Monday, July 14, 2014

The countdown begins...

This year, Kay and Guy will both start their first year of school. Eric and I were sitting and talking yesterday when I decided to look at my calender.

THREE. WEEKS. Three weeks, and my babies will be out of my hands for hours out of the day. Three weeks, and this house will be strangely, unusually quiet until three in the afternoon. Three weeks, to enjoy and live up every moment and to cram family activities into. It all seemed like it was too far away, like we had plenty of time, until I looked at that calender. Needless to say, I became slightly overwhelmed, and very emotional.

Certainly, my kids aren't the only kids in history to ever start school, but I cannot help but have a mini panic attack wondering if I have prepared them enough for this potentially huge transition in their lives...and mine. Did I teach them enough? Sure, they know the alphabet, they know a few sight words, they can count, they know their names. But, when it comes to life skills like making friends, and paying attention to surroundings, taking care of themselves at lunchtime (opening milk, or food wrapped in plastic). Up until this point, that was what I was there for. So we have been working on those things little by little. We are also working on memorizing our address and my phone number, they already know my and Eric's names.

I can't help but feel guilty because I know for certain that they won't be 100% mentally prepared, although they are looking forward to going to school. I feel guilty because I decided not to go the homeschooling route. I also feel guilty because I never had any one-on-one time with Guy like I did with Kay for 11 months before he made his grand appearance. Even though Pre-K isn't required for him, Eric and I agreed that it would be best for the two of them to start together. That way, I could enroll in online courses or jump back into the working world, whatever I need to do to better my and our family's well being. Going back to work seems absolutely terrifying after going off the grid 5 years ago, but that's a whole other blog post I suppose.

I shopped for school supplies in spurts. The first round was while I was grocery shopping, and I nearly had a cry-fest right in the middle of Kroger, all for reasons listed above. The second round, I decided to include the kids hoping it would excite them by letting them pick out the colors of their various supplies. And it helped me too. It made me happy to see the excitement in their faces, knowing that my kids were happy, healthy, quick witted, and not deprived of love and nurturing. I can't do this with fear or guilt in my heart, I have to have hope and excitement. And, in turn, I hope it will bless my kids with a strong desire to learn, imagine, and to have great ambitions.

And to think, I worried that I didn't teach them enough, when in fact they taught me a little lesson on life.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Chipotle Chicken Tostadas

The smoke from the fireworks has cleared, the sand from the beach has been swept up. And just like that, we have closed out our vacation week. 

As I had mentioned before, Eric had a whole week off from work due to a furlough. Since it puts just a slight strain on our budget for a week, it gives me the opportunity to purge whatever grocery items we have and get creative in using them for meals, all for the sake of saving a few bucks.

Our freezer is FULL. 

Our cabinets are FULL. 

After brainstorming, and a little Frankenstein-ing, I've been able to plan some meals with what we already have. But, there was one recipe that required me to make a trip to the grocery store. Afterall, I had to pick up milk and snacks as well. 

It's a fairly simple recipe, with few ingredients. And it tastes amazing! A great menu item for when you want to throw something different into your dinner line-up!

These tostadas can also be made on a smaller scale. Using Tostitos round tortilla chips, these would make the perfect bite-size appetizer or snack for your next Summer gathering!

Chipotle Chicken Tostadas 
(slow cooker recipe)

2-3 chicken breast
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans tomato soup
4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (less if preferred)
10 tostada shells

Crema de Mexicana
Queso fresco, crumbled
Cinlantro, chopped

In food processor, puree chipotle chiles. Add tomato soup to puree and blend. In slow cooker, layer chopped onion, chicken, then cover with chipotle tomato sauce. Cook on high 4-6 hours or low 6-8 hours. When cooking is complete, remove chicken and dice or shred, return to chipotle sauce in slow cooker. Stir chicken mixture. Drop by spoonfuls on tostada shells, garnish with a drizzle of crema de Mexicana, queso fresco crumbles, and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wave Therapy

This past weekend was the start to a week-long furlough from work for Eric. Even though it means we have to tighten our budget belt a notch or two, it also means we have Eric here with us for ten whole days! Exciting, right? No matter how much or how little we plan, we always manage to unintentionally do the opposite, the time flies by either way.

Last year, we were productive in getting the kitchen painted, a color that I have grown to dislike by the way (always get samples of your paint!). We didn't plan to do a lot, but we ended up with a week full of random activities. This year, we "planned" what ended up being too much, including painting the living room, making a coffee table and visiting family. But, after careful thought, we will save the DIY for later and focus on priorities. That priority is FAMILY. We decided that since this would be the kids last summer as preschoolers (They're BOTH starting their first year of school next month), we would make a point to visit with out of town family and plan some special outings before the school bells ring.

We spent last weekend with Eric's family down in Florida. It was so nice and relaxing, and hot! Thank goodness we had a pool to swim in. The kids really enjoyed being fish for a weekend, exploring Dinosaur World, spending quality time with our long distance relatives, and Guy even received a new nickname, "Banana Peel".

Upon our return, I somehow had a ton of laundry to do. Thankfully, the rest of the house was in pretty good shape and the cats were reluctantly glad to see us.

Wednesday, was our first ever trip to the beach as a family of four, the kids first time seeing the ocean and walking on the sand.

I grew up where my family would make a four hour drive to Panama City every summer so we could vacation at the beach. And now, living just 45 minutes away from the beach, our family rarely goes. Reason being, my husband isn't a "beach person". I love the beach though, and I hope that as long as he goes to the beach with me and our little ones, that he enjoys it the slightest bit.  After all, he did take it upon himself to take some sweet pictures when I didn't even know.

The waves were super, as we have a tropical depression passing by our coastline, so there was a red flag swim advisory. The kids and I didn't go deep in the water, we just sat along the shoreline and let the waves reach us. It was beautiful to see open skies and a blue horizon, to feel the cool breeze along with the warmth of the sun. It made the world seem huge, and it made me feel as though the loved ones that have passed on were right there with us. Our first family beach visit was indeed unforgettable.
That evening we closed out our beach day with a fish dinner. Before sitting down to eat I received the typical, "But, I don't like it" from Kay, even though she never had this dish before. But it must have been love at first bite because homegirl cleaned her plate. She tells me she's part cat.

Balsamic Mahi Mahi

4 mahi mahi fillets
1 16oz bottle balsamic vinaigrette dressing
1 large red/purple onion, sliced
1 can sliced pineapple
Cavender's all purpose Greek seasoning (we use the salt-free version)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper. Place fish fillets in pan, avoiding overlapping. Season fillets evenly with Greek seasoning. Place pineapple rings on top of fillets, then layer onion rings on top. Pour balsamic vinaigrette dressing over dish, making sure to coat the all fish and pineapple. Bake for 20-25 minutes, fish will flake apart with fork when done. Serve with green veggies and side of rice.