Friday, August 1, 2014

What the Walls ate

Haven't you been wondering what in the world I made for dinner this week? Well, lucky you (not you Darren), I am here to tell you. One of my friends and readers Jen, also seen here, asked if I would put some meal planning suggestions on the blog. I have been thinking about it ever since. This was months ago. Months. There are so many great bloggers who meal plan, like her and her, I struggled with what I really had to offer. Then I told myself to calm down, she literally just means, what did you eat and will my kids eat it. Because that is the question of every mother, everywhere.
I try to casually meal plan each week. What I mean by that is that I don't clip coupons, because I can't remember to bring them, and I don't read circulars, because they confuse me. And yes, you should totally be taking my smart advice.

I like to look through my cookbooks and my dinner and kid friendly Pinterest boards to see what I feel like cooking this week. I am much more likely to actually cook, if I am excited about either trying something new, or making something I know my family will eat.

Anyway, on with what the Walls ate!

Monday - Out to dinner downtown with Alex. Well, crap, already blowing my meal plan. Push the fish to Tuesday.

Tuesday - Sauteed Trout with roasted kale for us and Panko-fish sticks and peas from the freezer for the boys.
Trout Recipe:
2 fillets of ruby red or rainbow trout
Tony Chachere's
Olive Oil
1. Rub the non-skin side with olive oil and sprinkle the Chachere's on to your liking
2. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan until hot
3. Cook fish, non-skin side down for 3 min then flip
4. You will know when the fish is done (in 2-3 more min) when you jab your spatula in it and it flakes.

Panko-fish sticks
This is my favorite and only fish stick recipe. The boys love it and I have been known to force it on their friends as well. You can use halibut like they say in the recipe (which I never have), cod or snapper. If I can get fish that has not been frozen, I like to make a bunch and flash freeze them for later. Pull them out for dinner, 10 min in the toaster oven and you are set. I obviously don't make the tartar sauce. Please, that would be a total waste of my time. Not making fish sticks, when Gorton's make a hell of a fish stick, no. Just the tarter sauce.

Wednesday - Rotisserie chicken, mac and cheese, roasted cauliflower and broccoli. See how fancy I am!

Thursday - Black bean and spaghetti squash tacos and roasted brussels sprouts for us and quesadillas and strawberries for the boys. Just when you thought I was normal-ish with the chicken, I threw this at you.

To make the tacos easier for the weeknight, I pre-browned the meat and roasted the spaghetti squash a few days ahead when I was already in the kitchen and the oven was on. They will keep in the fridge, then all I had to do was microwave the beans, meat and squash on Thursday. I used some of the Mexican cheese and corn tortillas from our tacos, combined with Monterrey jack for the quesadillas. Everything gets used and you only slightly feel like a short order cook.

Side note: I roast everything in my toaster oven. I detest turning on the big oven to heat up my entire house. Invest in a good toaster oven (or have your mom do it for you, like I did) and it will be worth it. Everything takes 8-15 minutes in there. You most likely know this and are rolling your eyes even harder at me.

Friday - Make your own pizza. The boys think we are super fancy when I pull out the pizza stone. I buy either the DiGironio (have you had them lately? Delicious!) or the frozen dough in the bread section of the freezer. You can make it, but even I don't do that. Mainly because I can't ever remember to let it rise, or whatever else bread is supposed to do.

Frozen dough (2 for a family of four, but get two extra)
Classico Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese (3 packages)
Garlic Salt
1. Follow the instructions on the dough to cook
2. Top with sauce and cheese
3. You really don't need these instructions, I am just assuming no one is still reading.

But if you are, let me make it worth your while....Why the extra dough, you are thinking. Well, to make these of course:
Pizza Rolls
Alex and boys approved, and inhaled. Clearly, I have a thing for pizza as this is my second post about making small ones and freezing them. Here is the first, in case you were wondering/trying to forget. I made these while the pizza was cooking and baked them while I was cleaning up. I have to do stuff like this before I sit down. I want to die, but it is worth it to have it all in the freezer and done before 7pm.

