Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Travel Soccer

When Junior was finally old enough to start some activities we tried many different things hoping to find one he was passionate about.
We put him in swimming; he liked it.
We put him in gymnastics; he liked it.
Such a tough little man!

We put him in karate; he liked it.
He wanted tackle, but flag would have to do.

We put him in flag football; he liked it.

We put him in soccer; he LOVED it.

Ahhhh, finally! He found his passion.

A local Lutheran church's hosted an Upward Soccer League. The league is designed to reach out to the community through sports and to evangelize the kids & parents. It's a great idea, reminds me of CYO sports in the Catholic Church.

After the first season though, we realized this league was not a good fit for him. He dominated when he played scoring goal after goal and more than one kid was injured when they ran into the brick wall that was Junior on defense. He played a much more aggressive brand of soccer than they wanted and the parents complained loudly that our kid didn't belong. 
Sideline cuties ready to cheer for big brother!
After that we put him in the local recreational league. He had some better coaching in this league and learned a ton. The level of play was up a notch from the Upward league, but still, he dominated the pitch. He played 5 seasons with this league. The boys on his team were mostly from his elementary school and they would "practice" at lunch & recess. Every. Single. Day.

His team did very well, but at times I felt like there was both too much pressure on Junior to perform & carry the team and too much resentment from other players & parents because of his skill level. This past year I started keeping stats on Junior. Last fall he scored 47% of the goals for his team - and he had to sit out 2 games because of a back injury. This past spring, he scored 58% of the goals for his team and missed two games (one for his First Holy Communion, and one when he had the flu). The only games his team lost were when he was not there. Talk about pressure!

Last fall, after a great season and as a reward for an excellent report card we took him to a private soccer coach for a 1-on-1 90-minute session. The coach worked with Junior on technical skills and Junior absolutely loved it. We decided to allow him to work with this particular coach up to twice a month to improve his technical skills and get a little more finesse to his play (it's expensive and we aren't made of money!). We also let him do another "development league" over the summer to keep him active and learning.

In his last game of the Spring season, the opposing parent-coach directed his team to go after Junior during the match. My inner Mama Bear rose up. My kid was shoved, kicked and knocked to the ground repeatedly with no penalties called. Finally, the referee blew his whistle motioning that my son was getting the penalty after he was knocked down in a particularly nasty and on-purpose way. My husband had to physically restrain me from rushing the field. My loud mouth could not be restrained though and the referee corrected his mistake quickly. I told my husband when he let me go that if my child was fouled again, I would be out there and he wouldn't be able to stop me - and we were not coming back to this league again anyhow.

We had been toying with the idea of letting him try out for a club (travel soccer), but this past Spring season cemented that decision. His private coach helped us find a club that would be a good fit for Junior and made contact with the coach for his age group. We had the opportunity to take Junior to train with them for the last few weeks of their season. Finally over Father's Day weekend, Junior tried out for the Club and made one of their teams.

And so begins our adventures with Club Soccer/Travel Soccer.

I'll blog about our experience as we go through this year: the good, the bad, the ups & the downs. I'll tell you everything. I'll give you a blunt perspective of travel soccer; letting you in on the secrets as I learn them. This will be fun (I keep telling myself), eye-opening (and how!), and hopefully helpful to other parents considering making a move to a travel sport for their own child.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Life Remodeled

After a nearly 2 year silence, I think I'm ready to jump back in here.

I've remodeled my life in the past 2 years!

I have had major overhauls in the following areas:  diet, exercise, prayer life, intellectual pursuits, relationships, hair/makeup, wardrobe, activities, work, habits, schedule.

We went from a traditional meat & potatoes family to a flexitarian diet. We prefer vegetarian fare, but eat meat without complaint when its offered.
Parmesan Asparagus Orzo

 I joined a gym. And I go there to exercise.
Exercise is necessary to work off the Million Dollar Mac & Cheese

Prayer Life
I read A Mother's Rule of Life and took her advice to just schedule it in my day. My entire day is soaked in prayer now and I love it!

