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Favorite Things Friday {8.17.18}

1. I always forget what a crap show the first week of school is around here. It’s like labor pains- I block it out completely when it’s over. Which is why I have so many kids. The week started with Tyler having to go get new game cleats for football. He ripped his other ones in practice. And he ran into several teammates at the store who were also needing new cleats so I guess practice was intense lately. $200 later and he’s all set for the beginning of the season. The newspaper came and took pictures of the team last week for the online publications. Big Red is front and center and so very happy to be back with his teammates this season. 

2. These kids had their last hurrahs of summer this week. Maia had 2 sleepovers, played tons of Fortnite, and slept until noon every day. Mason hit Carowinds with his 2 best friends and had a sleepover. Zoey had 3 play dates and I didn’t get a single pictures of any of them! I think they had a fantastic summer!

3. We saw this beautiful double rainbow over our house this week. It was simply breathtakingly gorgeous. It made me stop and stare. And then give thanks for all the blessings in my life. What a timely reminder that I needed. 

4. Back to school prep was hard y’all. It was hard. I had to sort all the school supplies and somehow was missing 4 bags! I still haven’t found them. We had Maia’s open house on Monday morning, a football meeting on Monday afternoon, Tyler left for his senior trip Tuesday morning, Zoey and Mason’s open house on Tuesday afternoon, 3 doctor’s appointments on Wednesday, and school started Thursday. It was a painful week. Is it summer break yet? 

5. And yesterday was our first day of school for 2018-19. Here they are- 8th grade, 5th grade, and 2nd grade. Tyler was still gone on the senior trip so he missed out on mom’s annual tradition. The kids all got new alarm clocks and they were up on time, dressed, and pretty much ready to go on time. It was a good morning. 



Amazing Instant Pot Shrimp Lo Mein

My kids are addicted to Chinese Shrimp Lo Mein. They love it and would literally eat it every single night if I let them. Unfortunately they also eat a lot and we would be homeless if I indulged their love of Lo Mein as often as they would like. So I had to find a way to make it at home. I tried probably 10 different recipes and finally created this one with bits and pieces of all of them. It’s a winner! My kids love it! They even ate the vegetables with no complaints. 

Ingredients:
1 bag frozen shrimp
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 box Lo Mein noodles
2 cans sliced mushrooms
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup snow peas
1 can water chestnuts
1 can baby corn

Directions:
1. Combine sesame oil, minced garlic, vinegar, beef broth, lemon juice, soy sauce, and brown sugar in Instant Pot.
2. Add shrimp.
3. Layer noodles over top.
4. Add mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, water chestnuts, and baby corn.
5. Seal lid and set to manual high pressure for 5 minutes.
6. Use quick release and stir.

It really tastes just like Chinese Lo Mein take out. I’m going to try it with chicken next time and see if the kids love that as much as the shrimp. This is definitely a recipe that’s on my regular menu plan now!



Weekly Book Club {8.15.18}

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Three more books from the library this week….are you sensing a theme here? Ha! I may never buy a book again. Ok that’s bit extreme, but I have saved a ton of money this year so it’s a win for me…and my credit card!

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Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer– The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable. As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path? Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Oh my heart. My breaking heart. This book gave me all the feels. I could relate to the story so much because of our time as foster parents. This book was a very realistic look at the consequences of addiction and how it can destroy a family. I found the book to be very well written and exceptionally real. I found myself really torn between rooting for Annie to get clean and rooting for Lexie to keep the baby. It was an emotional wringer and I loved every page. 

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After Anna by Lisa Scottoline– Noah Alderman, a doctor and a widower, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie, and for the first time in a long time he and his son are happy. But their lives are turned upside down when Maggie’s daughter Anna moves in with them. Anna is a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble that is brewing. Events take a deadly turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused of the crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her only daughter, but the realization that her daughter’s murder was at the hands of a husband she loves. New information sends Maggie searching for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I initially picked this book because it dealt with PPP (postpartum psychosis) which if you’ve been around here awhile you’ll know I also dealt with after the birth of my last child. I’m always interested in books that deal with PPP but rarely do they portray it in any kind of realistic way. This one definitely did and it showed the real life consequences that PPP can have on a mother’s life. So I automatically found myself rooting for and identifying with Maggie. The story was well paced and told in a unique way with Noah’s portion being told in reverse and Maggie’s portion told chronologically. This made the story so much more interesting for me. I can say that I did not see the ending coming. It was a huge twist for me, and a bit unbelievable, but definitely interesting. 

