Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thursday Things

1) The hurricane and subsequent flooding on the Texas coast just breaks my heart.  I have so many friends and family that were affected in one or another (though, fortunately, all are safe from harm at this time) and, heck, I spent a decade of my life in Texas -- and vacationed there every summer growing up.  The state is so close to my heart and I'm so sad to see the natural disaster that's occurred there.  Though, as my friend Jenn said, H.E.B. is the real MVP.  Why can't we have those everywhere?  Kuddos to that company - and so many Texans and people from all over the country - for pitching in during this time of need.  I honestly wish I lived closer still so that it would be easier to pitch in.  At this point, we have donated to the Texas Diaper Bank but there are so many people out there doing good, being "the helpers" that you can donate to.

2) In better news, the Girl had her very first cross country meet on Monday.  She ran a mile in just over nine minutes . . . and with a cold!

3) This is not a drill.  THIS.IS.NOT.A.DRILL.  College football starts tonight!  My Razorbacks play - as do the Memphis Tigers - and as does my son K1 (except probably not on that last one and maybe not on the Tigers either.  Harvey is knocking on our door now.)  So there's a chance I'll be missing most of the first Hogs game but still can't wait.  Football, football time is here!

More about Arkansas as a state than football but . . . Arkansas IS football!

4) I'm not doing a Foodie Friday post tomorrow however I not only cooked all week but . . . I EVEN MEAL PLANNED TOO!  On Sunday night!  Here's a look at our week:

The chicken teriyaki bowls were something new to us so I wanted to share the recipe.  We didn't have J and the K's that night but Mark and the Girl LOVED this dish.  I thought it was good too (I'm not as much of a Chinese food/ rice person as the rest of my family) and it will definitely be put in rotation because it was

I put three large chicken breasts in the crockpot and added about three teaspoons of minced garlic, 1 cup of chicken broth, half a bottle of teriyaki sauce, and approximately 1/2 cup of brown sugar (I am HORRIBLE about measuring but here is a recipe with more accurate measurements.)  I set it on low and let it cook all day long.  My house smelled amazing!  When we got home from the cross country meet that night, Mark sautéed a bag of frozen stir fry mix with a little bit of sauce from the crockpot and I cooked up the rice.  When everything was finished, we layered in individual bowls: rice, stir fry veggies, chicken, then mixed it all together.  Next time I may add a little sriracha for heat and I'll definitely double the ingredients that went into the sauce.  But this is certainly a recipe that will be on repeat in my house.

5) We're going to a wedding this weekend and when I (finally) logged into their registry the other day and saw an inflatable bull, I knew we had to buy as part of their wedding gift.  I mean, HELLO?!?  Is this not the most perfect wedding gift ever?

(And lest you think I completely lost my manners, I went back and included the bride's name in the thank you card after I took this picture)
((And also, lest you STILL think we completely lost manners, this isn't their only gift.  We just couldn't not get this one.))

6) One of the crazy things about parenting and raising kids is seeing just how different your children are from you.  You're like . . . "woah, HEY now, where did THOSE genes come from??"  This is most obvious, to me, in J.  I see some of myself in him (mainly - being bossy, needing the last word, doing his homework on the bus) but then there's this kid who volunteers to play a "minute to win it" game in front of the entire school at an assembly.  The kid who raises his hand and begs to be the one to "teach the class" what they just learned.  The kid who proudly carries his team flag onto the field before a game.  I'm not necessarily shy but I've always hated being the center of attention.  And it's so weird to me for my kid to be the exact opposite, to crave the attention!  I love it and love his confidence but, still, where did this kid come from??

7) So many more words to add but . . . LOVE this song:

It really makes you think, am I right?  I think it's the "hearing Prince sing Purple Rain" line that really kills me.  Earlier in the summer, a group of us were talking about our bucket list concerts and the ones we feel we missed out on (Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie) because they went too soon.

8) I went back to school Tuesday (and promptly came home and took a nap.)  I only go into class one day a week this semester so that's interesting.  I used to be completely opposed to online classes but it gives me so much more time and the opportunity to do things at the school with and for the kids.  Digging it thus far but we'll see how the semester goes.

9) Russell was over the other day and he and K2 were horsing around.  He said something to her like, "I'm gonna paddle that butt!"  and she told him, "you can't!  You're not my Mark or my dad!"  My Mark!  Love it!