Intellectual Pursuits
I've made some time in my days to do some reading & learning about topics that interest me. I'd love to have some time to take a class...but that'll have to wait for now.
My DH and I joined Teams of Our Lady. Our Team has 6 couples that meet once a month to share a meal and pray together. It's an awesome time to spend with other Catholic couples who want to strengthen their marriages & Faith. I've worked on setting boundaries in other relationships in my life as well. Difficult, but necessary.

Please don't think I'm being shallow with this one. I promise I'm not; I had just neglected myself for so long, this was actually huge for me. I cut my elbow length hair into a stacked bob with an undercut. Plus, purple peek-a-boo highlights. And I started using makeup regularly after a makeover at Seph.ora. So much confidence!
Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a homemade Bread Bowl

This maybe doesn't count as a "remodel" but it should count as something. I finally admitted that I have (weird) preferences about my clothes and I have just decided to be upfront about those preferences and go with it. I only wear black shirts, so sue me.
Roasted Zucchini & Quinoa Burger with Garlic Whipped Feta Sauce

Oy vey! The activities:  travel soccer, recreational soccer, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics, swim, preschool, work meetings, NFP classes, parish volunteer time, catechism. Sweet, bouncing baby Moses, so many activities. Mostly kids stuff, but some of my own.
Vegetarian "Meat"loaf

I got a part-time job. It's been fun, challenging, and crazy.

I have developed some good ones (routines) and ditched some bad ones (Coc.a-Co.la and daily ice cream).
But I'll never give up this Italian Spinach Orzo Soup

I'm not a morning person. I never have been, I'm probably never going to be. I have embraced it and made a schedule for myself that works and takes my night-owl personality into consideration. Goodbye wasted time, and time wasted wishing I could make someone else's schedule fit in my body.

So I'm living a remodeled life and loving it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Inside Out

I disappeared from this space rather abruptly. I thought I'd turn myself a inside out for a few moments to explain myself.

I said awhile ago that I wanted to be more authentic. To let people really meet me. So here I am. This is me being unbelievably vulnerable. This is me sharing thoughts I have never spoken aloud.

A friend posted this on Facebook:
All I could think was, "that's me."
"It's caring about everything then caring about nothing. It's feeling everything at once then feeling paralysingly numb." [sic]

Here are a few of the things I worry about:

If I died, who would know how to make my kids' sandwiches the "right" way? No one will take the time to put the peanut butter on both pieces of bread before putting the jelly on top of the peanut butter so the jelly won't soak into the bread and make it soggy. No one will know not to cut Junior's sandwich, to cut Alice's into triangles and to cut Lizzie's into 6 rectangles. No one will cut the sandwich by pressing the knife into the bread to make clean edges instead of sawing at it making crumby edges.

Who will wrap my husband's sandwiches in wax paper and fold them up like a present? If they put his sandwich in a baggie, will they know to wrap it in a paper towel first? That's how he likes it.

Yet, I wait until the last moment to make lunches...usually close to midnight when I am too tired to take my time. 

Who will wipe the peanut butter, cream cheese or other sticky substance from the knives before loading them in the dishwasher if I am not here? My family will be eating with dirty, food encrusted knives.

My son will surely die of anaphylaxis from exposure to his allergen if I do not frantically check every label on every ingredient multiple times each time I buy it, each time we eat out, each time someone offers him food away from home. Too many adults don't take food allergies seriously or don't understand them and my son is in constant danger.

I worry about my husband not being able to manage the house & kids in my absence should I ever be absent...while dreaming of being absent just to watch him squirm a bit and really experience & appreciate everything I do.

But I have to do so many household things, I give up before I even start...because who really cares anyhow? No one will notice if the toilets go one more day (or week) without being cleaned. No one will notice that I spot cleaned the kitchen floor instead of giving it a proper mopping. I might as well leave the crayon on the wall since they're probably going to draw on that other wall with a pencil while I'm focused on cleaning the crayon anyhow.

