Saturday, May 23, 2015

drinks and links {Happy Memorial Day!}

Well, I had the highest of hopes that this Saturday would be full of productivity but I'm not smartest person. When I put an hour long movie on for the girls this morning I really thought I could get more done than lay Joe down, get the girls lunch (to have with their movie, the little princesses) and eat a quick lunch myself before Joseph woke up, but that was just naive of me, ok stupid is the right word.

So now they're all awake and about and I am putting my hopes in the afternoon nap time and turning to the Internet for company over the age of 6.

First off, I must share my new favorite non-or-alcoholic drink recipe with you all, it would be perfection for a memorial day cookout libation addition.

Agave (or Simple Syrup) Lemon Drop:

 I initially made this with regular simple syrup, which incorporates much better than just throwing granulated sugar in the pitcher, but then I realized I could make it with Agave syrup and it would taste just as wonderful and I would feel a tad less guilty about the sugar over load. Go with whatever floats your boat and don't feel guilty like I do, I am lame.

What you need:

* 2 whole lemons, cut into 1/4ths
* 8 oz bottled lemon juice
* 8 oz Agave nectar (or simple syrup, which is 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, boiled until sugar is dissolved.
* 2  cups water
* 1 cup vodka, if you are having fun
* ice

Mix the Agave, lemon juice, water, (and vodka if you want). Squeeze lemon juice from lemon fourths and throw them into the pitcher. Add as much ice as you need or want and serve it up.

All will be happy and content.

Ok, now for some internet fun spots for your weekend couch sitting:

Carolyn tells the most amazing birth story ever and serves to seriously validate my claims that I didn't just "do natural child birth wrong" when I screamed so loudly that nurses came in from down the hall to ask me to quiet down. I dealt with the same *issue* as her and I won't use her terminology because this is not a birth story so you didn't sign up for it, (but if it was I would totally use the words.) Anyways, when you deal with what she dealt with, no amount of deep breathing helps- only screaming and biting and other such coping mechanisms- and even then, nothing helps. Such a great read, SUCH a cute baby!!

Jenny is always interesting and compelling and this is no exception.

Christy does a great recap of the Mad Med finale, and succeeds in making me try to think more positively about the whole thing. While I am not quite there (I'm a Don cynic) I am still mulling it over and her recap will continue to help me through it all. (I'm being a tad dramatic, but so is the show)

I am always on the hunt for a good non-Jillian workout that will really give me bang for my buck, and this one recommended to me by my friend, Sarah has done just that.

I have loved my trusty firmoo glasses for a while now and recently asked on the gram whether my more recent pair was too large for my face, which everyone was super affirming about and so I started sporting them. I just couldn't do it, BUT! I needed sunglasses really badly and was so excited when I realized that a local America's Best could tint my too-large ones for a mere $15 and I am so happy to finally be able to shield my tender eyes after at least 10 years of not being able to because I would not shell out the cash for prescription ones. Behold!

Also, since I know you've been dying to know-- I found a swim suit!!

Summah-time!!!!

Happy Memorial Day!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Turkey Meatball Sliders: Not a Fowl Ball

I have blogged before about the company sponsoring this post: Blue Apron, but let me do a little recap.

Blue apron is a meal service that allows to you make deliciously creative, chef designed recipes right at home by delivering the pre-proportioned, farm fresh ingredients right to your door. My mom and dad were in town when we received the most recent box and my mother (who gets FULL credit for the pun in the title) was so impressed with their packaging job and how fresh all of the ingredients were.


They also send the recipe and step by step guide (with pictures!) to walk you through the process, which has the result of making me feel like an all-star chef, because I am easily fooled.

They offer a 2-Person Plan and a Family Plan- the family plan feeds a family of four, with the cost per person at around $8.74, and we've had a nice amount of leftovers to go around each time because the servings are very generous. There is no commitment and you can always cancel the service at any time.

Blue Apron offers free shipping all the time and ships to 80% of the country and some great news is that in early June they will be launching in Texas!

They offer a huge selection of recipes, I am particularly eying the sirloin tips steaks and the seared flank steaks -- I'm a steak girl, what can I say?

I personally love how creative and exciting the meals are, as opposed to my boring and always-the-same round up. These Turkey sliders were super fun to create:
 And their salad dressing was a simple mix of shallot, red wine vinegar and Parmesan and it was so darn delicious

I would say that all in all, the meal was a home run.


