The end of another (pre) school year…

Leo just completed his second year of pre-school.  For some reason it’s making me super-emotional. I know it’s just the end a school year, not a birthday, not even a pre-school graduation… just another day in June really. But these “milestones” are a time to step back at look at the bigger picture.  There was something about this past year where Leo seemed to grow up all of a sudden.  I look at him now and all the traces of baby are gone from his face… now he is a boy.

Over the past year, Leo has become quite a storyteller, he can tell tall tales about pirates, dinosaurs, and princesses all conceived by his wild imagination. His pre-school teachers were particularly wonderful with helping him express this developing skill. He still loves drawing, he has since he’s been able to hold a crayon, but now his drawings have more complex shapes, faces and bodies; I think his sense of composition and balance are quite advanced (but since I am his mother, I might be a little biased). He can dress himself; usually in pretty embarrassing outfits but he does it all on his own. He is starting to write his name (mostly upside down) and recognize more letters. Today he wanted to try the fire pole at the playground for the first time, he was a little scared the first few times but got the hang of it.  Some of his logic, reasoning and tantrums are still very toddler-esque but I am starting to see that slowly fade away and each week is becoming a little easier. He’s happy, loving and empathic.

These are all big boy things.

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What we are playing with now…

Now that Leo is (almost) 4 and Lucy is 9 months, we have had to shake up the playroom a little bit. Afternoons of entertaining just Leo used to mean a lot of coloring and crafting but now that Lucy is crawling around and putting EVERYTHING in her mouth so a lot of the tiny toys have disappeared. Some toys went straight into the trash or to Goodwill and others into boxes in the basement for when Lucy is older.  Here are some toys that are working for us now…Toys1. MAGNATILES– These seem like such an investment when you are buying them (and adding to your set) but no regrets here. Leo has played with these a few times a week for over a year and they have held up to being knocked over and stepped on hundreds of times. Lucy loves tapping them together to make music and she is really getting into knocking down Leo’s creations, we try to make a game out of it.

2. ZINGO– OK, this game isn’t totally baby-safe.  The tiles are on the smallish side but not in a totally terrifying choking hazard kind of way. It’s also nice for Leo to have a big boy game that his sister can’t play with, it is helping him learn site words and symbols and also the art of winning and losing graciously. Unlike some other kid’s games, this one makes it fun to put the little tiles back into their holder, so small pieces don’t end up all over the house.

3. PUPPETS– We have all kinds of soft finger and hand puppets and both kids like them.  Specifically when they are on my hands and I am acting silly.

4. DUPLOS– speaking of building toys…forget the fact that all of his friends have real Legos. I am so grateful that I didn’t buy the big boy Legos and have to take them away. Leo can still have fun and make creations with his Duplos and Lucy can happily sit by and chew on a few while her brother builds.

5. COSTUMES– Who doesn’t love dressing up?  Leo can’t get enough of costumes and they are totally baby-safe so when he gets bored and throws them on the floor it’s not a big deal.

6. MUSICAL TOYS– We have had the same little egg shakers, piano, xylophone and drums since Leo was a baby.  He still plays with them and Lucy enjoys a good jam session as well.  It’s a great way for her to interact with her brother and vice versa.

I’m still on the hunt for more big kid toys that aren’t choking hazards but our playroom seems pretty well stocked at the moment. What are your kids playing with?

a note on meal planning…

FullSizeRender-1I know, I don’t post for months and now I just want to talk about food!  But I have had so many conversations over the past few months about meal planning that I thought it warranted a post.

I am a meal planner.  I don’t know how to not meal plan.  If I went to the grocery store without a list, I have no idea what kind of crap I would come home with but I am betting that it would be heavy on chips and chocolate and light on ingredients needed to make well-balanced meals for our family.  I find that meal planning makes it way easier to go to the grocery store less often and helps keep food waste way down around here. I usually go to the store or order from Instacart once a week on Monday

Here is how I do it…

Every Sunday night (usually while watching TV), I take out my laptop and get into my Pages (it’s like Microsoft Word) document and decide what we are going to have for dinner the next week.  The first thing I do is look in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what I need to use.  This week is penne pasta, frozen hamburger meat, corn and cashew nacho cheese (my new obsession). Here is what we are having this week:

Monday- Sweet potato and quinoa fritters, fruit and roasted broccoli
Tuesday- Brown rice bowls with black beans, corn, avocado, and cashew nacho cheese
Wednesday- Mom goes out with friends (frozen pizza & fruit for boys)
Thursday- Cauliflower tacos, refried beans, corn, tomato and avocado salad (cilantro & cashew nacho cheese)
Friday- Penne & meatballs

Based these meals, I go through and list out all of the things that I need to buy to make the meals listed above below them in the same document and add in all of the stuff that we always have/need in our kitchen are running low on i.e. bananas and orange juice. I usually keep a post it my the fridge for other random things that we are out of that I know I will probably forget and I add those into the word document.

