5 steps to an awesome birthday party – when you’re old

•June 29, 2015 • 2 Comments

1. Pick a theme! Themes are all the rage!


2. Make your friends do something mildly out of most of their comfort zones – like dress up or go home!

What you lookin' at neighbors, everything's perfectly normal here!

What you lookin’ at neighbors, everything’s perfectly normal here!

3. Make sure you are way out of their comfort zone

I would have given anything to see Bycemaster in this get up. Aaron man, you rocked it.

I would have given anything to see Bycemaster in this get up. Aaron man, you rocked it.

4. Have friends who have no comfort zone to make it awesome

He was wearing BIRD SKULLS! This guy totally and completely rocked. You gotta have a bird skulls guy.

He was wearing BIRD SKULLS! This guy totally and completely rocked. I’m having a party, who’s gonna be my bird skulls guy?

5. Be from somewhere else, then you can do whatever you want and just blame it on that.

I'm from New Zealand mate!

I’m from New Zealand mate! (photo by Ken Cochrum)

Bycemaster and I had a great time celebrating your birthday mate, thanks for throwing a super fun party and making someone *cough cough* Bycemaster *cough cough* dress up and have fun with me!

Here’s a few more photos just for fun!

I know I'm a city girl, but seriously what is that? Besides male, we know it's male...

I know I’m a city girl, but seriously what is that? Besides male, we know it’s male…

First time I turn around Bycemaster is getting pictures with the Saloon girl!

First time I turn around Bycemaster is getting pictures with the Saloon girl!


Retaliation. Posing with the Sheriff.


Connie is way better at this posing thing than me. Cannot keep a straight face!


Ready for our own Netflix original mini series now


I couldn’t help myself, I have found my new desktop wallpaper

brainiac stuff

•June 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve done it again! I missed my blogging time! I was even home and not really doing anything (you know as much as a mom can not really be doing anything) and I just totally forgot. This is why habits should not be broken. Routines save my life in the mornings, have I mentioned I’m not really much of a morning person before? Possibly? Maybe? Yeah you’ve heard it a time or ten, moving on.

So I read another book. Though it wasn’t really a whole book, it’s actually like an addendum to another book (which I have checked out now, and added it to my growing stack of books to read). It’s called The Brain and Emotional Intelligence New Insights by Daniel Goleman. The beginning was a little brainy, ha ha ha, I crack myself up. But seriously, lots of names of brain parts and high level stuff that was doing it’s best to loose me and I like that stuff. There’s only so many words I can’t pronounce that I can read before I start not being able to tell them apart. But there was a chapter called the Social Brain that was fascinating.

He starts it by stating the brain patterns we use for self-mastery and knowing ourselves are the same brain patterns used for knowing another person. In other words, if you don’t want to be a sociopath get to know yourself so you can have empathy and the ability to know another person (he didn’t actually use the word sociopath, but sociopaths have been shown to have no empathetic ability, I made a leap). So yay for self awareness! Always happy to see someone promoting this, big deal for me.

However the most incredible thing for me in this chapter was they have discovered “mirror neurons” in our brains. Which is a kind of wi-fi connecting one brain to another. How cool is that? Apparently people can “send” their feelings and emotions to another person’s brain and the other person’s “mirror neurons” will actually start firing in the part of their brain that houses the emotions being “caught.” Authority figures (parents!), people with dominant personalities or whoever is showing the most dominant emotion becomes the sender in the room while everyone else will be more likely to catch was is being transmitted. Now he’s applying this to the work place, but I work on the home front so I applied it to home.

So all those days I’ve come down the stairs in the morning still tired or emotionally neutral I’m allowing one of my two “dominant” children in the family set the tone for how the day goes. Now I love these two children, but they are not the ones prone to happy carefree attitudes. I’ve seen their morning grumpies take over the house, but I’ve always felt a bit helpless to stop it. Once one starts the whining or complaining it just spreads like wildfire through all four of them and then overwhelms me too.

But my authority figure status will overpower their influence, so if I can manage to keep myself visibly and dominantly upbeat, they will be too! Then they will do miraculous things, like pick up the whole downstairs in under 10 minutes with happy attitudes (no joke, this actually happened). So now all I have to do is stay outwardly upbeat! Yeah harder than it seems, but the pay offs seem to be worth it, so I’m writing it on my bathroom mirror so I can remember. I set the tone for the day, smile and stay upbeat! Be the emotional sender and send happy!