A treat for the readers!!
The first 25 readers will get 2 meals of their first Blue Apron order for FREE, just click HERE!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

cooling the hotness of the mess {Minimize the Mess Review}



I am going to say that the majority of what stresses me out in the day-to-day of wife-and-motherhood is caring for my home. I am not a lover of cleaning, especially not deep cleaning, and I prefer to ignore disorganized areas rather than to tend to them.

That said, I am not actually laid back enough by nature to just ignore messes and disorganization, especially not since becoming a stay-at-HOME-mom, who STAYS-at-home, all day every day. The places that are cluttered mock me when I pass them and the piles of laundry jeer as I sit at my computer blogging about being overwhelmed rather than DOING something about it. (in all fairness, I am currently writing from the confines of a hotel room so there is no laundry jeering here)

But! Little does my laundry pile know that I am not always wasting time, and some of what I am staring at on the screen is actually productive with regards to the messes around here.

That's right, thanks to this ebook written by the lovely Rachel of Efficient Mama, I have as of late found more motivation and encouragement in the department of home organization and management.

Minimize the Mess is priced at only $2.99(!) and is a fabulous compact and concise book for anyone who feels like they are swimming in messes, but also anyone who just needs a little nudge in the organizational direction. It walks you through the steps to take to really simplify your life and live with less, and to live with the stuff that you actually use. 

I will likely never attempt any of the trending "capsule wardrobes", but the act of sorting and allotting piles of little girls clothing to give away fills me with a joy matched only by the task of shoving countless papers, which contained one little scribble and are now considered unusable by the resident artists into the trash:

I can be a real jerk when going through their "artwork". I keep some things. Some.

I learned recently of the beauty of the local thrift store home pick-up, and so I purged and purged until I could see the bottoms of clothing drawers and art containers and it was the best feeling ever.

Seriously Rachel's book is so good and worth every penny (and not too many pennies!). Your heart will feel more peace about the state of your home and your husband will probably wonder how the outdoor trashcan filled up so fast, and it will all be so good.

Check out Rachel and her wonderful book and use the code launch for 25% off through this Friday the 22nd. Then go check out all the other bloggers doing reviews- your home will thank you, even if your children don't.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Kalama-crazies

A couple times a year Mike shows his true nerd-colors and travels for a few days for some academic conference or another and has way too much fun all by himself. One of these conferences (the nerdiest of all) takes place in Kalamazoo, MI and we have accompanied him before and also had way too much fun considering that we were in, um, Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo is only 1.5 hours from here, so a couple of years ago I decided that bringing the girls along and playing in the hotel while he discussed all of his favorite Medieval topics was better than sitting at home counting down the hours until his return. And it was, much much better.

However this year, with the addition of another child and more legit home schooling underway, I was not even close to wanting to bring the older children anywhere with me and Mike. When Mike reminded me a few months ago that his conference would be falling in the middle of May, I made a prompt SOS call to my saintly mother and begged her and my dad to move their already scheduled May visit back a week so they could watch the girls while I ran (almost literally) away with Joseph to keep Mike company on his academic venture, and she said "yes"- hence the "saintly" thing.

Here's how the conversation went down between me and Mike- or something close to this- after I got the yes from my mom:

Ana: My mom said she would watch the kids so Joe and I could come with you to Kalamazoo.

Mike: Ok, but I have a lot of sessions to go to

Ana: Ok, I don't care we're coming

Mike: That's great, I have a paper to give so I will be working a lot on that

Ana: That's ok, we are coming.

Mike: It is possible that I won't get  to see you guys much at all

Ana: Don't care, WE ARE COMING

I think he could sense from the crazy in my eyes and my voice that I just really needed a little break from the crazy females I spend my days with and he went ahead and made arrangements for me and Joe to crash his historical party, and crash it we did.

My mom came Wednesday evening and Mike and I hit the road first thing Thursday morning. This was the day with all the sessions that Mike was attending, so I took the opportunity to con the hotel workers into letting me and Joe check in early and take a much needed looooooong nap- the first I have taken in a really long time. And then we went to find Mrs. Jenna Hines of Call Her Happy and force her and her insanely adorable kids to hang out with us.

It was a blast and even included my first- and hopefully my last- experience of witnessing fellow moms peeing in the grass at the park with no bathrooms- MOMS, not kids.