I omitted the pepperoni and added a layer of sauce. You will want to make more and will be so happy you have those TWO extra balls of dough to do just that. Plus, you can use up all the cheese and pizza sauce and feel super proud of yourself. No? Just me?

Cook the delicious mounds of bread, cheese and sauce, flash freeze them and then pop them into a lunch box. Mom of the year. I am certain they will make children forget about all the yelling this summer has brought.

No? Just me? Liars...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I need to stop calling him a baby

James turned three and I have not really processed it yet. I mean, I have, clearly we had two parties to celebrate, but I still think of him as my baby. Especially since I am trying to finish our 2012 photo album and keep seeing photos like this one.
But he is not that chubby faced baby of one, he is now three. With many opinions that he will share with you via a very loud voice and some exceptionally close talking.

On his actual birthday we had breakfast at Einstein's and then he went to school, armed with pink cupcakes for his class. He wanted to go only one place for dinner, Chuck-e-Cheese. Of course. I invited Vince and Liv to come join us for the festivities. As if anyone could turn down animatronic mice and pizza. Vince came in early and took the boys to see Rio 2, as a birthday treat, which was an extra treat for me, since I just got to meet them at Chuck's at 6.

James's teacher's made him this birthday crown that he decorated and wore most of the evening.

 Our family gets very intense on the basketball games.
 And cheating, that is totally, totally cheating, Zachary.
 What night would not be complete without a family photo in a parking lot?
So maybe our family gets intense on most games...given the photo of James on the motorcycle, Alex and Zach playing basketball, and me killing giant spiders attacking my jeep. They had already killed my guides!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Don't be scared by these tacos

Because they are delicious. These black bean and spaghetti squash tacos are from my favorite blogger, turned cookbook author, Smitten Kitchen and are so, so good.
Alex and I are back on the paleo kick and these basically fit the bill. I added ground beef to make it "a meal" for Alex, but they would be just as good without. They sound super weird and off-putting, but the spaghetti squash acts, sort of like the lettuce/peppers on a fajita and all the seasonings make it very flavorful. Why do I ever doubt Deb??

Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen cookbook
Makes enough for sixteen 6-inch tacos

3 pounds spaghetti squash (either one large or 2 small) – You don’t want to go any larger than 3 pounds because there won’t be enough seasoning to flavor your squash mixture, but feel free to go smaller
1 lb ground beef (you will not need it all for the tacos)
2 tablespoons (about 1 lime) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained very well
roughly 1/4 cup finely diced red or white onion – only used for garnish, add as you like
crumbled queso fresco or Cotija cheese - both are so similar in taste and texture that it doesn't really matter which one you use
fresh cilantro leaves
10-16 6-inch soft corn tortillas
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prep and cook up your spaghetti squash. Rinse your squash, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, throw about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil on each half, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place both halves face down on a rimmed baking sheet. 
  2. Roast the squash halves in the pre-heated oven until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 25-40 minutes, or longer depending on the squash. Remove from the oven and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. 
  3. While the squash is cooking, brown the ground beef. I added the same seasoning for the squash (see step 4). 
  4. Prep your squash ingredients. In a small bowl mix together the 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Add the 2 tablespoons of lime juice to the bowl and whisk to combine.set aside. 
  5. Dice up your red onion, wash up the cilantro and trim off the bottom stems, rinse and drain your black beans and throw your cheese into a bowl. 
  6. When the squash is finished cooking, let it cool for a few minutes so its easier to handle. Working over a large bowl, gently scrape out the flesh with a fork. 
  7. Pour the chili and lime mixture over the squash strands and toss well to combine. You will notice that the color of the squash will change from a golden-yellow to an orange color.
  8. You can heat up your tortillas at any time, either while your squash is cooking, cooling or after it’s been mixed together with the spices. 
  9. Then just assemble your tacos. Sprinkle each tortilla with a layer of black beans, squash, cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!
I had left over black bean/ground beef mixture and squash. I frozen them separately and then reheated later. Such an easy and healthy meal.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No, my children have not killed me...yet

Well hello my loyal followers! How are the seven of you this hot July day? I am so sorry for my extended absence. I never understood why other, more professional bloggers took the summer off, until now. It is really hard to sit down to write with someone pulling on you all the time. The boys are not in any consistent school and the different schedules have thrown us all off.

