Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer memories

This summer is flying by already and it feels like it just started. My goal has been to spend as much time as we can outside with the kids and so far we've managed to do just that. We've had a couple of busy weeks with family visits, Tommy's baptism, and the patio being finished. My brother, his wife, and stepson came for a long weekend and we spent a couple of days downtown visiting Arlington, the monuments, and one or two museums. We took the kids with us one day and then put them in daycare for the second so we could get around a bit faster. It was great to see him again and to meet my sister-in-law for the first time. They had been stationed in Hawaii for the past few years and recently were moved to upstate New York - talk about a climate change. I kept joking that I didn't want to be in any pictures with Tracy because she made me look like the whitest ghost. Hopefully now that they're on the east coast we can visit more often. After Ryan's visit, we had the Chicago Merkels come to town for Tommallama's baptism. And in keeping with the Merklet tradition, he was the loudest child during the service. Way to keep the tradition strong, little man.

As our kids have gotten older I've started thinking about my own childhood more and all of the things I loved doing as a kid. My childhood was filled with climbing trees, practicing gymnastics in our side yard, and chugging Kool-Aid. We used to play outside from sun-up until the street lights came on (and even then begged to stay out later). We'd only come in to eat meals and even those were gulped down as fast as possible. I distinctly remember chugging my huge glass of milk at dinner in one gulp just so I could get back outside right away.

There have been so many small things that have happened over the past couple of weeks that have made me smile.

Drinking water straight from the hose or sprinkler.

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Running barefoot in the grass while waiting for fireworks to start.

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Playing catch with cousins.

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Watching backyard fireworks.

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Practicing cartwheels again and again.

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Splashing around in an inflatable pool.

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Riding bikes around the neighborhood until it's dark.

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Here's to a summer full of more memories.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Our Whole 30 journey so far

I think it was Tom who first brought up the Whole 30 challenge and after reading about it I kind of just forgot about it. But then we started talking about it more and more, especially as we kept ordering take out and eating out at restaurants. Finally, as I was biting in to my pizza slice on Memorial Day, I looked at the greasiness and then at Tom and proclaimed I was starting Whole 30 the next day. Planning be damned! I know he prefers to have advance notice for changes like these and needs time to mentally prepare, so I told him it was okay if he didn't join in, but surprisingly he dove in head first, too. The next day was a bit difficult as we discovered that sugar and soy were in practically everything. And having not prepared, our meals were pretty plain. We downloaded the shopping list and made an inventory of what we had and what we needed to get at the store. Later that week after work we divided and conquered, one going to Costco and the other to the local international grocery. While shopping we were texting and calling each other to compare prices and produce selection. We came home and packed our fridge and counters with fresh produce, fish and meats.

Our first week we kind of just improvised our regular rotation of meals to be Whole 30 compliant. After that I started browsing around for new recipes and meal ideas. Nom Nom Paleo is still one of my favorites - we made her mayo and I think I like it better than store bought mayo.

I'm not going to lie - it hasn't been a breeze. I've battled cravings and bad habits (snacking snacking snacking!) and there have been some nights when I've gotten home late and all I wanted to do was order out, but instead I mustered up the energy to at least chop a quick salad. Including today we have six days left and while a lot of Whole 30 followers wind up extending it to a Whole 60, I'll be excited to be done. I was good and followed the rules, so I haven't weighed in yet, so I don't know if I've lost any weight. I have realized that I don't need nearly as much sugar as I was used to consuming, I'm liking black coffee now, and am enjoying having dried fruits and nuts as a snack instead of my usual cheez-its or goldfish. That said, I do miss feta cheese and milk. Our Whole 30 has been a bit harder, too, since we didn't force the diet on the kids. Making them grilled cheese sandwiches and not taking a little bite was painful. Or when I would make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and not be able to lick the PB off my finger. BIG sad face.

We have come up with some delicious meals that have left us satisfied. Here's a snapshot of what we've been eating.

Top row from left: first day of Whole 30: black coffee, hard boiled eggs, fruit, tuna salad lettuce wraps, dates and veggies; meal 2: chopped salad, peas (didn't realize we should have limited these until after eating them. oops), and sliced beets; meal 3: egg salad lettuce wraps with homemade mayo