What if I die and my husband forgets to do spelling homework with Junior on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and forgets to fill out and sign the form and send it back on Fridays? And he forgets to have him color his "I can read 100 books" thingy? Or he doesn't check his math homework and have him fix the mistakes? Or he forgets to pack him a lunch or give him bagel money on Fridays? Or no one shows up on the days we signed up to be the secret reader in Junior's class because I wasn't there to pick out a book and remind the person to show up?

So I forget to have him color his 100 books thingy and end up doing it myself.

I have so many things to get done, so many things asked of me and I get them all done. And everyone loves the work I've done and the end product is great, but it isn't up to my standards. I know what I am capable of and it is both more and better than what I have done. I know I could do better, but I can't seem to drag myself out of the fog to do it.

I have days, weeks and sometimes months of good days. Clarity. Foglessness. Days of productivity. Days where the worries vanish like M&Ms left out in a candy bowl in a room full of kids.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.
                           - Psalms 23: 1-4
This are what my "valley of the shadow of death" looks like. This is my comfort. I will make it through. I will walk through the valley. God is with me as I walk and I do not journey alone. I remember that there is a shadow because a great light stands behind that which I fear beckoning me forward, encouraging me to keep walking. Only He can restore my soul.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v9

Our Alice is wearing purple lip gloss today. And even though..."growing up too fast"..."let her be a little girl," and "3 year olds shouldn't wear makeup" are all swirling around in my head, I couldn't be happier about it.

Only big girls who poop on the potty get to wear purple lip gloss. You feel my joy?

Now, let's talk about our food plan for this week!

Trisha Yearwood's Power Balls (we replace the peanut butter with WowButter so they're nut free)
Banana Cinnamon Muffins (without the butter/sugar on top)
Bagels & Fruit
Cereal & Fruit

PB&J Sandwiches with fruit & veggies
Roasted Garlic Hummus with Pita Chips & veggies
Tuna fish on crackers with cheese

 These brownies really have the best of both worlds. They are thick and cakey, but still fudgy and chewy. The top is crispy & crackled like it should be and the edges have the perfect bite to them.
I have some goat cheese sitting in the bottom of the cheese drawer that needs to be eaten before it needs to be thrown out. I have been craving a simple quiche - and this one is pretty easy. And very tasty. You can (read: should!) use a pre-made crust because the crust is the most challenging part of the recipe - it's not difficult, but it is time consuming and the dough is fragile and I can never flute the edges like in the recipe pictures. 

I'm already annoyed that my kids probably won't eat this. They like asparagus & eggs, they love goat cheese & crust, and they are indifferent to green onions. But combine them all - and I'm sure those little loveys will let me know that "it's not [their] favorite" which is our family's preferred way of saying we don't like something (because mommy refuses to listen to a constant chorus of 

I also have some ground beef that needs eatin'. So meatloaf is a quick way to use it up. The kids & husband love them some Brooke Deen Meatloaf. I also bought some sweet potatoes to try to get the kids interested in more exotic vegetables.

That's right. I just called sweet potatoes an exotic vegetable.

My kids are going through a picky phase. And I'm not having it.

Tuna Noodles
Not really a casserole...more like egg noodles with tuna & mayo. The kids & husband will happily eat it without complaint. I'll live through it. I'm banking on leftover quiche & sweet potatoes.

Veggie Club Sandwiches with Sweet Potato Chips
A hundred years ago when I lived in Tulsa a little deli opened up downtown; they made a garden veggie sub that was so good I was willing to speed walk pretty far to get it at lunchtime. Flashbacks to that sandwich have been intense for me lately, and I had recently found a similar veggie sandwich online that looked yummm, so I saved it. But when I went to pull up the recipe I had found it has vanished. So going off my memory (which is frighteningly bad) and adding a few more ingredients to make it super filling and over the top, I came up with these. Talk about exceeding my expectations for how scrumptious a veggie sandwich could be!

This recipe is billed as being even better than Panera Copycat soup. And it totally lives up to that billing. It really needs the bread bowl in my humble opinion because I'm pretty sure it's unAmerican or unCanadian to serve a creamy soup without a bread bowl. Or something like that.
I know you can buy anything at the grocery store these days, but taking the extra few minutes to make the bread bowls at home is worth it. The whole house smells amazing when you take fresh bread out of the oven and layer in the scent of homemade soup. 

