Friday, March 9, 2018

Where Travel Soccer Takes Over Our Lives: Fall Season

I mentioned that our son had tried out for and made a travel soccer team. Well, we looked forward all-summer to the season kicking off with a week long soccer camp. Camp did not disappoint.

The price of camp was included in our club fees. Junior went Monday-Friday from 9am-11:30am. He got to work with coaches from his local club and coaches from the main International Academy that came over from England for the week.

Camp was awesome! It was a great way for him to get to know some of the kids from the new club, though he didn't work only with kids from his own team. It was a great introduction to the Club's philosophy and coaching style. They made it such fun that I don't even think Junior realized he was learning anything at all.

As an aside: I was extremely concerned about the cleanliness of the facility. Each day my son was covered in what seemed to be a fine, black powder, sweat dripping down his face. Each night I was using copious amounts of OxyC.lean to get the black powder mixed with sweat out of his white (why, in the name of all that is holy, did they choose WHITE?!?!) training jersey. Because in travel soccer the kids wear uniforms to trainings & games. My girls were filthy by the end of practice as well from playing on the bleachers. I was told they deep clean the facility top to bottom once a month, but I have not seen any evidence of such a cleaning ever taking place except for once in a while it seems extra humid in there. It's so gross.

Practices started the next week (end of August) twice a week on Mondays & Wednesdays from 6-7:30pm. We had our first tournament on the weekend after the first week of practice. It was an absolute disaster. The boys played really badly; it was embarrassing...but we were assured that it is like this every year. This first tournament is always terrible.

A couple weekends later we had a second tournament. We did much better and if it hadn't been for some atrocious calls by the refs, we would've gone to the finals. The boys, more than likely, would've won since they had beat the team they would've faced in regular season play a couple times.
cleat marks & a huge bruise from getting stomped on by another player
Games averaged 1-2 per weekend. Luckily, though this is a travel league, the farthest away we had to travel was less than an hour. I'm certainly not complaining about the "travel" just yet. Games changed at the last minute with regularity. There was a game a 45 minute drive away from our home at 7am on a Saturday morning; and we needed to arrive 30 minutes early to warm up. I haven't been up that early on purpose in more than 5 years.

Our boys won their division in the Fall league. We were very proud of them, but a little disappointed there wasn't even a trophy or certificate for them. The boys didn't care though, so whatever, less junk collecting dust on his dresser.
Mr. Amen and I in the cheering section

Junior also "played up" several times with older teams and/or more experienced teams. He held his own quite well and even scored goals for those other teams. His own coach sees him as a primarily defensive player, sometimes he is put as a midfielder. Regardless of where he is, his coaches consider him a "wrecking ball" for his ability to break up a play and for the physicality of his play. He's like running into a brick wall. Though he is the youngest player on his team, he is 80 pounds of solid muscle. They've suggested we consider letting him play rugby in a few years as well as soccer.

1 week of camp
19 team training sessions
4 training sessions with private technical coach
17 games

The Good
*Progress, progress, progress in all areas of play
*New friends
*Winning games
*Fun at Tournaments
*Family time spent in the car and at games
*Playing up with older/more experienced teams

The Bad
*Dirty, grimy grossness
*So much laundry (seriously, I went through so much OxyC.lean and had to add a daily reminder to my phone to wash uniforms so I didn't forget before going to bed)
*Last minute game schedule & location changes
*Schedule conflicts with other activities (Friday night prayer group conflicts with Friday night dance classes and Friday night games; Saturday morning work conflicts with gymnastics & Saturday morning games)
*So much money (a monthly payment plan helps, but wow! At least the price we were told was all inclusive except for travel costs & uniform)

The Ugly
*Politics & bickering among the parents/coaches (ummm, I had no idea people could be this intense about 8 & 9yos playing soccer, but well, they are) 
*Divide and conquer (DH & I have to go in different directions more often than we'd like to get everyone everywhere they belong)

The Other
*Soccer experience for our daughter
We let our 5yo play with their mini program since we were already in the building at the same time, so she got some soccer experience. She liked it and was invited to move up to the next level. But ya'll...the cost!!

We were very lucky that our Pastor is also a soccer player because the training schedule conflicted with Catechism. Catechism is only offered at our Parish on Wednesdays from 6:15-7:30pm. We talked with Father about how we could make this work because his RE is very important to us. I can teach him Catechism, but I can't teach him soccer. Father knows we are a committed family, so he allowed us to homeschool Junior for Catechism and if his training schedule changed, we could just start bringing him to class.

*My Hair
I dyed my hair with red peek-a-boo highlights to support our team :-) Over the summer I had dyed purple peek-a-boo highlights for the local semi-pro team we support, so once their season was over and Junior's started up, he wanted to know if I would dye my hair for his team. So I did. It didn't last long; the red faded out much faster than the purple, but he thought it was pretty cool to have his mom's hair match his uniform.