10) Let's do dis thing!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer Reading List: Moriarty, Hilderbrand, and Kubica

School started for me this week so odds are good that my reading-for-pleasure will slow down slightly.  Wahhh-burger!  My very favorite thing about summer is reading by the pool and I'm so sad to see those days slipping away. 

Truly Madly Guilty is Liane Moriarty's latest book and I'd been looking forward to this one for over a year!  I read the reviews and noted that a lot of people weren't crazy about it.  But it's Moriarty so I couldn't wait to dive in.

We meet Clementine and Erika, life-long "friends," in Truly Madly Guilty.  Erika and her husband invite Clementine and her husband Sam over for tea and to discuss an important matter with them.  In the meantime, Erika's neighbors, Vid and Tiffany, decide to throw an impromptu barbecue and invite the two families over to their house instead.  Over the course of the afternoon, tragedy occurs and each family is shook in a different way.  The book bounces back and forth between two months after the barbecue (where we know "something" happened) and the actual day of the barbecue.

So . . . I did not love this book.  I liked it.  But I didn't love it.  I thought it was a slow build up and relatively anti-climactic.  I found Vid and Tiffany to be the most likeable characters.  I wanted to be a cheerleader for Erika but she made it so hard.  And, honestly, her husband was so boring that I can't remember his name and won't even get up to grab my book to go check it out.  Clementine was okay, Sam was okay.  None of the characters were all that "OMG, I MUST BE FRIENDS WITH YOU."  (Except Vid and Tiffany!)  This one is better than The Hypnotist's Love Story but it's far, far, FAR from Moriarty's best book.  If you've never read one of hers, don't start with this one!

Silver Girl is yet another Elin Hilderbrand re-read.  I'm about five books away from re-reading all of her summer novels this summer.  Can I do it??  We'll see! 

Meredith Delinn's life has turned upside down.  Her husband, hotshot investor Freddy Delinn, has recently been found guilty of cheating rich clients out of billions.  She's humiliated, broke, and heartbroken, under investigation herself, and facing homelessness.  Out of desperation, she calls her one time best friend, Connie Flute, and the two women end up heading to Nantucket together.  What follows is a summer of unfurling Freddy's crimes, facing old hurts, and reconciling differences.

I adored this book.  I found the characters extremely likeable even with their quirks that make you go "really??"  Meredith is naïve and, for lack of a better word, kind of dumb when it comes to dealing with her ex-husband.  But it also makes her a bit endearing, to me at least.  Because most of us have been there, haven't we?  In a relationship with someone and when we look back say to ourselves, "I never realized . . . "  It's real life.  I do think this is one of those novels that Hilderbrand wraps up a little too tidily, a little too perfect.  But it's still a highly enjoyable book, great beach read.

Mary Kubica's books are exactly what I need after light, beachy reads.  And light, beachy reads are exactly what I need after a Kubica book!  Don't You Cry is her third novel, and my third to read, and I knew what to expect: psychological thriller that I couldn't put down.  I was right.

Quinn Collins wakes up one November morning to realize her roommate, Esther Vaughan, is missing.  Various clues in her room and around their apartment make Quinn question if she really knew who Esther was at all.  Meanwhile, in a small lakeside town in Michigan, a woman shows up in a café.  Dishwasher Alex Gallo is drawn to her and finds himself further and further under her spell. 

I honestly really enjoyed about three quarters of this book. I was devouring it! I had to know more! I wanted to know what was going on.  I think this is what Kubica excels at: the build up, the anticipation.  I felt the same with The Good Girl and with Pretty Baby.  She's amazing at engaging the reader and getting them hooked and invested in the story.  I feel like Kubica's biggest downfall (and, for me, the difference in a four-star and five-star Goodreads rating) is that the ending is SO rushed.  The plot line is built up and built up and built up and then . . . a super rushed ending.  I did not have the ending of this book figured out in it's entirety so I did appreciate the hint of surprise.  I just wish the conclusion had been hashed out a little more thoroughly. 

This was a very "I'm so into it, can't put it down" book - as are all Kubica's novels.  I would definitely pick this one up if you appreciate a good thriller!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Jamboree Weekend

I intentionally keep things pretty chill for us during the summer.  We don't play any summer sports, we don't really do any camps or clubs.  We sleep in a lot and, while we try to get and do things several times a week, we have our share of lazy days too.  And I do this because I know when school starts, things gon' get crazy!