Plus the leftover bread bowls can be sliced up the next morning for French Toast. I'm not saying you have to eat French Toast the next morning...I'm just saying you probably should.
You know the drill. We love our pizza 'round these parts.  I'll substitute some Jamon Iberico direct from Spain to use up in place of the prosciutto. I love pizza night.

Spaghetti and salad
We're going to my mom & dad's for Sunday dinner where we'll enjoy my mom's homemade spaghetti with Italian sausage and a garden salad.

Onward to soccer, school, homework, errands, exercising, baking & cooking, reading & coloring, lovin' & disciplinin' this week.

Linking up with Simcha Fisher over at her blog for her Friday What's for Supper feature. She had a great take on meatloaf...if only I could sculpt like she can.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Back to School Cookie Bars

I had to make a special treat for my boy for his first lunch at school. I found this recipe for PMS bars and they immediately appealed to my PMSing self. And though he is completely capable of explaining what PMS is (he's sat in on enough NFP classes that he could probably teach them himself), I'm not ready for that awkward call from the school just yet.

Thus, the "Back to School Cookie Bars" were born.
Unfortunately, the peanut butter chips just don't do it for me. Their flavor is too muted and the peanut butter taste can't quite overcome the other flavors in the cookie bars.

Butterscotch chips to the rescue.

Yes, these are incredibly sweet. The touch of salt in the crust and on the pretzels helps keep the sweetness from overpowering you though.

A mega-hit all around.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v8

OK, was it just me or was that the longest 4 day week ever? Our son started 1st grade on Tuesday and stayed home sick with a virus on Wednesday. So, you know, off to a strong start here.

Oh well, at least our dinner game was on point.

Last week threw me off with all that crazy, cold weather here in Michigan. We even turned on the furnace one night (sick kids & a mommy who is not in the mood to extend the sick any longer than its already hanging on)!

This week we're expecting temperatures in the 80s again, which makes my Autumn soup plans fall a little flat. Nothing like a hot, hearty soup in your belly as you wipe the sweat from your brow and go sit in the kiddie pool to cool off. I'll pass. I slipped a soup into this week's plan out of sheer necessity.

These burgers are super easy to pull together. I hide some seasoned, grilled burgers under big, thick slices of mozzarella and let the cheese melt. Then I put the burgers on my Accidental Fantastical Buns, top with homemade Bruschetta and serve 'em up hot with some Oven Fries.

Because Tuesday is soccer practice, we have to have something that doesn't require me standing over the stove to get the meal to the table. That's where slow cooker potato soup comes in. The herbs really add something special to the soup, kicking it up a bit from the usual bland baked potato soup. You can still top it with all your potato soup favorites like cheddar cheese, green onions and bacon if you want. But I find the toppings unnecessary because the soup is tasty enough on its own.

Time to clean out the fridge ahead of my Friday grocery shopping trip!

Onion chicken is a stand by for the kids. I know they'll eat the chicken and cornbread (we like the Jiffy Mix), but the green bean casserole (the Thanksgiving standard from the back of the French Fried Onion can) and Brussels Spouts will be a much tougher sell. We adults, however, will devour the Brussels Spouts like candy because these are so delicious. I probably won't even eat the chicken - I'll just fill up on the Brussels Sprouts, green beans & cornbread.

Hot dogs (for the kids) and Carrot Salad for the grown ups along with leftover soup. The French Onion Soup I made on Sunday and the Herbed Potato Soup from earlier in the week will need to be polished off.

Japanese Noodles
There's a Japanese steakhouse with which my sister and I used to be slightly obsessed. And by slightly I mean, we would eat there one or two times a week. They made these amazing noodles to go with the hibachi dinner. Really, the noodles are so delicious I could go there just to get the noodles. But, alas, the budget doesn't allow it these days. Instead, I run over to the Asian grocer near our house and grab a package of rice noodles ($1.49) and cook them up. Julienne some carrots, slice up some green onions and a sweet onion, saute them in a little garlic butter & vegetable oil, add in some salt & pepper & lite soy sauce...and for less than $4, I can feed the entire family and have leftovers.