Somewhat related, I was doing math with one of the kids a few weeks and ago and they commented that they liked doing their math next to me, even when I wasn’t helping them, they didn’t get as many wrong and it was easier. I told them that it was because I believed in them and when they sat next to me they believed in themselves too and that’s why they could do it easier. Then I read the book above and found out I was right! Double score, I mean it sounded good anyway, but having someone neurologically confirm it is pretty awesome in my book.

week 3 of recipe fun!

•June 8, 2015 • Leave a Comment

First thing I learned this week, when you have a regular writing time, don’t go grocery shopping during that time and expect the writing to happen just as “easily” (hahahahahaha) later. But third times a charm? Right? I hope so. Here’s goes…again…

1) 3 bean Chili with GF dairy free corn bread – I’m not one of those people that likes Chili year round. I have to have it cold to be in the mood, but my family does not care, so occasionally I take one for the team, this chili is worth it. Though my hunch is the kids are just eating it for the honey smothered corn bread. Also I’ve used whatever tomatoes I have on hand and add red pepper if I don’t happen to have spicy ones. It’s an art people.

2) Rice and beans – it sounds so blah when said like that, but that’s what I tell my kids to get them to eat it. It’s also been known as a barney bowl or as Tijuana Flats calls it a noritto bowl. You start with brown rice, add some black beans then layer on the toppings. So far I’ve gotten the kids to add olives and sour cream the adults add purple onions, tomato, corn, avocado, jalapenos, salsa and cilantro if I have it. Yum yum yum and so easy.

3) Potato Pancakes – here’s another easy one. I throw 6-8 red potatoes into the vita-mix with a sweet onion, let it chop them up good. Dump in a bowl and add in an egg and a few tablespoons of flour (I’ve been using tapioca starch). Then you scoop it onto an oiled griddle and cook it 3-5 minutes per side. We eat them with ketchup, sour cream or applesauce. I usually serve with steamed green beans.

4) Taco soup – I make this one for company a lot, which ends up back firing because they always want the recipe and it’s so ridiculously easy it’s embarrassing! Just remember 5 cans and a cup. 1 can kidney beans (drained), 1 can of black beans (drained), 1 can of refried beans, 1 can of broth, 1 can of corn and a cup of salsa. Put it all in the crock pot on high for 5 hours and add whatever you use to season Tacos we use 2T of chili powder 1T of cumin and a shake of garlic powder. Top with cheese and serve with chips! This one the kids also love.

5) Chicken Fajitas – put boneless chicken of your choice into the crock-pot and dump a jar of salsa on top. Close the lid and let it cook on low all day (8ish hours). Right before dinner slice up a large purple onion, a red pepper and a green pepper and a 16oz carton of mushroom sautee in coconut oil until soft. Then take a fork and shred the chicken in the crock-pot and serve on tortillas with the veggies. I usually add rice for the kids, gotta fill them up!

6) Rice/Chicken/Broccoli casserole – if you made the vegan mac n cheese I posted about earlier, this is one of the reasons I make extra “cheese.” Line the bottom of a casserole dish with rice (2-3 cups) sprinkle some leftover chicken on top (usually shredded from above), cut up a head of broccoli or a bag of frozen whatever works for your family and add that on top then pour the “cheese” sauce over the whole thing and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

7) Lentil soup – this one is on the menu this week and it has a real recipe! I like to use up our old bread and make croutons for this one. Amazingly the kids ate it on first try, that really never happens, I think it was the croutons.

Here’s week 1 and week 2 if you missed them! I can’t believe I finally finished, miracles do exist! Off to make stir fry for dinner, that will be on the next recipe post!

side note: any broth we use is homemade, it’s super easy and virtually free! Just save the ends and pieces of your veggies when you are cooking (onions, peppers, carrots, celery, etc. I also keep lemons and limes) Keep them in a gallon bag in the freezer until you have a full bag. Then you dump it in a crock-pot and fill with water, add a bay leaf and a few dashes of Season All and cook on low for 10-12 hours. I keep all our old peanut butter jars to store stuff like this in.

a hour in the life of a writing mother

•June 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve been spoiled people. I got two hours at Panera last week to write essays for adoption grants (really trying to hammer these out as we could get a call any day now!) TWO HOURS OF UNINTERRUPTED TIME. I was able to drive there, order my chai, set up, hammer out 12 mini essays, drink my chai, check my facebook, snap a few pics, all in 2 hours. I had totally forgotten what it was like to write without an interruptions, I was in the zone. I was flying along, I was ENJOYING myself immensely. Writing and productivity and chai these are a few of my favorite things! (that last sentence must be sung people! Just thinking about it makes me want to burst into song!)

