Monday, September 8, 2014

Just in case you want to kiss up

I am really not on board with the "first day of school gifts". How could that not be sucking up, loud and clear? (This is foreshadowing, in case you are wondering). What I am on board with, is a thank you gift for putting up with my child all summer AND yeah new school year. That clearly is not sucking up. Not in the least.

Last year I gave the teachers doughnuts in a cute container and it was a big hit. This year, I made this label for my friend Sonia. She needed something for the crossing guard at her daughter's school (they have required drop-off and pick-up; a dream). Since men like smoothies, I suggested Smoothie King and with a card reading: "Thank you for making our days run smoothly". I love a good pun.
I have since made another one for Zach's Kindergarten teacher with a gift to a local, kid friendly yogurt store (she has twin first graders) that says:
So maybe I am on board with first day of school gifts....

Really, I am on board with gifts for teachers in most settings. Especially when they involve gift cards and me getting to make something. Plus, Zach's first week was tough. I think he handled it great, but I know that is largely due to his teacher being so warm, calm and supportive. I can imagine her week and I thought a little treat for her family over the long weekend, was not too out of control. But my concept of "out of control" can tend to be skewed, I have been told.

In case you want to kiss up be supportive of your teacher, here is a link to the printable of the first card.

Friday, September 5, 2014

School's back

You guys, I have a kindergartner, how is that possible when I am only 26 years old? And how is it possible this guy is in big-time elementary school?
His smiles were much more genuine then, but he still has the ability to shrink his eyes to 1/8th their normal large size when he smiles. He gets that from me - he is so lucky.
This is not going to be a weepy long post about my oldest starting kinder. Mainly because it has been done for me and I don't really do weepy. This post is my favorite first day of school ones (not weepy, just funny) and this one made me cry. Everything has been said and it is all true. However, I didn't cry, I practically danced out of the school and once I dropped James off, the only thing going through my head was:
I then spent an hour and a half at the grocery store (I had to make two trips and chat with friends) went to an eye doc appointment and prepped dinner. I could not have been happier. I then made what I thought was an awesome snack which both my children refused to eat asking instead for cheese and crackers. Naturally they did, it is the standard Wall snack. No worries, I polished off three to make myself feel better.

My friends keep asking me how I am doing, with a sympathetic look in their eye and I tell them I am fine. I am EXCITED. These boys are used to being in school. Zach likes it, James does as well once he gets past me not being there (I am awesome in his eyes, more of you should cry when I leave). Zach is so social and has oh, so many questions, he is a great fit for more schooling. He has already come home asking me to be sure to read him the author and the illustrator of the books we read before bed and has learned the sight word 'am'. Kindergarten = success.

Oh there have some hiccups too. Like getting up early. No one in our family is thrilled with this plan and we are pretty terrible at it. But luckily since Zach has to wear a uniform (basically, he can chose from khaki or navy shorts and a red, navy or white shirt) him getting dressed is fairly easy. When he does not get distracted by legos or something. And since they eat lunch at 10:40 I don't really worry if he doesn't eat all that much breakfast.

We have been riding our bikes to school, since we live less than a mile away. My sister says I am such a stereotype. Totally. I just need some pedal pushers (now called skinny pants) and I could be a 1950s housewife.
Except that on the way home, this guy sneaks my phone out from the pocket and plays games on it.

He also started school and did great for about three days then realized that this was also for real. He goes every day and staged a revolt (see paragraph above about my awesomeness). The revolt involved full body convulsions on the floor and a piercing scream to go with it. You would not know it from these angelic photos, but he is a beast when he wants to be. Which is anytime I tell him "no".
Happy first weeks of school my friends!

Here is the look back at the boys first days of school and the best example of the fact that clearly I birthed twins, 2.5 years apart.
Zach:
2013
2012
2011
2010
 James:
2013
2012

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Week with a Kindergartner

Last week Zach had no camps, and James was in school until 2, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Zach had been looking forward to this week for a few weeks, as I told him we could do whatever he wanted - this was his week.

I was looking forward to it as well, as it has recently hit me how much he will be in school in a few short weeks. His school day is 8-3:15. He can totally handle that much time, but it is big kid school. For real school that you can't cut or be late to for valid reasons like your mom is too tired to pour you cereal. I wanted to have this time with him, just he and I, like we used to be. Plus just having one five year old is a piece of cake! No bathroom assistance needed. 


