for the party I finished the longest audiobook I have ever listened to - but it was so good. I have been trying to get into more of a reading groove, and I think I have recently found it that listening to non-fiction audiobooks in the morning, paired with reading eBooks on the iPad before bed is the best combination. 

The next week Ina had her dance intensives. 

She seemed to come home each day with a little more confidence and sass than she left with.

Thanks to Miss Kim for her cute mask! She also made the rest of the girls masks too!

Flowers from my mom for some exciting news!

The next week we helped our friends The Dowdy's move into their beautiful house and had a late night golf cart adventure with Brooke and McKenzie. 

The week ended back at Sarah's house eating my second round of wedding cake and chatting with some of my favorite people.

....and that wraps up July! Could it be that I might be able to blog in real(ish) time tomorrow?!?

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Johnson Shut-Ins 2020

Good morning! 

Blogging three days in a row?!? Who am I?

I am excited to recap our little camping trip this summer, but first let me tell you how our family paid $10K to sleep in a tent. As you know, when quarantine started, Dan bought a camper. Even though I had previously been strongly against such a purchase, I was pleasantly surprised with how clean and functional it was and had to admit the times we spent in the camper were very fun and led to quality family bonding.

However, we had a problem. The truck we owned was capable of pulling the camper, but was a single cab and couldn't hold our family. With the anticipation of our upcoming camping trip, I loosened my tight grip on our savings account and gave Dan the clearance to purchase an old truck that would both pull our camper and hold our family. 

I have to give it to Dan, because with what little budget he had, he went big. I don't know all of the details of the truck, but it was big, it would loud, and it looked too nice for the amount of money we paid for it. As it turned out, the deal was too good to be true, and after we drove the truck for about 70 miles, the check engine light came on. We took the truck to the shop and never saw it again because the mechanic called to say that it would no longer start and the money needed for repair was more than the original purchase price.

We were able to convince the dealer to buy it back from us, at a price significantly less than what we had paid a few days before, but with the shock of such a loss and our pride hurt, we bought some air mattresses and did a trial run of the tent set-up in the backyard. 

We have been to Johnson Shut-Ins two years before. This time we we returned with three other families- The Champs, The Nybergs, and the Cartwrights. This trip was planned well before the pandemic started, but fit right in with social distancing requirements. I took the day off to pack and prep food, which surprisingly took most of the day, but when Dan pulled in the driveway loaded up the van, picked up the girls, and headed for southeast Missouri!

We gave the girls dramamine, stopped at two gas stations, and 5.5 hours later, we pulled up to the dark campsite where Chessa and Danielle had already set up our tent. I am sure you can understand how thankful we were to not have to set the tent up in the dark, however, a small storm had passed leaving everything inside a little moist

The moisture combined with a cheap air mattress, Ina's sleep talking, Dan's snoring, and the coffee I purchased at the second gas station all led to me barely sleeping. This pattern continued the next night until I finally took Danielle up on her offer to sleep in their camper (see below). 

No matter, we were ready to tackle the day! 

You can never have too many axes at a campsite that sells pre-cut firewood.

Cora lived her best camping life by eating processed cheese for breakfast. 

No amount of coffee could make my eyes any bigger. 

After eating biscuits and gravy for breakfast (thanks to the Cartwrights!), we sunscreened the kids and loaded up the cars to head to one of the most beautiful places in Missouri - Johnson Shut-Ins. 

The river flowing over the mostly smooth rocks creates a path of natural water slides, jumping rocks, and pools that are paradise for any adventure loving family.

While fun, I will admit that I could relax much easier once we were done climbing, slipping, and sliding through the rocks and found a little pool to swim in. 

While I was of course a little worried about the girls, they all did great. With a lower center of gravity, they moved from rock to rock much easier than their mamma. 

After a few hours at the shut-ins we drove back to the campsite for lunch and card playing and then spent the afternoon at a calmer part of the river where the moms could sit and chat, the dads could swim in deeper parts, and the kids could float back and forth. 

Each family was in charge of dinner one evening and breakfast the next morning.  We decided on Kaula pig, tropical slaw, and Hawaiian fried rice. This was surprisingly a very easy camping meal, as the pig cooked in the slow cooker all day and I had purchased pre-shredded cabbage and cooked the rice ahead of time. I also had made s'mores bars for dessert. 

Breakfast consisted of canned corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee cake. This was the fuel we needed for our next adventure - a 3 mile hike at Taum Sauk Mountain - the highest point in Missouri.

A few members of our group may have been a little surprised when they read the sign revealing the distance of the hike, but we pressed on.

We walked, climbed, and fell along the trails and saw truly beautiful views.

Once we reached the halfway point, I would say the majority of our party was ready to be done, but we kept on going. Ina surprised me by leading the pack most of the time. Cora walked on her own without complaint, until she saw me carrying Mira on my back and convinced Miss Hannah to carry her for 10 minutes.

Dan...well...Dan finished the hike and immediately laid down in the back of Brad's truck to take off his shoes and pop some ibuprofen.

Our timing was perfect, because as we were leaving the mountain a storm moved in and stayed for the majority of the day.

The adults set up underneath some easy-ups, playing cards and talking while the kids popped popcorn and watched a few movies in The Champs' camper.

We had walking tacos for dinner and headed back to the day use (calmer river) to squeeze out one more swim in the small span of time we had between the storm ceasing and the park closing. The rain had drenched our tent, so thankfully The Champs made room for us in their camper. I can report that the bottom bunk is particularly cozy.

The next morning we packed up and headed to Elephant Rocks, our third state park of the trip where we had yet another opportunity to hike, climb, and stand in awe of God's creation. 

After lunch that afternoon we headed back to the shut-ins for the last time to water slide and jump off rocks. The parents and the kids both gained a little courage after experience from the first round, so many of the kids and adults (including Dan and I!) found a big rock to jump off and rushing water to slide down. 

We had an absolutely great time and are already looking forward to our next trip. Will we have a truck that will pull our camper? Or will we not sleep in a wet tent? Only time will tell. 

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