I had joked with Mike earlier in the day that Joseph and I were going to go get margaritas while he was at the conference dinner and then I couldn't stop thinking about margaritas. So naturally after I departed from Jenna and passed a little authentic Mexican restaurant with signs about their cheap margs, the deal was sealed. Dining alone was never so fun.

I also got the best, the very BEST, quesadilla of my life and had to fight the urge to get a second one really hard. Joseph took a little siesta in the van while we waited to pick Mike up, because he can only handle so much fun.

On the second day Mike impressed me thoroughly by finishing his paper early and so we had the rest of the day to dine out, get the best donuts of my entire life, go thrift store shopping, watch TWO movies, dine out again and sleep as  much as Joseph would let us. It was spectacular.

Seriously, if I could eat this donut for every meal I would, and I would happily deal with the obese ramifications.

In short (uh huh, right): I do not need a tropical getaway, just give me one kid to take care of and a hotel bed to sleep on and I will be the happiest little camper you ever saw.

Back to Monday reality!





Friday, May 8, 2015

I home school, but sometimes...

I have very specific intentions for this blog NEVER to become a "home schooling blog", but this is not a post about "how we home school" or "how awesome I am at it", it is just another good old fashioned Ana rant.

I was not home schooled and I have zero issues with the thought of sending my kids to school, and I'm going to be real honest here (shocker!): most days my mouth waters at the idea of me not being the only one in charge of their education and care all day, every day, here in the home. I have gotten online and perused various school tuition costs and had lots of conversations with Mike about whether we should send them to school or continue to home school for these early grades.

When I actually think about the details: separating the girls from each other for such long days, the insanely early start times of schools and needing to get all of us out the door so early, how long the days are for such little kids, the exposure that they would have to so much stuff that would be out of my control-- not educationally but socially-- then I start to have issues with the idea of sending them to school.

It has not seemed like the right move for our family yet and so we are going to keep the girls home again next year, but please be sure that you read that right-- it isn't the right move YET. I cannot actually imagine a world where I home school these kids all the way through middle school, junior high and high school.

Perhaps I will look back on this post in 10 years and recline in my matriarchal swivel chair that overlooks the giant school-room table laden with papers filled with perfect handwriting and strewn with great books that my genius kids have just finished reading and give a hearty laugh at myself, but I doubt it.

I'm sure you fellow home schooling moms of lots of kids have to deal with the same craziness- the babies whose nap schedules just will not stay timed with the school day schedule perfectly, the toddler who is at your feet screaming while you struggle to get through the math lesson, the squirmy preschooler who does not want to be left out but has no interest in doing anything that you give her.

However, I am fairly convinced that I am just not specific breed of mother who can deal with that level of crazy.

This is year has been one of the hardest years of mothering for me and I was only attempting to finish kindergarten and start first grade. I taught ONE-- count them, ONE-- child to read and we did math (and some history and religion occasionally) and most days, by the time "lessons" were done I felt like I needed a stiff drink and a nap.

The hardest part is-- even more than feeling like I am not of the "home schooling mom breed"-- that I don't feel like I am wholeheartedly devoted enough to the various principles and convictions that keep home schooling moms home schooling even through the nitty gritty of the days.

And maybe I will be some day. Maybe by the end of next year I will be on board the well-trained-mind express in the front row and buckled in for the long haul, but maybe I won't and either way, it is OK. I have tried to strike up as many conversations as I can with mothers who have BOTH home schooled and sent their kids to school and so far I have gleaned one thing from all of my conversations with them: there is no perfect way and there is no way that doesn't come with its share of challenges and difficulties. That said, there is also no one way that makes you a good mother or a bad one.

I am a good mother regardless of what decision we make with regards to our kids' education after next year (she repeats to herself again and again in the mirror). I have seen first hand the wonderful fruits of home schooling in my own husband and all of his home schooled siblings, and I have also seen wonderful fruits of children being sent to school in my own family and my own siblings and now in their children.

I am grateful to have the kids home with me and to get to be present for so much (SOOO much + winking emoji) of their lives. I am happy that they get to learn about life with each other, holding each others' little hands. I know God is doing good work in all of us through this time, and I am praying daily for the grace to make it through that day. But I am also very open to God leading us in another direction in the future, and I am excited to see what that is when we get there.

Whether or not our kids are educated exclusively here in the home, they will always be loved here, and I am pretty sure that is all that matters.

