Spring Trip Spontaneity

This spring is my final time of having both my girls home full-time. Once fall rolls around, my oldest will start her first year as a college student and my youngest will start the high school odyssey that progresses into her being gone more than home.

I spent months kicking around the idea of taking advantage of the girls’ tandem time off and planning a family trip. Our last full family trip was in 2011 when we went to a working family ranch in Georgia. It’s been too long and I hate the idea of missing this chance.

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Major Mom Shift

I am 45 years old. My oldest daughter is on the cusp of graduating from high school. In five months, my household will change forever. My role as a mom will shift in some major ways. I will have daughters in the first year of new school situations–college and high school. I have watched from the sidelines while some of my best friends struggled with their own shifts, and while I watched intently, I had no idea the inner turmoil that comes with this time of life.

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Lab Mom Confessional

I have a gorgeous 17-month old black lab puppy.

If I were one of those parents who had wild human children that I had never successfully tamed, I would call my lab girl “precocious.”

But, I have been a pretty tremendous mom to humans. I have set clear limits, maintained consistency at a well over 90% rate, and have two teenagers that I can trust in any social setting to be polite, well behaved, and appropriate.

Why my human raising skills have not successfully been translated into puppy raising skills is beyond me, but I am willing to admit it: I am squishy when it comes to puppy dogs.

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Milestone Year

This year marks an important milestone year for my family. My oldest is a senior in high school and my youngest is in 8th grade. Each daughter finishes their respective level of schooling this year and then moves into their next major level of education. My youngest astutely pointed out [as I was gasping for breath trying to recover from this realization] that when my oldest is graduating from college, she will be graduating from high school so we can do this all over again in four years. She certainly does love seeing her mother in shock!

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We Love Michigan

My youngest and I make no secret that we are big fans of Michigan football. After spending a long weekend in Holland, Michigan with some of my workout friends, my youngest is an even bigger fan of the state. I enjoyed the weekend too–it reminded me of traveling to Michigan as a kid. Back then it was fishing all the time…I mostly read books…but if we could have gone to the beach?! I’d have been in heaven! Want to see our photo album from our trip? Click through! [Hold your cursor over the pics to read the captions.]

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Mother’s Day Approaches

We have a local florist that has been a part of my relationship with a very special person for over twenty years. My first mother-in-law [I refuse to call her “ex” because that makes it sound like she is no longer in my life] fell in love with Oberer’s, as did I, when I was planning my first wedding. As a mom to three sons, she didn’t imagine she would be included in wedding planning. But, we hit it off and even though she lived in Connecticut, I wanted her to feel connected to the wedding. Once I selected the flowers, I asked the florist to send her a bouquet with examples of all the choices so I could walk through them with her by phone and tell her how each one would be used.

She took on planning the rehearsal dinner with gusto. Because we had so many friends and family from out of town attending the wedding, she planned a larger event and invited many more than traditionally might be included in such a dinner. It was a great night with friends, family, shared memories and new ones made. And the centerpieces she worked to design with the professionals at Oberer’s were absolutely breathtaking.

For as many years as I have been a mom, my first mother-in-law has always remembered me on Mother’s Day. She plays a very instrumental role in my oldest daughter’s life and, as the first grandchild, my daughter has enjoyed a special relationship with her grandmother. It’s hard to believe my oldest will be a senior in high school this fall!

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.46.37 PMFor the past handful of years, I have been gifted with a gorgeous patio pot from Oberer’s for Mother’s Day.

These patio pots never fail to be healthy and gorgeous and they really liven up my lackluster porch. When you live in a 1972 tri-level in an older neighborhood, you need all the help you can get!

Sometimes the pots involve perennials, so it’s a gift that keeps on giving throughout the season. I always like to add fresh plantings in future springs/summers because you cannot go wrong with gorgeous full containers of flowers. The girls don’t even mind watering them either and the pots do thwart hungry rabbits ¬†better than some of our flower beds do.

Not to be outdone, my girls sent me some fantastic orchids today. They also included a Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 9.46.50 PMpretty vase–if I didn’t know better, I would think my oldest picked a vase that would look great in HER room once the blooms fade.

I know my husband ordered the flowers and penned the sentiment on the card, but he did it in the girls’ voice which made it very sweet. We have been married almost 14 years and have recently had some major moments, but he’s trying very hard and being the most mindful he’s been since very early in our marriage. I appreciate that.

This year, like most, the Army has scheduled something for him to do during the weekend closest to our anniversary. But, like any ride-or-die who waits out all distractions including Mistress Army, this is the LAST such anniversary. His outprocessing after 22 years of service is scheduled for the Saturday before our 14th wedding anniversary. I’m thinking we are going to celebrate two big moments that day!

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 11.04.03 PMLast Sunday was his final duty day. It was bittersweet. Luckily, it worked out that the girls and I could attend–especially given that our youngest had a soccer tournament. Sometimes it works out when you don’t play in the championship match!

