Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Camping in Numbers

 Hellloooo there...

(The echo is to recognize the lack of blog posts in...months...)

I seriously hope to catch this space up on the past few months of our lives at some point...but for today I want to document the adventures of this past weekend.

First of all...we are the proud owners of a camper. Yes, we already had a camper, but it didn't comfortably fit our family of five and required installation of a fifth wheel hitch. Combine that with the pandemic, some extra hard family stuff, and Dan constantly scrolling Facebook Marketplace and wearing me down with night after night of "Hey Racheal! Come look at this one!"...and I finally caved.

Our maiden voyage was to Watkin's Mill - a Missouri state park an hour from our house. The rest of the weekend will be summarized in numbers: 

Seven loads of laundry...and counting. The mud was inescapable.

Six kids. Because Dan and I are always up for a challenge, we decided to add my niece and nephews to our first weekend in the camper, equaling a total of six kids. Their parents were busy running a half marathon...I don't know who had the more challenging task. Ha!

(The only picture I have of them all together is blurry, of them watching a movie and eating popcorn.)

I have zero regrets about this and while of course there were some logistical challenges (six showers to keep six sets of clean clothes dry with only one bottle of shampoo) they were amazing kids and they had an absolute blast together. 

Five meals to plan. I knew that getting meals together would be crazy with all of the kids, so I decided to be very easy on myself. Past versions of me would have scoffed at this processed food, easy meal plan. Current me is beaming with success. 

  • Friday dinner: take and bake pizzas and a veggie tray
  • Saturday breakfast: sausage, scrambled eggs, sourdough toast (so much more to say about sourdough)
  • Saturday lunch: sandwiches, chips, grapes, veggie tray
  • Saturday dinner: chili (Dan made this at home on Thursday night, so we just warmed it up in the crock pot) and s'mores
  • Sunday breakfast: same as Saturday, except I cooked because Dan took a brief camping intermission to go to church on Sunday for baptisms
Four miles walked/biked. 

The state park has a lake with a 3.75 mile paved trail around it, which I thought sounded like the perfect way to spend the morning. 

Others...who shall not be named...perhaps did not...but were troopers and tagged along anyways. Despite losing the big kids for a few minutes while waiting on the little kids to catch up, the first half was quite pleasant. Then, we found a creek with a stream and little water fall and the kids had so much fun playing in the water.

Maybe too much fun, because they didn't believe me when I warned them they would regret having wet shoes and clothes for the last two miles. 

I really don't like being right, especially when poor Cora face planted on a slippery rock and was so thankful her sweet cousin Hallaway donated her fleece to keep her warm. The second half of the walk involved a lot of (understandable) whining and me carrying a sleeping Mira. 

We made it back just in time for lunch and shelter to stay out of the afternoon rain. Then the kids found a creek behind our camper (that didn't require 4 miles of hiking) to play in for a few hours. They rounded off the night scootering/biking with some friends from church...who just happened to reserve the campsite next to us!

Three movies watched. I know we were camping and should have been enjoying the great outdoors the entire time...but it rained. There were six kids. We were tired.

The Boy Scouts camping in the tents next to us informed us the next morning that there were speakers on the outside of our camper too, blasting the sound of our movie. (I felt really bad about not realizing that feature.)

Two baby wipes, which Mira insisted on using as a shoe substitute after all three of the pairs we brought were unacceptably muddy and wet. She would grab the wipes with her toes and walk about the campsite. It was too hysterical to stop her from doing it. 

One fire built without matches or lighter fluid - just a flint stick (<-- great Father's Day gift!), wood shavings, and lots of blowing. In between the rain and the mud we found a window of time to build a fire and enjoy a few s'mores and the extra warmth. 

We came home in time to clean all the mud off and pack the camper up for our next weekend of fun. Currently researching our next destination.

Talk to you (hopefully very!) soon!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Life is Hard but God is Good

 Hello out there!

As my last post was over a month ago, it is obvious I am mimicking nature and hibernating during the month-that-shall-not-be-named. I have used my morning time to dive deeper into bible studies, read some non-fiction books, and blow through some (lots of?) frivolous audio books. 

But I am here and counting down the days to daylight savings time, when the sun will bring me back to life. Last weekend I put my photos from my phone on the TV and our family spent over two hours laughing through old pictures, many of which highlighted swimming, outside time, and an abnormal amount of baby Mira booty. I realized that over the last month I have taken the same amount of pictures I normally take in a single summer week. All of that to say, that although I don't want to wish time away, I am embracing winter in a way that means I am not fighting the natural tendency to go to bed earlier and be a little more reclusive. 