If you wanted to get fancy and make it a little heartier, you could saute some chicken or flank steak to add in. A few additional add-ons, if you're feeling fancy:  sugar snap peas, baby corn and fresh bean sprouts for some crunch.

Grilled Pork Chops, Scalloped Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, and Rolls (at my Mom & Dad's house)

There's the week folks! Any tailgaters out there? Who's your team and what's your game day tailgating must-have?

Linking up with Simcha Fisher for her Friday feature "What's for Supper?" where she poses a great question. The answer is: cleaning knives that have been used to spread peanut butter or soy butter or cream cheese. Go see what the questions was.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Miam Miam Monday (Menu Plan) v7

It's back to school week here at our house, so we're going with simple meals to get in the groove. Our big boy starts 1st grade at the neighborhood public school. Here's a simple equation to show you the mindset going on here:

(His excitement level + cost of new school clothes & supplies)3 = My anxiety/Alarm set to 6am

But I know it will be alright.
Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
     - John 14:27
So onward to this week's menu plan!

I found this great Greek marinade for chicken and when I amp up the garlic a bit, I think it is just perfect. Now, I am too scared to use our grill (propane scares me), so I bake the chicken at 350°F for 25 minutes, which works perfectly since the Spinach Balls also cook at 350°F for 20 minutes. I like to serve it with chicken flavored rice with vermicelli (Aldi brand) and a homemade Tatziki sauce, but the sauce isn't strictly necessary, and store bought would be just fine here too.

These are a frozen meal package found at Aldi - we'll just add the fresh sliced onion & tomatoes. My husband went grocery shopping with me a month ago and found this and bought it. Umm, not my style. But since we have 2 evening activities on Tuesday - a quick, throw it together, put it in foil and run out the door meal will have to suffice. The link above gives a more thorough review of the product...so we'll see what my husband and children think.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
This is one of those meals that I will double or triple so I have plenty of leftovers to stock the freezer. It's just as much work to make a big batch of marinara sauce as it is to make a small batch, so I'll do a big batch and save some time for future me. The meatballs are pretty easy and absolutely delicious. They are broiled just long enough to get the outside seared, then I finish cooking them in the sauce (or freeze them to use later) so they stay juicy and flavorful. Broiling them for  a few minutes before adding them to the sauce prevents the sauce from getting greasy - there's nothing worse than a greasy tomato sauce.

Plus, I can use the leftovers for meatball subs, meatball pizza or whatever else I can think of to use up meatballs.

I love Chicken Salad and Waldorf Salad is one of my favorite varieties. This one is extra fruity and is easily nut free by omitting the walnuts (I always leave 'em out because - allergies). The leftover salad just gets better over the next several days, so if you have time to make this one ahead, I'd recommend it. I'll also throw together a loaf of French bread in the bread machine. We can eat lettuce wraps with it on Saturday for lunch too!

What is easier than breakfast for dinner?! Nothing, folks, nothing. And as an added bonus, at my house there will be no complaints when I serve waffles for dinner. All the kids love them, so I endure no "YUCK! ME NOT LIKE THIS!" comments from my 3yo.

Pizza & Bread Sticks
I am dying for a regular old pepperoni pizza, so I moved pizza night to Saturday from our usual Friday. I make the dough, I make the sauce (and freeze leftovers for future use), and I make the Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks. I buy the Ranch dressing in bulk for dipping. Lizzie, our 1yo, uses Ranch as facial moisturizer...so that's partially why we go through so much of it.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup with leftover Cheesy Garlic Bread Sticks
This slow cooker French Onion Soup couldn't be easier and leaves the house smelling amazing. We'll eat it with the leftover cheesy garlic breadsticks. My husband can take the leftovers to work as lunch a few days this week too!

That's our week in dinners! What's your favorite thing on your menu plan for the upcoming week?

Linked up with Simcha Fisher for her What's for Supper feature. Her menu is much funnier than mine.