What was just supposed to be us watching his final formation, turned into a bit of a special moment. He received some beautiful gifts from the troop and from or youngest plus had a chance to speak to all those assembled prior to them being dismissed.

It’s been a long road on many levels and we are forever changed by his service. We know that we are stronger for it and, for better or worse, we live with the edge the Army gave us. I don’t think we would be as tight as we are without his service and I know for a fact that I would not have met some of my closest, dearest and most fantastic friends who are now like family without it.

Christmas Eve Shenanigans

Christmas Eve is usually culminates in some sort of meltdown on my part. Today, crisis averted because my husband made the trip to the zoo of a grocery store, my girls wrapped presents [oldest wrapped the youngest’s and vice versa], and I had help doing things that normally would have taken hours and hours.

I’m not 100% certain, but I think the way I began my day helped my mood CEWorkoutconsiderably. I headed to the gym for a 9 a.m. workout with my usual suspects. Our trainer dreamed up the second in a series of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” workouts. You move through the list of activities just like you would if they were parts of the infamous song. Fortunately, today’s workout did not include any fruitcake [burpees]. When I think about where I was a year ago fitness-wise, it boggles the mind. I had not even dreamed of starting regular workouts and I had not taken the Advocare challenge. Feeling pretty good about my prospects for even better fitness in 2016. Continue reading

17 Years of Motherhood

MariellandMommySeventeen years ago, I officially became a mom. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider myself a mom from the moment I saw two lines on the pregnancy test, but it becomes official when the baby can be held by other people.

I have always loved this photo. Even though they say babies cannot see anything at first and they do not smile on purpose for weeks, it appears my daughter is doing both things quite well in this photo. And, she has a white-knuckled grip on my finger–which I also love. This photo was taken in the days before digital, so it’s actually a picture of a picture.

Don’t think that it’s a poor quality photo that makes my lips appear discolored. They really ARE that deeply purple/black as I had rolled my lips inside my mouth and clamped on them with my teeth while pushing for forty-five minutes. I did not do that on purpose and I don’t think I realized I was doing it. I suppose it acted as a counterbalance to the pain of and unmedicated childbirth experience. Before someone realized what I was doing and made me stop, I had nearly bitten through my lips–wouldn’t that have been fun? Stitches that my OB wouldn’t have been able to do.

It is unreal to me that my daughter is 17. She has been one of my favorite people since I knew she was coming. I might worry that I was exceedingly biased if it weren’t for all the other people who have met her and tell me that she is just who I think she is–kind, compassionate, witty, friendly, and an all-around wonderful girl.

The idea that next year she will turn 18 and within months of that leave my home makes me pretty weepy, so I’m trying to concentrate on taking each moment as it comes. The hard part is that the moments pass so quickly and I know I will be astounded next year that 18 has already arrived.

I’m so thankful I was trusted to raise her and that in spite of being my first and me not being completely sure what I’m doing, she is turning out pretty great.

Mid-Week and Making It

This week has been flying, but because I planned ahead, I’ve managed to keep things on track at the house. Smoothies have found their way into my belly each morning this week. I’m pretty comfortable in concluding that the worse a smoothie looks, the better it will taste. I have had some pretty funky looking things in my smoothie cup this week, but it has tasted soooo good!

Last night’s dinner was a success. My youngest is perennially picky. She informed me, however, that she has been liking our dinners lately [even though hers is always modified in some fashion] and making healthier choices at school. That’s major for her–I only craved junk when I was pregnant with her and it seems that was because she had a powerful sweet tooth even before she had teeth.

balsamicdrumsticksI made Crockpot Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks last night. I found the recipe at Who Needs A Cape? and those smarties had adapted a recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple to make it slow cooker ready.

I appreciate the effort to make an already pretty easy recipe even easier.

I marinated the drumsticks overnight, dumped them in the slow cooker in the morning and it made our dinner while I went to work.

A handful of hours later, we arrived home to some awesome smells coming from our kitchen.

And, when we cracked the lid on the crockpot, these beauties were just lazing around waiting for us to put them to good use.

My husband and I ate them as they were in the crockpot. My girls, however, became a little creative.

My youngest is not one for sauces, condiments, crazy spices or anything else resembling creativity in the kitchen. She likes her food plain, crunchy over mushy and relatively bland. Given her proclivity for turning up her nose to all things wonderful,M2take we set aside some drumsticks for her.

They were dusted with breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.

She put together her own sides for her dinner and the end result looked pretty darned delicious.

I’m a fan when she eats the entire thing and that there isn’t much processed food on her plate to be found.

I’m sure the Progresso breadcrumbs aren’t 100% okey dokey, but the fresh fruit and corn balance out the plate.

She even seemed relatively proud of herself that she was eating something similar to what everyone else was eating and that some of us coveted her side dishes.

My older daughter also took her turn at culinary creativity.

She removed the chicken from the bone and used it to top her favorite pasta type–orzo.

She has been eating orzo since she M1takewas in a high chair. She loved orzo with carrots, zucchini and yellow squash.