So that was the Fall season of Year 1 of Travel Soccer.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Meatless Friday Ideas: Burgers

Here come meatless Fridays, folks!

I struggled for ages coming up with meatless meals on the Fridays of Lent...but now we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, so I have TONS of ideas.

We are a burger loving people in our house, so here's 5 meatless burger recipes to choose from when you just can't do fish sticks and macaroni and cheese one more time.

Roasted Zucchini & Quinoa Burgers with Garlic Whipped Feta
My tips on these: Make your quinoa ahead of time using veggie broth instead of water (extra flavor!!) Use 1 3/4 - 2cups of panko. If you don't have fresh basil on hand (and I never do) use 1/2 tsp dried basil. Be generous with the salt & pepper.

I form the patties by scooping 1/2 cup of the mixture into a measuring cup and emptying it onto silpat on a baking sheet, pressing it down and shaping it with my hands. Don't skip the fridge chill out session! Bake these in the oven instead of frying them; I do about 15-20 minutes per side at 400°F.

For the Garlic Whipped Feta: use 1 Tbsp fresh dill and 1 tsp lemon juice. Unless you like big lemon flavor and lots of dill...then just use her quantities. I found the dill & lemon to overpower the garlic & feta, and I reallllllllly like the garlic & feta.

So. Delicious. I love them with some raw purple onion and iceberg lettuce (soak the onion slices in ice water for 5 minutes to help take the "bite" out of them).

Smoky Sweet Potato Burgers with Roasted Garlic Cream
My kids loved these! The first time I served these, Miss A was not sure she wanted to eat them. She had recently declared herself a vegetarian (thank you Kindergarten lesson plans personifying turkeys in November) and also that she didn't like vegetables. I explained that this is the kind of food vegetarians eat, so if she was going to be a vegetarian, she'd have to eat this. She did and she loved it!

Epic Crispy Quinoa Burgers
Make the fries to go on top. And the egg. Oh, yes, the egg
See that runny yolk pooling on your plate just waiting to be sopped up with this epic burger??!!

Zucchini Parmesan Sliders
Oh my. I can't adequately express how amazing these are. I might have made a second batch after people went to bed just so I could eat more without sharing. Ah, who am I kidding?! I did.

Sloppy Lentils
This one was really easy to throw together on a weeknight. The kids gobbled it up and said these were the best Sloppy Joes I've ever made.  They didn't even notice it wasn't made of meat.

1 1/2 c dried lentils (green)
3 c veggie broth
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 can tomato soup (10 3/4 oz)
3/4 c ketchup
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1/4 c dark brown sugar
2 T Worchestershire Sauce
1 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Rinse lentils well under running water (pick our any rocks or deformed lentils). Add lentils & veggie broth to a medium saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower heat to a slow simmer (few bubbles, a little bit of movement). Cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes (older lentils take longer to cook). As soon as they are tender, remove from heat and strain. Set aside.

Heat EVOO over medium heat, add onion. Saute until translucent (you can saute them until they begin to turn brown & caramelize a bit if you prefer). Add strained lentils and all remaining ingredients and combine well. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and serve on buns!

You can also add grated carrot and/or chopped peppers if you like that sort of thing!

Well, wishing you your BEST LENT EVER! And with these burgers, it will be.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Egg Cups

My Health Coach suggested that I start eating breakfast as a way to jump start my metabolism and (hopefully) lose weight.

I've gotten into a bad habit of not eating breakfast, rarely eating lunch, eating a regular dinner, and having some ice cream before bed (not every day, but many days). I've found that if I eat breakfast, I'm not hungry the rest of the day.

I've been not eating breakfast for more than 25 years, so that's a big change.


Our plan was to eat something small, almost like a snack instead of a whole breakfast. She asked what sorts of breakfast foods I like and I answered that I like omelets.

It's not realistic for me to make an omelet for myself every day. Or most days. Or even any days. I just don't have that kind of time in my schedule.

Enter the make ahead Egg Cups. I spent a half an hour making a batch of these (including bake time) after getting home from dropping off my kiddos at school this morning and now I have breakfast for the whole week, except Sunday when I make pancakes.

Egg Cups
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25-30 minutes

6 large eggs, beaten
2 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
9 tsp crumbled feta cheese (more or less, depending on your preference)
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 6 wells of a muffin tin with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Divide chopped spinach between the 6 prepared muffin wells. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp feta cheese over the spinach in each well. Add pepper to taste (I used one turn of my pepper mill in each well). Pour the beaten eggs over the spinach & feta to fill each well, stopping about 1/4" from the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, use a knife to loosen Egg Cups from the muffin tin. Cool completely on wire rack. Store covered in the refrigerator; heat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds before eating.

Variations: Add some chopped onion or mushrooms. Instead of spinach & feta, try broccoli & cheddar, asparagus & parmesan, bell peppers & ham or choose your own combination.

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 ( 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.