This week it looked like this:

Broccoli
Watermelon
Strawberries
Mango
Sweet potatoes
Medium yellow onion
Cucumber
Tomatoes
Pico de gallo
Cilantro
Italian parsley (freeze in olive oil for meatballs)

Orange juice

Frozen pizza for boys
Coconut ice cream

Black beans
Refried beans
Cashews

Pimentos
Rice vinegar

Tortillas
Rice cakes for Lucy

I like to organize my grocery list by the way that I walk around the grocery store- first the fruit part of the produce department, then the veggies, cold/dairy, dry grocery, frozen section… you get the picture. Now, you will see that there are somethings on there that aren’t required to make any of the dishes above- these are the post-it items.

One of the best ways to keep to your list is to not cook anything too complicated, especially on weeknights.  Let’s say Tuesday comes around and your weekly menu says that you’re supposed to make Julia Child’s chicken a l’orange but your toddler decides that he is going to scream at you until you play pirates with him when it’s time to get cooking. You’re probably going to say “f@*! it” and order pizza and that chicken is going to get thrown out or tossed in the freezer.  Making things that don’t require a ton of prep time or that can be prepped in advance makes it a lot easier to stick to your list.

In summation, here are my “rules” for meal planning.

1. Plan your meals for the week

2. Cook simple food, especially on weeknights

3. Keep a post it or note pad with items you need to pick up on your next run to to store and add them in when you make your grocery list

4. Take your list to the store and don’t buy anything that’s not on your list

Let me know if you try it or what works for you.

back at it…

 

 I’ve heard the expression “you don’t have anything if you don’t have your health” about a thousand times, but I never really understood what it meant until this past year. I’ve battled a difficult pregnancy, whooping cough and now asthma. Most recently been having trouble breathing at night and coughing fits when I am sleeping or exerting myself.  I know that there are worse ailments to have but I was feeling a little down and out about it all. I’m starting to feel a lot better with the help of some new medication and attempting to get back into the swing of things.

I think about all of the days that I skipped the gym or going to the park to meet up with friends because I was just plain lazy… when I was sick and I wasn’t doing these things I got really bummed.  I actually learned a lot about myself during this time.

I actually like exercising! Who knew?  I’ve always thought of going for a walk or taking a barre class was something that I did because I had to so that my jeans fit and whatnot. But when I couldn’t work out I started to get a little blue.  I’ve only been back in the gym for about two weeks and I can feel a total shift in my mood… I’m still waiting for the shift in the way my jeans fit but hopefully that will come soon.

I am a social person; I have always known this about myself.  I like to bounce ideas off other people, talk about current events, and learn about what is happening in my friends’ lives.  Ever since Leo was born, most of my friends have been other people with kids; when you have a chronic terrible-sounding cough… you don’t really want to be around kids and their parents don’t want you to be around them.  I honestly think that I developed a little social anxiety when I was sick, I was always paranoid that a coughing fit was going to start at a play date, at the park or when I was picking Leo up at school. So, I just avoided those things for a while.  In 2015 in Los Angeles, it’s pretty easy to never to leave the house… you can get your groceries, diapers and basically anything you can think of delivered and I can always find things to do around the house so that I am “busy.”

Now that I am starting to get out to the grocery store, play dates, dates with my husband and even girl’s nights (with lots of cocktails!), I realized how much I missed these things.  Yes, even the grocery store… I am a loser I know.  I’ve always seen socializing at sort of a bonus.  I get done what need to get done and if I can fit in a coffee with a friend or a date night with Lenny, awesome.  My social hiatus made me realize that these things need to be a priority, not a treat.

So it sucked, but it’s mostly over.  I am so happy to have my health back, even if if is a different version of my health.  Now that I have been through it, I have learned a lot about myself and what I need to do be happy.