Friday afternoon, K2 went with her friend for a sleepover.  Mark wasn't due in from his Iowa trip until after 10:00.  The Girl and I took both boys to their football practices then we picked up dinner from Chikfila.  I made everyone get to bed by 10:00: we had a very big Saturday ahead!

The Girl was supposed to run a 5K with her cross country team but her cold persisted and I thought it would be best for her to rest her lungs.  So that was one less thing on our list!  We made our way to the football fields bright and early: JAMBOREE WEEKEND!  The Jamboree apparently is a pretty big deal.  Every single football team plays a 25 minute scrimmage and it just gives them a chance to get used to being on the field and playing together as a team.

K1's team played awesome!  The very first play, the other team ran the ball back for a touchdown and we were all thinking, "Oh shizz!"  But the remainder of the game, the Falcons absolutely dominated.  K1 played nose tackle (tiniest nose tackle I ever did see!  Ha!) and got some great tackles!  We were super proud of him.  They won 26-6.  At the end of the game, the coaches were talking about how it's finally "their year" to win out on the season.  I told K1 he's the good luck charm: basketball team: undefeated.  Baseball team: undefeated.  Football team: dominates in scrimmage.  Time will tell how the rest of the season goes but we're pumped with how it began.

J's team had a bit of a harder game.  The team they played . . . they were SO evenly matched.  It was one of those games that really could have gone either way.  If J's team had the ball first or if they'd had a few more seconds on the clock, they would've pulled away with the W.  In the end, the other team took the game 12-7.  J played middle linebacker.  He wanted to be on offense but was cool with this position because he was basically the "quarterback of the defense."  Anyone who knows this kid knows how bossy he is so perfect for him!  He also had some great tackles and, if I can say anything for J it's that he's the ultimate hype man.  He was GREAT at getting his team pumped.

After their games, we ran home and changed clothes then headed out to A's 5th birthday party.  She's five!  I've known her since she was just a few months old and the kids and I have literally been to every single one of her birthday parties.  I can't believe she's already FIVE.  The kiddos swam and played with water balloons, Kendra set up a craft table, and they grilled burgers and dolls.  I promise the other kids were there -- K2 just seemed to be the only one in the pictures!

We left the party, came home for a quick nap, then headed over to Anthony's for yet another  party . . . this time a fight party.

So I didn't care about the fight at all.  I never care about "the fight."  And, the main reason I went is because I knew Mark wanted to go and with him being away all week, we wanted to spend as much time together as possible.  On a normal week I probably would've begged off and had him go without me and the kids.  I'm glad I went though because we ended up having a great time!

The boys played football, Mark grilled, we karaoke'd, and FREAKING FINALLY the fight started.

(My boys think when they go to Anthony's that Robbie is required to play football with them.  It's their favorite thing about going over there!)

(He has the mouth of a sailor but Anthony does love our kids.  This one might just be his favorite -- his Hooters buddy!)

We ended up not getting home until around 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning which meant . . . lazy, lazy, lazy Sunday!  We had actually discussed going to the Bears/ Titans preseason game in Nashville.  We wanted to go.  But decided it wasn't the best idea after the craziness of the week.  The boys were so tired after a week of practices and games and just needed to rest.  There will be other games.

K2 had spent the night at Kendra's again so I went to pick her up.  The older kids got their chores all knocked out and Mark did yardwork.  I did SIX loads of laundry (and I seriously do at least one load of laundry during the week!)  Russell came over and we watched the Bears game.  It was a lazy Sunday and so what we needed after the crazy of our week and Saturday.

We ended our weekend with this . . .

Our Hog flag is up and ready for Thursday!  The Bears flag will join it after Labor Day.

This coming weekend, Mark, The Boy, and I are headed to Minneapolis for a wedding.  The other kids will be getting tons of Gigi time and they can't wait!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Memphis Monday: Tiger Lane and Memphis Tigers Football

I figured this was a timely post since COLLEGE FOOTBALL STARTS THIS WEEK!  Both the Hogs and Memphis Tigers play Thursday night (whyyyyy?) and more action kicks off Saturday and I.can.not.wait.