(When it is negative degrees outside but you still want to play. )

However, reclusive is a relative term considering we have kids with activities and many things to celebrate. We are still so thankful the girls have the opportunity to go to in-person school. We happily drive to church every Sunday. Here is what we have been up to the past month, in bulleted form. 

- Ina wrapped up her basketball season. Watching her play basketball brought me so much joy. She made so many improvements from the beginning to the end of the season, and at times even from the beginning to the end of each game. I hope we can continue the fun next year.

- The Chiefs went to the Super Bowl. Oh, what fun it is to have a team you can be proud of and is fun to watch. Although it wasn't the outcome we hoped for, I can't complain for a second.

- We celebrated my sweet niece Delaney turning 2! The girls had so much fun doting on their cousin. Even Mira, who loves being the baby and often asks if she can get back in my belly, loved to play with "Baby Delaney."

- We celebrated Valentine's Day with homemade build your own heart shaped pizzas, candy-heart drinks, and a strobe light dance party.

Dan braved the snow and cold to pick up Indian take out the next day. Saag is my strongest love language. 

Other aspects of life are going well. Work is everything I hoped it would be as I am now 6 months into my new job and learning more and more everyday. Lexi keeps creating workouts I genuinely look forward to every morning (after a cup of coffee, an hour of reading, and a 30 minute walk). I keep finding new ways to stay motivated in the kitchen.

We have also had really hard moments. Fights. Frustration. Hopelessness. When I write about the good things I am not ignoring the bad. I just don't want to dwell in the bad. However, I also don't want to pretend that it doesn't exist. So, this is your monthly reminder that life is hard but God is good.

The only logical transition from that is to share a few recipes I have liked lately:

- Pickled watermelon radish. Absolutely delicious with Mexican beef

- Persian turkey meatballs (the recipe says to grill on sticks as kebobs, but I just roll into meatballs and bake) - I have to stop myself from making these every week so we don't get sick of them. 

- Dump ranch - I always have a jar of this in the fridge.

- Roasted whole cauliflower  - game changer

- Change your life chicken - while maybe not life changing, pretty dang good. 

I hope you have a great week (month?)! Talk to you soon! <3

Monday, January 11, 2021

It's Going to be a Great Week!

 Hello there Monday morning!

We are on the other side of a wonderful weekend mixed with fun and relaxation that included dinner with friends, Ina's basketball game victory, finally getting the opportunity to exchange Christmas presents with a few family members, a wonderfully entertaining production of Aladdin, church + babies, and cards. 

(Yes, I do see the irony of me taking a picture of my smoothie while my daughter is carrying around a bag of potato chips- above and eating a fruit by the foot, below. Ha!)

I went to bed with a touch of worry about the upcoming week, but quickly shifted my mindset to think of all the things I have to be thankful for and look forward to: 

- All of the laundry is done (and put away!) and Ina and Cora's clothes are laid out for the week. Mira is a wild card and the only thing I can be certain she will not want to wear is whatever I ask her to, so I only choose that battle when it is important to me. Speaking of making mornings easier...

- Ina and I have worked out a to-do list system that makes things easier for both of us. I didn't write one on Sunday and she started writing one herself. 

- Small group starts again this week! (I had a huge smile on my face when I typed that.) We are starting the book of Daniel.

- At work I get to: 

  • Write a document that goes to a certain regulatory agency
  • Play with some old data to (hopefully) make a new point
  • Send a report to a client summarizing an analysis I have never done before until a few months ago
  • Complete an analysis on a huge dataset - this is the type of work I did at my old job regularly and more in my comfort zone- thankful to have some of that!
- My workouts are already waiting for me thanks to Lexi. I am so thankful I have the time and resources (weights, internet, a healthy body) to enjoy them.

- My church has an awesome daily podcast for me to utilize during my morning walks/jogs. 

- We have a week's worth of delicious meals to look forward to:
- The Chiefs are in the playoffs...and no school or work the following day! 

See, with all of that, how is there anything to be anxious about? :) I hope you have a wonderful week! <3

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Mindset Shift

Hello there and Happy Saturday! 

For the first time in weeks I plan to put on jeans, wear shoes other than my fur lined Crocs, and go out in public for Ina's basketball game. It's going to be a great day! 

At the beginning of the week I was feeling pretty down/anxious/sad for no one particular reason other than we are in the middle of a winter pandemic with my newsfeed blowing up with so much fear and anger and I continue to feel inadequate/question myself at work and my girls won't stop fighting with each other and I want to chainsaw the part of the recliner Dan's feet are propped up on and I just want to go to bed. 

OK...maybe I did have a reason. 

That isn't the point.