So, to catch everyone up, I will do what I like to do when I take these extended breaks (like here and here, oh and here). A summary post; catching everyone up on our actions.
I created a hashtag for the summer: #wallsummer2014 I was reading somewhere that you should have a hashtag for your summer photos, so you can easily find them at the end of the summer. I can put that above hashtag into Instagram or Facebook and quickly pull all the photos. You know, for the summer photo album I will never create.

Zach attended Rice Soccer Camp and Zoo camp, in back to back weeks while James went to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
So my days looked like this:
8:50 park at Rice University to hike across the soccer field, with James to drop Zach in a pack of kids around a soccer ball.
9:00 race back to the car with James to drive him to school
9:20 - 11:15 exercise/grocery shop/dry cleaners/bill pay, etc.
11:15 - drive back to Rice to pick up Zach. That is sweaty hat below. Gross right? He totally got my sweat genes vs. Alex. It works much better on a boy.
11:30 - 1:45 Quality time with my first born (OK, this part was nice)
2:00 pick up James and let the wrestling/arguing/punching begin!

We all went down to Galveston for Father's Day weekend with my sister and her family, plus my parents. It was a lot of kids but luckily my sweet aunts (Hi Vickie and Laura!) let us stay at their condos so we had some room to spread out. Plus my parents stayed at a hotel, where it was very, very quiet, I assume.
James said he did not like the ocean "trying to get him" and the dirty water getting into his mouth. True on both counts. Luckily, the Galveston Country Club has a giant baby pool that everyone enjoyed. Especially the adults, as they serve you beverages. The did not have Bud Light Lime (see photo above), but I made do.
As of June 14th, I have been retired for a full year. You guys, I had lots of thoughts about that which I will be sharing later, but mainly I was busy packing for our next trip - a 12 hour drive to Seaside, Florida.
We stopped on the way, in Pascagoula, MS to see the Gator Boys. If you don't know what the Gator Boys are, they are a group of guys who go to people's homes throughout the South, wrestling alligators out of their back yards and taking them to the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch. That was our destination.

My brother in law told us not to stop in Mississippi under any circumstances, but I don't think he realized we got the last room at the Hampton Inn....with a hot tub.
The boys were super perplexed why we made them take a shower after playing in the hot tub. We just told them it was a family rule.
 Alex was the only one of us actually willing to touch the alligator. A bunch of wimps we are.

Then it was on to the beach! Seaside was beautiful, so much better than Galveston. James still did not like the ocean "trying to get him" and the dirty water getting into his mouth. I finally realized he was talking about the salt taste to the water and had to explain that was what an ocean tasted like. AKA get over it already.
We went with Ashley and her family and stayed in this great house. We rode bikes and took a golf cart everywhere. I had never been to Seaside and I see now why everyone loves it.

We were back for about a week, then we left again to head to the river for the 4th of July. After two 12 hour trips with my children, one 3 hour jaunt felt like nothing. Until we had to stop to let the dog use the restroom in the middle of nowhere.
And then we all had to go at Buckee's.
My parents bought Zach his own little kayak and he took right to it. He was not the least bit scared and by the third day, he could turn and go straight for a while. He loved it!
Two skinny cousins rinsing after brushing their teeth with toothbrushes their Granny Marsh put their names on.
This was the first time that Zach actually toobed the river. He made it all the way to the dam at the end of the street. Technically Lauren and I were in the paddle boat pulling them and James was in the back. He did not last long in the river. Shocking.