That said, I’m having problems adjusting back today. I’ve started this thing so many times and mostly it’s looked like this…(this was not the same child, I just chose not to call them out today…I’m sure a few of you may know who they are anyway…)

Me: *writing one sentence*

child: I’m going to make a hat stand!

Me: Great idea baby *hears grunting and struggling in the background, trying to keep my head down and look invisible*

child: I can’t get loops off! They’re too tight! Mommy fix it!

(cut scene)

2.5 minutes later

Me: *rewriting the one sentence adding another*

child 1: Mom! Mom! Can I take the blanket outside?

Me: the one we use outside, yes

child 1 : But I want to take this one? I’m gonna take this one, ok?

Me: the one you can use is in the van

*garage door opens, rummaging in van commences, muffled shouting*


Me: *gets the blanket, shuts garage, shuts door* she took the blanket around to the front of the house outside (to other 3 children)

child 2: Mom I can’t find (child 1), they were going to find the blanket and now I can’t find them!

Me: she took the blanket around to the front of the house outside


(cut scene)

1 minute later

child: Can I go outside too?

Me: I can’t go out and watch right now, sorry baby

child: But can I go out? I want to go out too.

Me: I cannot go outside and watch you right now, no.

child: But…

*sound fades to black, internal groan and face plant into keyboard*

(cut scene)

1.5 minutes later

Me: *scrapping previous sentences and starting the above*

child: *standing contemplating what is going to be said for a full 30 seconds* We…are…going to make…a…couch thing!

Me: That sounds like fun *turns back to writing*

child: wait wait! and it’s going to be one up and one down!

Me: *smiles and turns back to writing*

child: WAIT! *deep breath and runs away*

(cut scene)

I’ve now had a solid 15 minutes of productive writing time and look at all I’ve accomplished. It’s only taken me almost an hour to get that 15 minutes and oh wait here comes another kid…

week 2 menu plans

•May 27, 2015 • 1 Comment

Skipped Monday’s blog to celebrate the holiday. Figured you all were too, but I’m back. I’ve got another week of menu’s down below. Enjoy!

8) Black bean sweet potato burgers – I’ve had people really get upset when I call these burgers and there’s no meat in them, so if it makes you feel better feel free to call them patties instead! They are not a meat burger substitute, they are they’re own thing entirely and they are yummy. If you can make up the mix and leave it for a bit they are a little easier to handle, but I’ve done them either way (I’m not always thinking ahead!). When cooking them once you put them on the skillet don’t touch them, check them, or move them AT ALL until you’re ready to flip them. Premature checking or flipping or poking may or may not cause them to crumble into pieces, which I totally don’t know from experience, but I read it, somewhere, yep, that’s it. Also they taste really good with avocado (or pepper jack cheese if you can have it!)

9) Vegan mac n cheese – So how’d you like to eat a whole bunch of healthy things and it feels like you’re eating mac n cheese? You’re in luck! It’s got onions and shallots and carrots and lemon juice and cashews and just trust me you’ll still like it.

I have to be upfront, this one is a bit labor intensive the first time. It’s worth it, I can make it in my sleep now we’ve had it so much. By the 5 or 6 time we had it all the kids would even eat it! I don’t typically put the bread crumbs on top, I don’t feel it’s needed and it’s just extra work. Also I always always at least double the sauce, I freeze whatever’s left for other recipes. If you don’t want to have so much potato in there we’ve successfully subbed it out for eggplant (I know, but it really works) or half cauliflower half potato (more than 50/50 for this alters the taste too much for me). I’ve also halved the salt and ‘butter’ with no complaints (just don’t leave it all out! left out the salt once on accident, I will NEVER do that again, blech). Also I stopped telling people it’s vegan, they give you weird looks and don’t try it. If you don’t tell them, they love it! Adults are really just little kids when it comes to food sometimes.

10) Corn chowder – This is the basic recipe I use. I like this one with coconut milk best, but I’ll use whatever non-dairy milk I have on hand. A special trip to the store for a preferred ingredient does NOT happen over here, instead, I get creative, it usually works out. I leave out the red peppers, I really like them, but the family not so much. I like turkey bacon sprinkled on top vs. the canadian bacon inside. I’ve used half n half fresh corn and canned or frozen and I think it still tastes good. I don’t think I’d do all frozen, but you can do whatever you want.

11) Huevos rancheros – This is here for the no brainer nights, so so easy. As long as I make sure each of my kids gets an egg, they will eat it.