The point is that on the second day of this I decided I didn't want to feel like this anymore. I was focusing on negative things way too much and letting them steal my joy. Of course life isn't perfect, but I want to choose to be joyful while experiencing those imperfections and frustrations. Here is what I did: 

  • I asked Jesus for help fighting these toxic thoughts/feelings that I firmly believe are spiritual warfare. I remind myself that the battle is already won.
  • I made a 15 minute mid-day walk in the sunshine a high priority, even when it was raining - see above. Ha!
  • When I started thinking something negative, I re-framed it in a positive/thankful way. Example: I changed "I have no idea what I am doing at work. All of the senior scientists know way more than me" to "I am so blessed to be surrounded by such wonderful scientific mentors who are willing to spend time to teach me what I need to succeed in my career." 
  • I reminded myself that I have so many things to be thankful for and said those things out/loud in my head. For example, when the girls were fighting I would look at their beautiful bodies and say, "I am so thankful that my girls are healthy."
  • I stopped looking at social med...just kidding...this train wreck of a week has continued to suck me in. 
You guys - this is nothing ground breaking. Every book/article/podcast recommends these things and I know them but I don't (or wasn't) doing them. As it turns out, those self help/bible study books don't actually help unless you put them into action. 

These are simple/easy actions and since putting them in place my mood has significantly improved. I am writing all of this as a friendly reminder that sometimes you just need to take a step back and shift your mindset. Also, sometimes you need more than that (like counseling or medications) and that is OK too. 

Also, I have made these brussels sprouts twice this week and have been very happy with that decision. 

I hope you have a joyful weekend. <3

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Happy New Year!

Hello there and Happy New Year! 

We have roasted broccoli at least once a week for dinner, but Ina prefers raw broccoli (how?) and always asks me to save some for her before I put the rest in the oven. Sadly, I rarely remember...but I did that day and she was so excited. 

Like many others', our holiday break was spent at home staring at each other. I left the house twice to pick up grocery orders, but otherwise only escaped for a walk or run here or there. 

We sat by lots of fires,

played lots of cards and games, and ate lots of food. 

Nerts was the reigning favorite, but we also enjoyed Ticket to Ride, Sequence, Phase 10, and Gin Rummy. 

We opened presents on Christmas Eve with Nonnie, next to her tree in the basement and then came upstairs to open presents from us. 

I am strictly under the "less is more" camp for gifts, and I loved watching the girls open the 3 gifts I had picked out for them. They each received fur lined crocs, which have already proved themselves very useful when needing to quickly go outside. Ina also opened a few books in a series she is reading and a lighted picture hanger for her room. Cora has been begging for a little dragon in an egg (I paid way too much money for one, but she has played with it every day since) and she was so excited to get a dance back pack that matches the big girls. Mira opened a sparkly purse and a coloring book and keeps looking at the presents for other people still in the living room asking when we can open those.

The next morning Santa came and sent them on a scavenger hunt around the house to finally find their gifts on Cora's bed (they currently all sleep in Mira's room, so this was super convenient for Santa.)

Ina has been zooming around the house on her new roller skates. Although there have been a few wipe outs, she is getting better each day. 

Cora was excited about her bike, but way much more excited about the stuffed goat Santa had placed there last minute. Her class mascot is a goat and she asked for a live goat for Christmas. Ha!

We spent the rest of the day enjoying a lot of family time and eating food.

I vote for fajitas for Christmas dinner forever.

The next few days were all a blur of sleeping in, watching TV, and not doing much else. After what I would call a Herculean effort of getting the bikes and stroller and air pump out of the garage that is currently stuffed to the brim Nonnie's stuff, we went on a walk/ride around a lake close to our house.

It felt good to get out of the house, because the next few days looked like this. 

"Mom - is there going to be a next Christmas?"

My neice and nephews hung out with us for a few days while their parents were working. The kids had an absolute blast with their cousins and played all sorts of stuff.

What I remember most about those two days was getting lots of snacks. My sister joined us for New Year's Eve and although we didn't stay up until midnight we did have lots of fun.

(The wine glasses became popular choices after that night until one shattered all over the kitchen floor. Back to plastic we go.)

"Mom, I'm just askin', It's New Year's Eve. Can I have one more glass? Just askin!"

We went back to real life (work/school/activities) on Monday. While I have goals for 2021, what I want mostly is to continue the systems and routines I already have in place. Eat real food. Exercise every day. Budget. Pray/study the bible. Continue to empty the house of unneeded items. Build on my skills for work. Stay focused during work and limit distractions.

Two areas where I would love to improve this year are: 1. water intake - a constant struggle for me. I can be consistent for short periods of time, but I would love to develop habits/routine that make drinking enough water second nature. 2. anxiety - I never thought this would be an issue for me, yet here I am. One thing that helps is a daytime walk. 

Here's to more of those in 2021. 

I hope you all had a a great holiday break! Here's to better things in 2021. 

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