And last but not least, James turned three!
We spent his actual birthday night at Chuck-e-Cheese, complete with the birthday crown he made in school. I guess that is one perk of going to preschool on your birthday. The other is that your mother is not driven batty by being with you for three weeks + one day. 
We had his party this past weekend, complete with giant water slide and homemade pinata.
You will note that Alex had to hold the pinata as the string ripped completely out. My suggestion was to just put it down on the ground for them to beat on, but I was overruled.

I just had to check my calendar to make sure that was all. Isn't that enough? Hopefully now that they are back in school a few days here and there I can be back to a better blogging schedule. Hopefully. But the summer is not yet halfway over and it is getting hot people. Really, really hot.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Everyone, just calm down.

I stumbled upon a post from a blogger that I follow who created a theme for her year. I can't be sure I am that warm and fuzzy, but then I saw this image from the January Oprah magazine.
It just spoke to me, so I tore it out and pinned it (with an actual pin) to the wall where I keep my jewelry. You know, for inspiration. I had been out of work six months, the holidays were over (thankfully) and now what? What did I want to do now? Do more blogging? Wear lipstick again? The world was my oyster - three days a week for four hours. What can I make happen?

Nothing, I have made nothing happen, but luckily this is not a blog post about that.

What this post is about is that 2014 is not so much about making things happen, but about the need for people to calm down. I can't fix myself, but I can sure tell others what they need to do. And it is calm. down.

It became crystal clear that was the real theme, when I read this article about screen time, AKA the new hot topic for preschoolers. Having everything BPA free and organic is so 2013. It is screen time, screen time and screen time. This was just one of many posts I have read in the past year. Starting with "Dear mom on the iPhone" followed quickly with "Dear mom on the iPhone: you are doing fine".

The article that settled in under my skin is not from a blog I follow, but I can guarantee you that the blogger is a wonderful woman and mom who is only trying to encourage and remind us exhausted mothers to not always give into the screen. And I know that some of us listened and took it to heart and are now better mothers.

However, after reading it the first thing that came to mind was - calm down. I mean, I love the points she makes for her kids and I totally want mine to think I want that.

"I want to talk to you when we are out to eat. I want to listen to your questions. I want to have training opportunities. I want to allow space for conversation that can take us deeper. And if you are always distracted with electronics, well… I might miss those moments."

But right now, I don't want that. I don't want to answer any more questions. I don't want to train. I don't want deep conversations, I have them every time we are in the car (today it was why the homeless man is hungry and where did he get the cardboard). But I do recognize that, my kids are little and we are together all the time, so surely once they are bigger and not coming to me to pull up their underwear I will want all that she talks about.

I think it is more than that for me, though. I, personally, think technology is such a wonderful gift. Yes, can it be overused, but so can cookies. No one writes post after post about how cookies are evil and when people see kids with cookies they get sad for their future.  Calm down.

Think about how our mom's had it rough. Imagine this if you will....Mom has to drag a sick kid to the doctor. She has taken off work, or has another kid in tow. They all have to wait for an hour,  with no way to entertain the children. She has read all the books in the place and all the ones she brought with her. The kids have eaten all the snacks and are now fighting. She had no recourse. You know what we have? Iphones. I can pull out my phone and within seconds everyone is quiet. I can take a minute to calm myself down and we don't get kicked out of the waiting room.

Same goes for restaurants. I don't bring the iPad with us, but I know plenty of parents who do and I don't judge one bit. Because I pull out my phone in a similar situation to above. If the kids are finished eating and are starting to get rowdy, I take no shame in wanting to eat a meal without yelling. Plus, this is the benefit of the technology. We have to suffer with the dangers and grossness of the digital age; shouldn't we at least get to enjoy the perks? Again, let's just all calm down.

This weekend, I took the boys swimming out at their grandparent's house and Liv wanted to see if the boys would like the books she downloaded for them. The one they are reading is about an otter that did something (I was on Facebook when they were reading and not really paying attention). But about every other page had an embedded link to a video of different types of otters swimming. They were enthralled. We don't have otters at the Houston Zoo, so they could not see them in person.
I don't really have a great and eloquent point to my rambling (no one is surprised). Plus, I could go on and on about how there are much bigger problems affecting America's children, but I think that would circle me back to cookies and I am not taking a stand against those either.