12) Pad Thai – We had this last night! That comment on the beginning of the blog about doubling the sauce, that was from me! I changed the description on my original pin and as it got repinned and repinned no one changed the description and whamo it was all over pinterest! My one claim to fame. I do like it saucier, although these days I mostly just add more soy sauce (we use bragg’s liquid amminos) and lime juice and keep the sugar the same.

13) Homemade Pizza – no recipe here, everyone likes their pizza different. We have however stumbled on Mama Mary’s crust for the gluten free option and it’s been a big hit, we like their regular too. Over here our cheese pizza has olives, green pepper, onions, and mushrooms (Jena is still picking these off) and pepperoni. For the no cheese the boys mostly just do pepperoni, sometimes one of the other veggies, if I’m in the mood to force the issue.

14) Fish and veggies – another no recipe. We eat mostly white fish (though the kids have recently decided to like salmon too!) and I just put some olive oil and salt and pepper on it and put it on the electric skillet 3-4 minutes a side. The kids don’t like the fancy stuff so much and this one is one I make for an easy dinner win. I will put some cajun seasoning and mine and Bycemasters, yum yum. We usually eat it with broccoli or green beans.

So there you have it, week 2! Click here if you missed week 1!

week 1 meal plans

•May 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I posted on facebook earlier that I’ve finally got a list of 30 dinner meals for the family, and there was a request for the meals. Since I honor requests (shhh don’t tell my kids), here you have it.

The hope of this list is that I can just pull from this list each week when menu planning and it will make menu planning less of a brain drain and more of a breeze! I doubt I will just rotate this list straight, certain things (like homemade pizza and quesadillas) will get used more than once a month, I can already tell you that. Also I enjoy trying something new, even if my family does not always appreciate my efforts, but its one of the few advantages of being the cook, I can cook what I want, occasionally.

Since a whole 30 days would be a monstrosity of a post, I’m gonna do it a week at a time. I try to follow the 80/20 rule with food. Meaning if we can keep 80% of what we eat in a week where I would like it, the other 20% is a wash. Breakfast and lunch are usually pretty standard and healthy around here so I took a few of the cheats with dinners (hence the hot dogs, gotta have some easy wins) and the rest will cover parties, eating out and other peoples houses (always a wild card). I need some grace in my life.

So here it is, in absolutely no premeditated order whatsoever!

Week 1 of 30 days of dinner meals

1) Black bean quesadillas – This is one of the few all over wins for the family. I use whole wheat or corn tortillas, smash up the black beans a bit to make a paste, spread bean paste on one half and avocado on the other half, sprinkle with black olives, fold in half and grill in coconut oil on a skillet. We also add onions, tomatoes, and cheese per request. Serve with salsa and sour cream. So yummy!

2) Re-fried bean tacos – I use this recipe for re-fried beans in the crock-pot, they smell like heaven when they are cooking. I make the whole recipe and freeze the rest for easy dinners later! This recipe was the first way we ever got the littlest to actually eat tacos.

3) Split pea soup – This one was a favorite for Bycemaster and myself, the kids were very much not fans. There may or may not have been incidents of actual gagging at the table the first few times we had this. They have been slowly won over and now all of them will actually eat it and 2 of them are actually excited about it! I use the recipe on the back of the Publix split pea package. We use a few pieces of bacon instead of ham unless it’s the holidays and we need to use up a bunch of leftover ham.

4) One Pan Mexican Skillet Meal – recipe here, we use exactly as stated, so so easy, love this one.

5) Potato Soup – this is the baseline recipe I use, we sub the cow’s milk for unsweetened almond milk and the flour for whatever gluten free flour I happen to have at the moment. It’s loaded with veggies and not super heavy like a lot of potato soups, have seconds with no guilt :) It can be fun with toppings too, we usually pick some green onions and add cheese for those that can have it.

6) Hot Dogs – Some nights you need a no brainer. If I’m lucky Bycemaster will grill them, if not, I’ll microwave them. I usually buy the ones safe for our family when they’re on sale and hide them in my special hidey hole in the freezer to pull out on nights when I cannot adult.

7) Black bean soup – another super easy one (are you sensing a theme here). Two cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 can of broth (veggie or chicken), and 1 cup of salsa. Set aside one can of beans and blend the rest, then pour in a pan to heat and add the other can of beans and a little cumin and chili powder. This one is so easy it was one of the first to teach the oldest to make. Sometimes we mix in corn or rice if I have some leftover that needed to get used. We always serve it with chips, pretty sure that’s why it’s a kid favorite.