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Jagged by Lauren DaneVicktor Orlov took one look at the wary gaze and slow-to-trust personality of the deliciously sexy and fascinating Rachel Dolan and knew he wanted more than just a casual friendship. But as a natural protector, he also knew bossiness and overprotective maneuvering would push her away rather than draw her close. He’ll use every tool in his easygoing arsenal to convince her to take a chance on them. Rachel’s flourishing new career as a tattoo artist has brought color back into a life previously damaged by a series of bad choices and violence. She knows she can trust Vic—it’s herself she’s not sure of. She doesn’t want to be caged or controlled. Doesn’t want to be protected so much she has no ability to make her own choices. And damn if the man doesn’t know it. When Vic finally drops all pretenses of “just friends” and focuses all his careful affection and irresistible seduction on her, Rachel knows she’s falling hard for the laid-back pretty-boy Russian she discovers has a relentlessly steel spine when it comes to her. And she can’t resist.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

This is the first book in the Whiskey Sharp series that I have read so this may have been a 5 star read for me if I’d read book one first. As it stands, this was a solid 4.5 star read and I enjoyed it a lot. There was a lot of family drama and strange dynamics between Rachel and her parents that probably would have made more sense had I read the first book prior to this one. I loved the relationship between Rachel and Vicktor. They were both great characters with distinctly strong personalities but they meshed so well together. I do highly recommend this one and I will definitely be reading the rest of the series!



Favorite Things Friday {8.10.18}

1. We are well into Varsity Football Pre-Season now. Poor Tyler. He did get a sensor helmet designed to help prevent and detect concussions. It has 3x the amount of padding and sensors all along the inside of the helmet. If he takes a hit to the head the sensors will alert on the trainer’s tablet on the sideline so she can pull him out and evaluate him. The helmet won’t fully prevent a concussion but it will help eliminate the risk of multiple compounding hits to the head! I’ll take what I can get at this point. It’s been a really long week for Tyler. He’s had morning practice with full pads from 7:45-10:30 and then afternoon practice from 12:45-3:30 and then he’s had to go to work from 5-10. He’s so exhausted. And it’s so freaking hot! Monday was miserable- he came from morning practice sick and dehydrated. He also ripped his cleats doing blocking drills. Ripped the cleat right off the bottom and had to have the trainer tape them up so he could finish practice. Ha! At least the coaches can’t accuse him of slacking in practice! We felt so sorry for him practicing in 95+ heat that we went to the QT and grabbed him a Powerade Mountain Blast slushie after his second practice because he wouldn’t have time to do much before he had to be at work. I’ll say one thing about varsity football- you have to LOVE it or you’ll never make it through Pre-Season!

2. These 2 girls of mine. They are sassy and spunky and so amazing. I just adore them. Zoey is so ready to go back to school. She misses her friends and she’s getting bored now. Maia, on the other hand, is dreading it. Ha! It’s her last year of middle school and I’m so hoping she has a great year. These two have been spending more time together lately. Maia has been painting Zoey’s nails for her and doing her hair. I love to see that. 

3. Matt and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary last weekend. And in the true old people fashion, we spent our day running errands, school supply shopping, and then took 3 kids out to dinner with us at Outback. Man, we are old. But it was fun. I love the ages my kids are at now. They are fun, they are fully portable, and don’t require gear. Ha!

4. Maia has had her braces on for a full year this week! And man, what a difference a year makes. Her teeth are so much straighter and her smile is fully aligned now. She’s so happy with the progress! Only 2 more years to go. She was hoping to get her expander out this time but no dice. She’ll need it for at least another 6 months. That was a big bummer for her but I keep reminding her that it will all be worth it in the end! We stopped and picked up one of her BFFs and went out for slushies to celebrate one year down and also drown her sorrows (and tooth pain) about the expander. Teen girls- so dramatic. 

5. I have been working on trying a bunch of Instant Pot recipes this summer so I can have a good amount to choose from when back to school menu planning starts up- next week! Boo. We’ve definitely found some new family favorites and I’ll be sharing all of them here on the blog over the next few months. I’ll also be adding a new section to the Recipes tab at the top for the Instant Pot recipes. I’ll get to that shortly….hopefully. 