Middle row from left: meal 1: scrambled eggs with coconut milk (so yum!), fruit and black coffee; meal 2: eating out! grilled salmon, steamed broccoli and salad; meal 3: more scrambled eggs, sweet potato hash, fruit and coffee
Bottom row from left: meal 1: spinach salad with apples, beets, onion, celery and pecans; meal 2: roasted eggplant rounds topped with homemade tomato sauce; meal 3: scrambled eggs topped with sauteed tomatoes and onions and a side of sweet potato hash
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Top row from left: meal 1: spinach salad with mushrooms, strawberries, blueberries, onions, and almonds and a side of spicy cauliflower "rice"; meal 2: imum bayildi made from leftover roasted eggplants and sauteed greens; meal 3: On the grill: cod filet, yellow squash and sweet potato with a side of salad (spinach, romaine, onions, dried cranberries and chopped almonds)
Middle row from left: meal 1: pan fried tilapia with sliced avocado and tomato; meal 2: ried eggs with a side of sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers and sliced avocado; meal 3: zucchini pasta and homemade sauce SO YUM
Bottom row from left: meal 1: carrot and cabbage salad, beets, hake salad, and sauteed spinach; meal 2: hake lettuce tacos and carrot and cabbage salad; meal 3: fried eggs topped with sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes and a side of sweet potato hash browns and chicken skin "bacon" for Tom
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Top row from left: meal 1: pre-made egg cups with broccoli and mushrooms; meal 2: zucchini and eggplant pasta; meal 3: microwave "baked" apples tossed with cinnamon and coconut oil and walnuts
Middle row from left: meal 1: Sweet potato and apple hash browns with fried eggs and sliced avocado and tomato; meal 2: pan fried hake topped with a garlic lemon aioli and roasted cauliflower steaks and fruit salad; meal 3: scrambled eggs topped with salsa, avocado, sweet potato and apple hash browns and a side of fruit
Bottom row from left: meal 1: fried plantain chips; meal 2: albacore tuna salad with homemade mayo in lettuce wraps; meal 3: mashed sardines with homemade mayo, lemon juice, onion, s&p on top of chopped celery, tomatoes and peppers
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Some other favorites have been sweet potato fries and homemade ketchup, Nom Nom Paleo's Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup, the Pioneer Woman's Brussels Sprouts (tweaked to be Whole 30 compliant), and the occasional smoothie.

Next Wednesday we'll be done and we'll start reintroducing dairy, sugar, soy, grains, and legumes, but we'll probably try one or two Whole 30 days each week. I have enjoyed that this challenge has forced me to look at different foods and come up with new recipes and meals. We all get stuck in food ruts and this was a nice way to change things up and try old foods in new ways.

Recital weekend

This year was the first year we had both girls in dance class. Luckily for us their classes were back-to-back every Saturday morning, though it would have been even better had they been at the same time. Two birds, one stone and all. Unfortunately for us their recitals were on separate days, so instead of having a single recital we had a recital weekend: Friday dress rehearsal, Stasa's turn on Saturday, and Lexi's on Sunday.

Now, Lexi wasn't the most patient ballerina during the year and hardly ever paid attention during their recital routine practices. I was fairly sure that she would break down crying when we left her backstage and then either refuse to come out on stage or just stand there. Well, she did neither. During the dress rehearsal on Friday night both girls were amazing. In fact, Lexi was the best in her class and did EVERY move. I was so proud of both girls and took them out to eat for a special dinner that night. The next day was Stasa's recital and she woke up so excited for STAGE DAY! This year I put a bit more makeup on her than I had in the previous years. She sat still the whole time and let me apply a little eyeliner, light eye shadow, mascara, blush and tinted lip gloss.


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And look at that pose! The kid has it DOWN. She did a great job on stage, as always. Tom bought her a bouquet of flowers and gave them to her at the end of the recital.
The next day was Lexi's turn and since her recital was late afternoon we were able to get her to take a nap first. I should have planned better though because for some reason I thought we had to leave the house at 3:00, but really that's when she needed to be backstage. EEP. Thankfully I pulled everything together and was able to grab her and speed off to the school. Tom and the kids came after and got in their seats right before the recital began. And again Lexi made us so proud. She remembered every move (with a little help from her teacher in the stage curtains) and had the biggest smile on her face. Actually both girls had smiles that lit up the stage. After Lexi's recital Tom gave her a big bouquet of flowers, too.
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Check out their routines:

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lately

As the weather's been getting warmer, we've been spending more and more time outside with the kids...and doing a bit of yard work. Last week we spent most of Saturday cleaning up our front walkway and the huge dirt mound next to it. In doing so, we dug up a ton of earthworms which the girls quickly adopted. They made a home for them in an abandoned flowerpot and happily filled it up with fresh soil and a little bit of water. After that they kept digging around looking for more worms.

At the end of the day, they left the worms in the dirt filled pot, went in for a shower and bed. The next day they dumped them all out to check on the "little wormies" to make sure they were happy. After each worm was checked over, they put them back in the pot with even more dirt and water and went about their day.