And for now, I'll keep looking forward to the stiff drink and the nap.

---


There are so many options and I am so happy to know that they are there for me and for my children in the future. One that is especially worth mentioning- and one that I am absolutely filing away now that we have a boy- is Gregory the Great Academy near Scranton Pennsylvania. This is not a sponsored post and no one is paying me for this, but when Gregory the Great contacted me to promote their current fundraising campaign, I was happy to do so for such a great school.

I would never have heard of this school if it weren't for my brother-in-law, David (Mike's youngest brother) who started attending the school last fall. I have never seen a school have such a positive impact on a person as I have seen in David. Gregory the Great offers a liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition through which young men can cultivate virtue, deepen their faith, and sharpen their intellects (grades 9-12). In the year that David has been attending the Academy I have seen him grow in amazing ways, he has learned to play a new instrument (in addition to his mad piano skills) and even learned to juggle clubs and flaming torches!!

I am including them in this post because I have truly been blown away by the fruits of the education that I have seen and I hope and pray that the school continues to grow so that our own family could one day benefit from it as well. They are running a campaign called "Happy as Kings" to raise funds for student tuition discounts and to increase awareness of the unique education that their school offers, and it is so beautiful and unique.

Please consider donating to their campaign or at the very least check out their school's website and tell your friends about this treasure of a school.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

summer skirt DIY



Time to commence a list of reasons I am grateful for my kids being sick (just fevers, no throw up):

1) Guilt-free, non-stop TV watching
2) A day of no home schooling (aka me utterly losing my mind)
3) An occasion to get to a small sewing project that I was previously not able to stop thinking about.

I'm a selfish B, I know.

I don't even know why I was so excited about doing this sewing project, but who knows what goes on in my brain. I am a little obsessed with floral prints right now and am really wishing that my Grandma Erma would have left me all of her old flowery "house dresses" (mumus) because I would have had a ball sewing them into wearable items. Or pillow cases. Or drapes. Anything with flowers- anywhere, anytime.

My bestie Sarah gave me this little shirt-dress (from Hannah- thank you, Hannah!!), which was a little too low cut for me to justify without another tank top underneath, and I am just not a fan of profuse sweating so that many layers in Midwest humidity was a no-go. But the flowers! And the birds!! I was determined to wear it some how.

Then it came to me like a Divine revelation: "Thou shall cut the bottom half off and find some stretchy material for a waistband, sew it together and thou shall have a skirt."

Too sacrilegious? Yes.

Sorry.

Then I found some old sweatpants from Target whose waistband was torn and through which you could see my skin color (because grey sweatpants wasn't bad enough, they were see through) and decided that they had seen their last days as pants.

And on I went.

I cut the bottom half of the shirt dress off, cut up one of the legs of the sweat pants and sewed it into a waist band.

Then I pinned the bottom half of the floral shirt dress to the waistband in a very haphazard and wrinkled way so that it would be all bunched after I sewed it.

Then applied to my person and folded the waist band down once because it was a rather big waist band. Badabing:

Badaboom:


It worked! (My self-time skills are another story, I am working on it.)
And I will wear it forevermore.

Monday, May 4, 2015

the Y factor

I get the question a lot: "how has having a boy been different?.

At first when I got the question I was all "well, I can't tell a difference yet because he's still so little." But I don't know, I was kind of lying when I said that, because it totally is. From the moment he exited the womb and I held him in my arms it was different. It is so hard to really figure out why, and therefore even harder to elucidate on the matter, but he just turned 9 months old and I am feeling the need to wax sentimental and mushy so I will try.

It may be because I know that one day he will fall in love and some other lady will have his heart and that until that day, I am THE lady.

It may be that he is the only other male person who gets as much affection from me as he does other than Mike.

It may be that he is a miniature Mike and every time I look at him I see Mike and, well, I really like Mike.

It may be seeing their sweet Father-Son relationship and knowing how much that will deepen with the years.

It may be his sweet smile,

his adorable laugh,

his chubby leg rolls,

or just that he is my son and my only son right now. I love that I get to experience a tiny bit of what Our Lady did when she held Our Lord, although Joseph will not boast that level of holiness and neither will I.

It may be all of these things and more that I can't put into words, but it is definitely different and it is all together wonderful.

Alright, thanks for indulging me and my sappy self, I'll be done now.