Side note: I used to think making dried beans required magical powers. I tried and failed miserably so many different times and then stumbled on a blogger that said she made them in the crock pot, EUREKA! 4-5 hours on high, no soaking or magical powers required. I now cook dried ones and freeze them in roughly can sized containers for easy use later.

Good luck and happy cooking!

why I’m boycotting mother’s day

•May 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

That title is shameless click bait, I admit. But hey if you’re reading this, it worked! And it is true, mostly.

Here’s why, most mother’s days for myself, and more people than I’d like to admit (and probably more than admit to me!) are just days set up for disappointment on the I am a mother end and endless amounts of guilt on the I have a mother end. I am very enmeshed in the raising small people phase of parenting. We are for the moment, out of the high intensity completely dependent phase, but fully into the mentally and emotionally exhausting raising small people phase. What I honest to goodness want at this stage (and what I hear from most of my ‘co-workers’) is a break! Sleep, alone time, a clean house for more than the evening hours they are sleeping (that didn’t require most of said hours to get there)! And according to this info graphic, apparently a small percentage of us also want a lumberjack.

mother's day infographic

I already have me one of them these days. He just trades the flannel button down for a professional one for work. Just this weekend he even promised me I’d get to watch him chop wood. True story.

professional lumberjack

But I digress, it’s the rest of that elusive stuff I want, and I’m clearly not alone. But that’s not generally the experience we get. In this phase of parenting, it’s not really very feasible, you know minus the lumberjack part (’cause you know, nailed it!) So when I woke up on Mother’s day to my same messy house, stinky litter box, not alone, even the sleeping in and breakfast I didn’t have to cook didn’t stave off the disappointment. Which to be honest, is a bit ridiculous. Any other day I wake up to the same circumstances and I’m happy and content with my life. Any other day my house feels loved and lived in, not messy. Any other day I appreciate and smile at the laughter and happy screams of my children. Any other day I honestly enjoy my life.

So we were on our way to my mother’s to have lunch with my parents and sister. We made our previously scheduled stop at Publix to pick up some of their awesome fresh flowers for my mom. As I walk in I’m thinking I need something, sugar, caffeine, something! I’m tired, I have a headache, I just want to be alone, this day is for me too, I AM A MOTHER TOO DANG IT!

I stand in front of the dessert cups for forever trying to pick if I want a cheesecake cup or a strawberry cup, can’t decide what I want, so I go pick flowers for my mom. Immediately find ones filled with purple flowers and grab those, then I see Oreo cups on sale for a dollar (one of Jacob’s favorites) and then I think I’d need something for Grant and there’s nothing in this section he could eat. So off I go for some bars, then I find granola and Grant and I had just been talking about granola the night before. There’s a new chex mix granola! He loves chex, double win! It’s starting to turn into a give a mouse a cookie story…drop a mom at a grocery store for one thing and…

One thing leads to another and I end up leaving with a dessert to share with my daughter, stuff for my mom (original mission) and something for each of my boys. The cashier wishes me happy mother’s day and I joke about the fact that I came in for one thing for my mom and ended up with something for all my kids, on mother’s day, typical. We laugh and I realize this was just what I needed, to think about someone else.

That’s what mother’s do best. We all have different perspectives and even different way of carrying out the same perspective, but ultimately we are thinking about other and namely our kids, most of the time. We may be thinking about their short term happiness or their long term success. It might be how we can help them get into the best college or how we can help them be who they were made to be. Maybe it’s trying to get them everything we never had or trying to teach them stuff won’t make them happy. But the point is, the focus is not on us, it’s not on me. (Disclaimer: I am completely for taking care of yourself and try to do and model this to my children. You need to treat yourself and teach your children to treat you with the same amount of respect you treat your kids, but that’s for another post).

So having a day where the cultural expectation is to think about myself and what I want and what I deserve for all this hard ‘work’ I do. This is not a day of happiness. Watching a kid smile at you when you finally get to be the one buying them a treat (instead of it always being a grandparent), sharing dessert with your daughter, getting to see/hear when someone receives your gift, those things bring joy. ‘Cause it’s not about me.

I’m all for teaching children to think about other people, it’s a lesson that will serve them and their future happiness well in life, and it’s one most of us (read me) could also do well to remember. Joy doesn’t come from being focused on me and what I ‘deserve.’ I certainly don’t need a whole day telling me it’s all about me. So next year, if I don’t get the coveted weekend by myself, I’ll be ok. I’ll just content myself with my lumberjack and ride along like it’s any other day. And if I do get anything else off that info-graphic, well, BONUS!


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