The first place he wanted to go was to the children's museum. Murder. 
I am just over the museum. Oh, it is awesome, don't get me wrong. There is so much to do and super cool educational stuff, blah, blah, I am just over it. We have been going since Zach could sit up. We would meet our playgroup up in the Tot Spot (where James went maybe twice) and let our first babies stare at themselves in the mirrors while we analyzed their sleep schedules and debated what kind of diapers really were the most absorbent.

But off we went. We made the vinyl mask and cape you see above, we climbed the huge climbing structure; we played a matching game and a fractions game. He loved every minute of it and wanted to go back the next day. We did not. We had grocery shopping and dentist appointments to keep us busy.

Wednesday I made him go to the kid’s center at the Y so I could do my Pilates/yoga class, and then we headed over to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 at the movie theater. We snuck in lunch and bought popcorn, drinks and sour patch kids. The movie ended right about the time James was done at school so we scooped him up and headed home. Don't think the Walls are done with their day, it was only 2 pm. We had two more activities planned - all before dinner. We went and swam with our friends in the neighborhood (Hi Whitney!) and then took dinner over to a friend who had a baby (Hi Amanda!). I totally overstayed both places, as is my way and we didn't get home until after six. Whoopsies. 

Thursday, blissfully, both boys went to Discover Gymnastics in the morning and I relished my glorious two and a half hours of alone time for the week. I got a bit over relaxed in those two hours and totally dropped the ball on swim lessons. Whoopsies again.

Friday, with James back in school, Zach and I headed back out to Splashtown with Ashley, Charley, Jen and Tyler. We went in May for Charley's birthday and Zach loved it. I did not. I don't like water parks. I don't like the rides, they terrify me. My dad would tell me I am being a chicken, and he would be right. I am fully convinced I will flip out of my tube, my contacts will fly out of my eyes and I will drown. Nothing in between that could happen. The park is actually very nice and clean, with a great little kid’s area that our kids could do all on their own. I think even James would like that section.  
My first water park experience was actually better than I thought until one ride in particular. It was a covered tube ride that you go down in an inner tube. Charley refused to go down it and I insisted I would stay with her so that Ashley would not miss out. I am such a generous friend, as you all know me to be. So Ashley walked up 384 steps with Zach and about five minutes later she comes shooting out one of the slides. Then we wait on Zach. And we wait. A few more people come down, and then the lifeguard at the bottom blows her whistle to shut down the slide saying, "A little boy is stuck". Holy shit. That is my little boy. And he is stuck in a dark slide many feet up in the air. The lifeguard confirms what he looks like and which tube he would be coming down (via Ashley) and runs up the steps. Meanwhile I am trying not to scream and position myself in front of the slides so when he comes out, I am the first thing his terrified face sees. 

About that time the life guard comes shooting out of the pink slide. Ashley, almost nicely, reminds her that he is in the yellow one. Up she darts again and down she comes in the yellow. At this point Ashley takes matters into her own hands and runs up the steps, coming down a few minutes later with Zach on her lap. Laughing. 

Another mom comments that she can't believe that mother (Ashley) is staying so calm when her child is stuck in the slide. "Oh that is me", I replied. I am the mom. Only one of us needed to be freaking out and Ashley had that covered for me. She really is generous.

Turns out that he was not stuck. They would not let him go down as the lifeguard (and I use that term loosely) at the top didn't realize he was with Ashley and that she had gone down first. So once Ashley got to the top, she grabbed him, plopped him on her lap, with a warning to the lifeguard not to stop her and flew down the slide. Zach was none the wiser, while Ashley and I were both shaken and needed to take a break.

Later in the week Ashley calls Splashtown to discuss how the guard at the top handled the situation. Again, yes, this is not her child, don't make a big deal. They end up giving her six passes for the park. So just to reiterate - we got six free passes to the park for Zachary NOT getting stuck in the tube slide. She is such a good friend on so many levels.

Luckily, no one got stuck this trip (I still refused to go down that ride) and I screamed my face off on the one ride I did go on, that my throat was sore for days. Days! And we all know how loud I talk anyway.