I would just like it if we could all calm down and realize that the majority of parents are doing the best they can. We can't begin to know what they deal with at home, why would we judge what they do in public?

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am the mother of a graduate

Last Thursday Zach graduated from Pre-K and I didn't cry. Who is proud? Me, too! OK, I might have teared up when the director started reading some poem about how we gave them our kids as babies and they are giving them back to us as kids. But I pulled it together. It is just Pre-K after all, I needed to calm down.
Zach's teachers told him to dress up and he took them very, very seriously. Going so far as to tell me I had to wear a dress and not exercise clothes. He even picked it out and told me I had to wear my fancy shoes. He needed to calm down as well.
We went to Chick-fil-A for a celebratory lunch after and I tried to get a photo of all four of us (plus Liv) but as usual it looks like I was not there. Some stranger just took photos of my family.
The entire ceremony lasted about 7 minutes and I put Alex in charge of videoing the part when he got his diploma. I should have remembered Zach's first solid food and known how this would go. Ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Three is the new two

Everyone who has had a baby in the past five years (maybe longer) will know what I am talking about. The questions start almost immediately after you have your second baby - will you have a third? And God forbid you have two of the same gender, then everyone wants to know if you will "try for the boy/girl". When did having two kids stop being plenty? Because let me tell you, two kids is more than plenty.

But of course you parents of one kid don't know this. You are enjoying all the special moments with that solo kid and worrying about every little thing (no judgment, I totally did it). But if you decide, and are able to, have another, your world is turned on its ass. Totally. I can't even fathom what throwing one more person into the mix is like. I know too much now, it is not like the naivety of going from one to two. I only have two hands, four chairs at a table and I have a hard enough time listening to two people talking to me at the same time. What in the world would I do with another?

And yet.... as my boys get bigger, I have a hard time getting him out of my head, this third Wall boy (we all know it would be a boy).
Back in January, I took James' car seat into the Baby's R Us trade in event and smugly thought, I am handling this so, so well. Look at me! I am not sad or sappy about giving away this car seat we bought for Zach, that James has now outgrown. Only hoarders attach sentimental value to inanimate objects.

Seriously, I was really handling it well.

Then we turned down the baby isle and I lost my mind. I legitimately needed a new thermometer and the next thing I knew, I was holding back tears and throwing diaper paste and safety latches into my basket.

Keep in mind my actual baby, James, was with me. And that I had plans to potty train him in the coming weeks. And by "I had plans" I mean he has been crying about wanting to wear underwear for weeks. Point being, I don't need diaper paste, a safety latch or the Purell I now own. As if I Purelled with James anyway. Clearly I was not handling this as well as I thought.

But what I have finally realized is that I am not sad about not having a third baby, I am just sad that my two babies are not actually babies any longer. I am not looking for that third Wall baby, I just want my two Wall babies to stay little. I get sad that I will never rock them in the chair and listen to the sleep sheep (that I can't give away) while they sleep in the bassinet next to me again. My babies are turning into kids. Great, happy, funny kids, but the more baby fat James looses, the closer it gets to me being alone with three boys in my house.
When I see pregnant women, I don't long to join their ranks again, But, I remember the excitement and the anticipation you feel when there is a tiny being growing in your belly. There are so many questions and so many different ways your future can go. I miss that.

And when your infant comes home and you rock your baby to sleep, or let him sleep on you, it is just the best, sweetest feeling. That small weight in your arms, relying on you, needing you. I miss that too.

I am not sad about not having a third, or not having a girl, I am just sad that that time period in my life is coming to a close. OK, maybe a little sad about not having a girl. But as I told Zach when his asked, if I wanted a girl baby; yes, I did, but I just didn't know I really wanted him.