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7 Tips For Staying Sane This School Year

We are a week into the school year now and so far it’s going well! I’m determined to have an excellent year and I’ve implemented several routines and habits that are helping with that goal.

1. Pack lunches right after school. Packing school lunches is the most dreaded of tasks for me. I’d rather do laundry. Seriously. This year I’ve started packing lunches right after school. The kids come in, put their lunch boxes on the counter, and hang their book bags up. I unpack lunch boxes while the kids choose their non-perishable items for lunch the next day. Those things go straight into their lunch boxes on the counter. I make sandwiches, salads, or whatever other main dish they choose and add all the perishable items to my bucket in the fridge. All 4 water bottles are filled and in the fridge along with Tyler’s Gatorade and the little kids capri sun drinks. Lunch packing is done in about 15 minutes and I don’t have to nag or yell later at night.

2. Use alarm clocks. I bought 4 new alarm clocks for this year. Tyler has one that lets me set 3 different times on it because it takes 3 alarms to get him up. The other 3 have very simple alarm clocks that are easy to set and easy to use. They all get up by themselves, get dressed, and come downstairs on their own. It’s so much better than me having to drag kids out of bed. 

3. Lay out clothes for the whole week. The hanging shelves organizer I bought for Mason and Zoey are working out so nicely! Every Sunday we pick out uniforms for the whole week and add them to the shelves. There’s no fighting, arguing, or whining about clothes in the mornings. There aren’t 14 outfit changes every morning. 

4. Deal with papers immediately. This is a big one for me and I’ve had to just make it a habit. Every afternoon the kids empty their folders and put papers on the counter for me. Anything that needs to be signed is done immediately and put back in the right folder. Dates that need to be put on the calendar are done so right away and the paper tossed out. Stuff that needs to be kept is filed in the right place. Life is so much easier without 14 piles of papers on the counter and a mad-rush scramble to find a paper in the morning.

5. Keep a donation basket in the laundry room. Instead of washing, drying, and putting away clothes each week that don’t fit my kids and get tried on and thrown on the floor, I keep a donation basket in the laundry room. Items that need to go to Goodwill get tossed in it and uniform pieces that need to be sold get put in a separate basket in the linen closet. It helps the closets stay organized and I can see what the kids need each season.

6. Clean up before bed. At a minimum I try to clean the kitchen and start the dishwasher before bed. If I have enough time I make sure the dining room and family room are cleaned or at least picked up. Nothing starts the day off on a worse foot than coming down to a dirty kitchen with a sink full of dishes. Taking the 20 minutes at night starts my day off great!

7. Simplify the mornings. I get everything ready the night before. Book bags are packed, iPads and computers are charged, shoes and jackets are laid out, lunches are done, sports gear is packed and ready. If the kids are taking hot lunch I make sure to set out their thermoses and the kettle at night. The goal is for them to literally be able to put on clothes, brush teeth and hair, eat breakfast, and grab their bags on the way out the door. 

I run mornings with military precision around here. Shoving 4 angry and overwhelmed kids out the door at 6:45am does not set a great tone for the day and I’m determined not to do it. I’ve found that a little extra effort at night makes all the difference in the morning!



Weekly Book Club {8.22.18}

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Sharing 3 more great reads that I borrowed from the library! I’ve really broadened my reading horizons by using the library this year. And I’ve found so many new authors that have become favorites! Unfortunately that means my own unread shelf is still….unread. But that’s ok! More books to look forward to in the future, right?

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The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing. They call themselves the May Mothers—a collection of new moms who gave birth in the same month. Twice a week, with strollers in tow, they get together in Prospect Park, seeking refuge from the isolation of new motherhood; sharing the fears, joys, and anxieties of their new child-centered lives. When the group’s members agree to meet for drinks at a hip local bar, they have in mind a casual evening of fun, a brief break from their daily routine. But on this sultry Fourth of July night during the hottest summer in Brooklyn’s history, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is abducted from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but the May Mothers insisted that everything would be fine. Now Midas is missing, the police are asking disturbing questions, and Winnie’s very private life has become fodder for a ravenous media. Though none of the other members in the group are close to the reserved Winnie, three of them will go to increasingly risky lengths to help her find her son. And as the police bungle the investigation and the media begin to scrutinize the mothers in the days that follow, damaging secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are formed and fractured.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I enjoyed this book! I read it fairly quickly because I wanted to see how it ended. I liked seeing the different dimensions to the womens friendships and how they related to each other. I also liked seeing how some members of the May Mothers devolved as the story went on- it was really interesting to see how differently they reacted to the missing baby! I’ll admit- I did not see the ending coming. It was a surprise to me and those are the best kinds of books!