At least I was not traumatized this time. And my week was a success. Zach had fun, we got to spend one-on-one time together and hopefully I don't have to go to Splashtown anytime soon. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It got really hot in here

For James's birthday party this year (vs. his actual birthday celebrated at Chuck-e-Cheese), I decided to do hold the weekend after his birthday aka not on the 4th of July weekend. We rented the same giant water slide from his first birthday which arrived at 7:00 am that morning. The boys slept until 8 (which they never do). I am not the least bit bitter about it, can't you tell? I guess we did get our money's worth!

So, it turns out that if you have a party on a non-holiday weekend, people show up. Like, a lot of people. We had about 24 kids plus their corresponding parents in my house.  Not outside, but IN my house. The water slide lasted exactly 30 minutes for the majority of the kids (except Miles, thankfully). The three year olds started it by coming inside and insisting on getting dressed. Not just to get cool, no, they wanted to get fully changed.

Vince was the lifeguard at the bottom of the slide, making sure that kids waited their turn and didn't go down head first. Liv stood at the front door welcoming everyone inside. This was after she had iced all the cupcakes. Where was I? Talking to all my friends and trying to pretend it was not 82 degrees in the house. I told them both that I didn't know what I would have done without them!
James wanted to have Team Umizoomi as his theme this year. Well, technically he wanted Umizoomi and Spider-Man both as themes. No. You get one theme and we go with it. My one concession was to let him have a left over Spider-Man candle on top of his pink cupcake.

Generous. I am so, so generous.
James is very into pink everything this year, so he only wanted pink cupcakes. Obviously, I ignored that and had Liv ice them in pink, green and blue; the Umizoomi colors. Topped with some rings from Etsy, and they were done.
For the party favors, I kept it simple and just grabbed a bunch of James's favorite things, figuring what one three year old likes, others would as well. So in went a lollipop, cheddar-blasted Goldfish, a bouncy ball and fruit snacks. Side note: James 100% balked at my organic fruit snacks. Sorry, party goers.

Team Umizoomi is a team of tiny super heros that save Umicity using math. I am not kidding. They do a lot of measuring, counting and geometry. Geo does a lot of shape creating via his shape belt. I found a link on Pinterest to make belts like the one that Geo wears. It is orange with shapes all around it. I, of course, have no pictures of mine, because I finished them the night before.

For the record I would like to state that I whole-heartedly disagree with the no-favors moment. I am sure I actually didn't need to state that, you all get me. I love to do the favors. It is fun for me. I don't care what other people give out (at all) and you could throw a bag of chips at my children and they would scream, "BEST FAVORS EVER!!". So again, let's all just calm down.
You guys, I can't even tell you how hot it got in my house. I was sweating like a fool. Everyone was crowded into the hottest part of my house (on a good day it is 77 degrees back here) and opening and closing the doors. I was so mortified. However,  no one (but the pregnant lady, sorry Lanie!) seemed in a hurry to leave, so I guess everyone was just used to be hot in July.

The finale of the party was a piñata . Oh, you are wondering where it is? Alex is holding it. In his hands. While James swings a bat at him.
So, a homemade piñata was not part of my party vision. Especially a tiny one that was not strong enough to be hung on a rope.

The weekend before the party, Zach asked if we could make a piñata, for fun. I said sure and looked up how to make paper mache. We had an old Chick-fil-a helium balloon lazily floating around the house, so I grabbed that we set to work. I didn't add glue to the mix, because this was just for fun! It didn't need to be strong!

We got elbow deep in paper mache, coating the entire balloon. We let it dry, Zach painted it, then we popped the balloon. About this time Alex walked in and said, "Oh, you guys are making a piñata for James's party!" Zach got so excited and what I could do? Say, ummmm, sorry, but this is not my vision plus I did the paper mache wrong? Nope, hence us having a globe looking ball for an Umizoomi birthday party that pulled off its string a minute before we tried to hang it up.
The boys and I went to the store and I let them pick two kinds of hard candy to include. And really, all the kids liked it and Alex got his due for suggesting it, by having to hold it.

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.

Pizza
Frozen dough (2 for a family of four, but get two extra)
Classico Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese (3 packages)
Basil
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!
video

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.