6 Mom Hacks for Back to School Organization

This is our first Back to School season in our new house! We are one week away from our kids starting school again and the next 6 days are going to be a whirlwind of preparations. I have high hopes for this being the year I stay organized all year long. This new house is a lot more conducive to being organized in many ways so half the battle is already won for me!

1- I have an actual laundry room upstairs instead of a small laundry closet. I have 3 laundry baskets for the kids dirty clothes- one for whites/lights, one for darks/colors, and one for uniforms. The kids just toss their dirty stuff in the correct basket and it magically gets cleaned, folded and put away for them. 

2- I have a really big pantry instead of 2 small ones. All the lunch making stuff has a home, all the snacks are separated into containers for the kids to pack their own lunches. I can see immediately what needs to be replaced.

3- I have a whole hallway closet dedicated to kids school stuff. We have 2 coat closets and I took the smaller one right off the kitchen and turned it into the kids school closet. Bookbags have hooks, jackets have hooks, shoes have a rack. It’s amazing and life changing.

4- I have an office. I smiled while I typed that. I have a real dedicated space for my office. All the files, my laptop, the printer…it all has a home!

5- The kids all have huge closets! Maia and Zoey both have walk in closets and Mason’s closet is really long. It makes it so much easier to keep organized! 

So all those things have already given me a leg up on last year! I also have implemented other systems to make everything run smoothly this year. 

1- Calendars & Planners- I have 3. I know, it sounds like overkill but I promise you there is a method to my madness. I have a large wall calendar that is color coded for every appointment and reminder. I have a large planner that stays on my desk in the office because that’s where I am when I make most of our appointments. I also have a smaller planner that stays in my bag so I can easily schedule follow up appointments while we’re out. I used to have a calendar app on my phone until it crashed and I lost every appointment. That will never happen again. 

2- Lunch Planning- My kids would love to buy hot lunch every day. I would love to have them buy hot lunch every day. But at $26 per week per kid, that’s not happening. So I’m committed to packing lunches 5 days a week times 4 kids. I’ve created a system to make it easier. I have organized all the supplies- thermoses, ziplock bags, plastic forks and spoons, etc and created an entire lunch area in our pantry. All of the kids favorite snacks are organized. Things I buy in bulk such as Goldfish, Animal Crackers, Cheez-its, etc have their own plastic containers so the kids can pour them into ziplocks. Things I buy pre-packaged such as Pirates Booty, Cookies, Fruit Snacks, etc have their own tubs on the shelves. The kids can easily pack their own lunches and make my life easier!

3- Closet Organization- Now that the kids have bigger closets I upped my organization game. I bought Mason and Zoey the hanging organizers with 5 shelves. They’ll pick out their week’s worth of uniforms on Sunday’s, add them to the organizer, and I don’t have to fight with kids all week about uniforms! 

4- Dinner Planning- I’m back on the meal planning train. I did good this summer with cooking at home and not eating out but I didn’t really meal plan. I just bought a bunch of ingredients and made dinner with whatever worked together. Ha! Easy for the summer but not sustainable long term during the school year. So I’ve already made my meal plan for the first 2 weeks of August. I’m doing 2 weeks of planning at a time because it works better for the school year when last minute meetings and things pop up. I have added a bunch of new recipes to my list to choose from and I can’t wait to share them. 

5- Paperwork Organization- Paperwork for 4 kids is a nightmare. I hung my beloved magazine rack on the wall under my calendar for school papers that need attention. I have my white hanging file basket in the office for papers that I need to keep for reference but don’t require immediate action. And then I have my big file baskets where I transfer papers that need to be kept after each semester- things like report cards, test scores, etc. I’ve gotten into the good habit of adding things to my calendar immediately and then throwing the paper out rather than letting a month’s worth of paper pile up on the counter. 

6- Bathroom Organization- This year for the first time Tyler has his own bathroom, which is a blessing because he’s the slowest and the messiest. So the 3 others will share the hall bath upstairs. Zoey and Mason both shower at night and Maia showers in the mornings. To cut down on the amount of bottles in the tub I bought each of them shower buckets. They keep their soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc in the bucket with their own washcloth. I store the buckets under the sink next to their individual dental care baskets. When they shower they take the bucket into the tub with them. It’s working great so far!

So those are my Back to School organization hacks for this year! T minus 6 days until chaos ensues in my house!