I swear she’d have eaten her weight in it every day if I had let her. Had I had cauliflower ready to go, I’m sure she would have enjoyed cauliflower ‘rice’ beneath the chicken too. Come to think of it, I should have made that for myself!

She also put together a salad with Romaine, Annie’s dressing, goat cheese and strawberries. She, too, ate what she’d put on her plate and didn’t mind working the main dish into something that made her happy.

I’m happy there is fruit, veggies and chicken on her plate. Both girls expend a ton of energy at school and in their activities, so it’s nice to be able to pull together dinners they find good enough to experiment with and eat.

Tonight is Meatball Wednesday! I have a HUGE container of Paleo Crockpot Marinara waiting to envelope those little beauties. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

YUM!

Fashion Faux Pas? Totally Worth It!

This weekend marked another military ball for my military marriage. I made a very deliberate and conscious decision not to wear a particular gown because I thought I had worn it last year. Why I didn’t think to look at my Facebook photo album of military events is beyond me, but I did not. About 3/4 of the way to our destination, I realized that the dress carefully packed in the trunk was the very dress I’d worn in 2012.

CavBallWell, that stinks. But, in my defense, my husband wears the same “outfit” every year–save some “accessories” that he adds to after each accomplishment. Truly, no one remembered. But, I decided to turn a faux pas upside down and make it worth my while to have worn the same dress to consecutive balls.

With help from my daughter and an app on her phone [because PicMonkey caused me to yank out my hair!] , I was able to knit together a photo from last year and one from last night.

Notice my carefully cropped out arm from last year–because it looked huge. But, the pudge pocket under my left arm last year remained. Plus, my chin is pretty angular [I gave up wearing retainers a long time ago and my pointy chin that braces helped fix is back], but you’d never know it from last year’s shot.

Additionally, notice that my gut last year was encroaching on my husband’s uniform quite handily. I remember feeling completely huge after that meal last year–just nothing ever seemed to agree with me and I would bloat up and stay that way. This year? I did eat the meal that was served that included some bread, white potatoes and a completely naughty piece of chocolate perfection–BUT, one night in the ditch does not a new habit make.

I am simply blown away by the comparison and it’s increased motivation to keep working toward a healthier and more Paleo lifestyle.

To that end, I’m planning ahead. I have combed through websites and the recipes I’ve pinned from them to create our fruitforcrispweek’s dinner menu. I visited the market today and make sure our pantry and refrigerator is fully stocked. One thing that was a fun little last minute additive to the meal plan was a Paleo Fruit Crisp from Guilty Kitchen.

I decided to swap out the blueberries and replace them with raspberries [peach & raspberry = married bliss] and I didn’t use the coconut flakes because my husband isn’t a fan of coconut. Next time, I may try slivered almonds?

When I saw these berries at the market, I knew they would make this dessert even more amazing. My youngest helped with the shopping today. We had very firm [not quite the ripest] peaches and very wiggly celery, but she will learn. I think had the peaches been more ripe, the juice they produced when they sat in the coconut sugar and lemon juice would have been exponentially more. But, even as it was, it turned out beautifully.

Fruit crisps remain one of my favorite go-to desserts. Even when I was living unhealthfully, I almost always had fresh fruit in the house and what sugar addict doesn’t have brown sugar in their cupboard?! Crisps are super easy to make and it makes a routine weeknight dinner seem super special.

fruitcrispI used my pretty pie plate and baked this little beauty according to the recipe.

It smelled delicious baking and when I pulled it from the oven, all the bubbling juices made me wish it were okay to sit at the table with a fork and eat the entire thing.

But, I didn’t. Because I’m a pillar of self control…and the kids were home and would have told on me.

My youngest said to me tonight, “That’s it, Mom! I’m adopting your lifestyle. I’m going to eat as healthy as I can.”

She then proceeded to remember there were Oreos in the kitchen. She ate two and then said, “Okay. I guess I’ll be healthy tomorrow.”

It was a good opening to talk about how eating a couple Oreos is a choice, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep moving forward with making healthier choices. I related to her the story of my choice to eat the meal that was served at the ball, but that I chose not to eat all the cheese and crackers before the event–I had some veggies instead. Not that choosing vegetables erased the chocolate confection I had for dessert, but I had decided whatever was at the table that night would be my meal and anything not at the table would remain closer to my new choices. And, that today I was back on track–evidenced by my homemade mayo being used in some awesome tuna salad with a red pepper half as a delivery system [rather than toasted white bread of days past].

She’s slowly understanding that being picky and not eating good food isn’t smart. She wants to be an athlete and that means feeding the machine. We are eating much more at home and she loves that. And, so far, I don’t mind keeping her food plain while the rest of us try out new tastes. At least it’s a healthful base for her–I don’t mind if her chicken drumsticks are plain while ours are marinated in balsamic vinegar.

So starts a new week. Thank goodness for a fashion faux pas that served as continued motivation to return to and stay on the track!