We worked from home on Monday with the windows open to enjoy the beautiful weather. I glanced up and saw some birds dive bombing the ground. I got up to see what the crazy birds were up to. A couple of them were happily taking a dirt bath in the dirt mound we had smoothed out. It needs grass seed, and we've bought the seed and all, but by the end of the day we're too lazy to even spread seed around. Anyway, the tiny birds were rolling around in the dirt and shaking and flapping away. The others were still divebombing and all of a sudden I saw their target...the flowerpot of dirt and "little wormies." EEP. I left them to their lunch, but later on the ride home from picking up the kids I told Stasa and Lexi about the birds and their worms. Stasa was outraged and insisted that the worms were in the pot to be safe, not for birdies to eat them. When we got home she made a huge sign that said "NO BIRDS ALLOWED." She told me that her pot of worms is not a bird restaurant and she wanted them to know they weren't welcome. Sorry, birds. You're on your own for food.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A room fit for the girls

Stas and Lexi share nearly everything and had been spending almost every weekend night sleeping in each others rooms. We finally asked if they wanted to share a room, of course they exclaimed YAY!!! So we took the plunge and decided to create a fun girl room for them to share. I had originally planned to put the room together over a few months and move them in right before summer, but then Tom suggested we get it done in a weekend, so get it done in a weekend we did. Luckily all of the stuff from both of their rooms coordinated so we just repurposed nearly everything.

And look how cute it turned out:

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Some of the details of the room:
whats in the room
artwork
chairs and bears

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Party like a rock star


Ever since our little man was born we've called him Tommy and Tom and the girls often sing part of The Who's Tommy to him. So when it came time to start planning Tommy's first birthday party I immediately knew I wanted to do a rock n roll theme. I originally wanted to get him a Tommy shirt, but actually get around to looking for one until the week of the party and by then all I could find were $25-40 shirts and really, does a one year old need a $40 shirt for a one-time wear? Thankfully we already had a few different classic rock band shirts for him and eventually settled on Led Zeppelin. We kept the decorations simple with black and silver/grey streamers and balloons and tablecloths. I made a couple of faux speakers with boxes and black tablecloths. I had bought the girls some punk rock gloves and wound up repurposing the cardboard hands from the gloves to use as sign of the horns decorations. ROCK ON!



It's hard to see in that pic, but I made a birthday banner using a tattoo-style font.



I also printed out a bunch of classic rock album covers to hang as decorations.


As for the birthday boy himself, well, he felt like being a true mama's boy that day and broke down every time I left the room without him. But you know what they say, it was his party and to hell if he wasn't going to cry if he wanted to.


He knew *just* what to do when it was time for cake and grabbed his cupcake and focused on (somewhat) quietly eating it. I say somewhat because he would pause, look over and cry, then go back to his cupcake. Rinse and repeat. He finally calmed down after gifts were opened and settled on playing with a sturdy box one of the gifts came in.




Happy birthday, Tommallama!
Now. His first year well check.
Stats:
24 lbs, 87th percentile
31 1/8" long, 92nd percentile
19" head, 96th! percentile

He checked out well and wound up with three vaccinations and one prick to check his hemoglobin. Turns out his iron levels are still on the low side, so he'll be getting a daily vitamin with iron and we'll recheck him in a month. He's also had a newish development which seems to have happened overnight. He's been taking steps here and there, but not really walking - just cruising around. But this week he's just walking all over the place. I'm sure it won't be long until he's keeping up with his sisters.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The first tooth down


A few months ago while flossing Stasa's teeth, we noticed what we initially thought was a second row of teeth coming in. Yeah, you might think that's something that only sharks have, but apparently Tom was part shark as a kid and he had rows of teeth seedlings in his mouth. We've always joked that Stasa is a shark since she got her first tooth at four months and then had a mouthful before all of the other kids.

The second row of teeth turned out to be a single adult tooth - all jagged at the top and HUGE compared to her baby teeth. Her two bottom teeth started to get wiggly and loose and we started checking on the loose teeth every night. Finally one night she was talking and her one bottom tooth looked higher than all of the others. I asked to check it and sure enough it was hanging on by a thread. She sat in Tom's lap and I gave it a teeny tug and out it came. She was AMAZED and so happy and couldn't stop looking at her new smile.

I dug out my old tooth pillow from my childhood and had her place the little tooth in it and then under her pillow. Before bed she put her ear against the tooth fairy's door to make sure she could hear her in there. LOL

The tooth fairy did not disappoint and when Stasa woke up she plunged her hand under her pillow and pulled out two new dimes. She was so proud of those new dimes and kept them with her all day - even at school, though we did warn her that she might lose them. I'm pretty sure she kept them in her sweaty fist all day. As soon as she was home we had her put them in her jar to put towards the Hello Kitty she's saving up for. Tom and I were both a bit wistful for our little baby Stasa. Not a week goes by that we don't look at each other and mention how grown up she's getting. Stasa on the other hand can't wait to grow up even more. She's already counting down to her sixth birthday. Slow down, little girl. Enjoy being five.