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Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins– One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back. Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments. With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter–a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was–Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family. But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

My Rating: 5 Stars

I loved this book. I loved it so much. I pretty much love every book written by Kristan Higgins but this one is definitely a huge winner for me. I loved all the different multi-dimensional relationships. Some were uncomfortable to read about and it felt very very real to me. I liked Nora and I was rooting for her throughout the book. I have so many feelings on this book but I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just tell you to read it!

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Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel HollisFounder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com and CEO of her own media company, Chic Media, Rachel Hollis has created an online fan base of hundreds of thousands of fans by sharing tips for living a better life while fearlessly revealing the messiness of her own. Now comes her highly anticipated first book featuring her signature combination of honesty, humor, and direct, no-nonsense advice. Each chapter of Girl, Wash Your Face begins with a specific lie Hollis once believed that left her feeling overwhelmed, unworthy, or ready to give up. As a working mother, a former foster parent, and a woman who has dealt with insecurities about her body and relationships, she speaks with the insight and kindness of a BFF, helping women unpack the limiting mind-sets that destroy their self-confidence and keep them from moving forward. From her temporary obsession with marrying Matt Damon to a daydream involving hypnotic iguanas to her son’s request that she buy a necklace to “be like the other moms,” Hollis holds nothing back. With unflinching faith and tenacity, Hollis spurs other women to live with passion and hustle and to awaken their slumbering goals.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I enjoyed this book! It was funny, it was full of great antidotes, and it was real life. Rachel held nothing back. Reading this book honestly felt like being curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and chatting with a close friend. And that’s a compliment I don’t give out often. Highly recommend this one!



Easy Instant Pot Chicken Parmesan Pasta

I love chicken parmesan but my kids will only eat it if I make it into a pasta dish. Picky little things. Luckily I also love pasta so this dish is the best of both worlds. And it’s so so easy to make in the Instant Pot!

Ingredients:
3 chicken breasts, fresh or thawed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
3 cups water, divided
16oz penne pasta
2 jars (24oz each) pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Lay chicken breasts in bottom of Instant Pot.
2. Add 2 cups water, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning.
3. Seal lid and set on manual high pressure for 12 minutes.
4. When done, allow to natural release for 5 minutes and then quick release.
5. Remove chicken and cut into bite size pieces.
6. Stir back into IP and pour pasta over top; stir.
7. Pour pasta sauce over top and add 1 cup of water.
8. Seal lid and set on manual high pressure for 5 minutes.
9. When done use quick release and stir in cheeses.

The chicken was so tender and moist and the whole dish was full of flavor. We didn’t even have any leftovers- everyone loved it and went back for seconds….and thirds! I’ve added this one to our regular dinner rotation!



Family Highlights Weekly {8.20.18}

1. We attended Tyler’s senior breakfast on Friday morning. Senior breakfast. What? I am the mother of a senior now. I’m baffled by this. It was a great morning. It was amazing to walk in, sit in that banquet room, and see all his classmates and friends. Amazing to know them and their parents, to see how many of the parents know Tyler by name and hug him on sight. Amazing to be on a first name basis with administrators and teachers and to hear them speak such confident words over our kids. It was truly a powerful and uplifting morning and I’m so excited for his senior year. 

2. Friday night was Tyler’s first varsity game of the season. I didn’t take many pictures because my heart was in my throat for most of the game. I underestimated just how nerve-wracking it would be to watch him play again. He had a great game and they won 20-14 in overtime. I did get a good picture of him with 2 of his best friends after the game though. 

3. Luckily we have amazing parents at our school who also happen to be friends and also are amazing photographers. I got these fabulous pictures of Tyler after the game and it just makes me so grateful to be a part of this school. 

4. Saturday was mostly spent recovering from the week. It was a long week, y’all. But we survived. Saturday afternoon we did manage to get it together enough to run some errands. Zoey and Maia chose to come with us and then poor Zoey lost her enthusiasm. To be fair, our errands included Dollar Tree, Target, Sam’s Club, and a few other places. You can see the progression of attitude below. Ha!

5. Our Sam’s Club purchases looked somewhat sketchy this week. I only needed a few things but our cart ended up looking like a mix of college kid meets serious dieter. We had everything from edible cookie dough to rotisserie chicken to doughnuts to tomatoes. Very random. 

6. When we were leaving Sam’s Club with some serious bad attitudes we saw the most beautiful rainbow in the parking lot. Instant smiles. Mother Nature knows just how to turn around a bad afternoon. 

7. Mason hung out with friends at a party and got to go bowling. He loves bowling so much! We only got to go bowling once this summer so this was a nice treat for him. I love the friendships he has made at this school. 



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.