I love Memphis so I proclaim a lot of things as a "favorite" or even a "most favorite."  But I honestly do believe that my most MOST most favorite thing about Memphis is our sports!  We have the Redbirds, the Tigers, and the Grizzlies and they all bring a little bit of sports excitement to our city in different seasons.

We're still Razorback fans first and foremost -- always have been, always will be.  But the Tigers are an example of "root root root for the home team" and we have so much fun going to their games and even cheering them on at home.

In 2015, Paxton Lynch kinda put Memphis 'on the map' in the college football world.  They defeated Ole Miss that year and were ranked nationally for a while.  Not such a huge deal if you're an Alabama or Ohio State fan but absolutely HUGE for Memphis.  This year, we're expected to win the AAC and Riley Ferguson has us once again poised for a great season.  Last year when Vandy beat Tennessee, Derek Mason got on TV and proclaimed "we own Tennessee!  We're the best team in the state of Tennessee!" and all the Memphis fans were like "HOLD MY BEER!" 

Ticket prices, of course, vary by game.  I'm sure you'll pay way more for a ticket to the UCLA game than one to the Southern Illinois game.  As with any sports venue, you can expect to pay an arm and leg for snacks (and, heads up, if you accidentally sit in your kid's barbecue nachos at a game in, say, 2015 they will still be talking about the 'butt nachos' two years later.  Heard that from a friend.)  Since the Liberty Bowl isn't located on campus, they do sale beer, but again - arm and a leg.

We LOVE going to games. It's good family entertainment that's relatively inexpensive (until you go paying $10 for an order of nachos that get sat on.)  The boys love the games as well.  J is even hoping to do his birthday "party" at a game, as long as it doesn't interfere with his own football schedule.

What all the kids really love though is . . .


Memphis fans tailgate on Tiger lane, right outside of the Liberty Bowl and it is such, SUCH a good time!  They have bouncy houses set up for the kids, there's a huge open field with elementary and middle school aged boys playing football.  The cheerleaders walk through handing out stickers and other goodies and you can also watch the band walk to the stadium.  And Memphis fans are friendly -- it's nice just to talk with other fans.

Apparently, you practically have to have God himself call to secure you a spot on Tiger Lane but we've been fortunate enough to have friends with spots who invite us to tailgate with them as long as we bring food and beer along.  A lot of the houses across the street make money by allowing people to park in their lawns -- I think we paid $10 last year for the Memphis/ Houston game and it was literally a five minute walk to Tiger Lane.  I guess what I'm saying is that it's easy to tailgate even if you don't have a reserved spot.

It's just SUCH a great way to spend a Saturday in the fall.  Making memories, supporting the home team, all that good stuff.  It's probably not something you'd think to do if you're just visiting Memphis but, I promise you, you won't be disappointed if you make a game and tailgate (and post-game tailgate too!) 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

94% Eclipse of the Heart

Well, this week has steady been kicking my tail!  Mark is in Iowa so I've been holding down the fort by myself.  You remove just one kid from our equation and things are infinitely easier.  Remove one parent?  Jesus take the wheel!
Here's what we've been up to:
Our lives currently revolve around football.  J and K1 have practice at least three days a week and games start this coming weekend!  J is playing tightend and K1 free safety.  They're on different teams, even in different leagues, making things "fun."  I feel like a taxi these days!  They get their uniforms and helmet stickers tonight and they are so excited.  Both have coaches who are great about building them up.  Every single practice, they jump in the car with their mouths going 90 to nothing with "Coach said I'm great at *this*"  "Coach said they drafted me because I'm FAST!"  I LOVE that they're building so much confidence!
The Eclipse!
Not gonna lie, I was really excited.  And, HELLO, I am Brandi and I love a good theme.  So I planned a small "party" with Kendra and Cady and also planned to send each kid to school with a moon pie and a Sunny D.  Here's the deal . . . even though I live in Tennessee, we couldn't find moon pies anywhere!  I think we probably could've picked them up at Bass Pro but I don't live conveniently to either local one.  And, really, you should be able to buy those at Kroger.  We're in Tennessee!
To improvise for the lack of moon pies, J pulled out my collection of cookie cutters to do imprints of the moon on their sandwiches.  (And when he did this, I said, "you are SO my child!")

The kids were supposed to wear black and yellow to school to celebrate.  They watched it out in front of the school with their classes.  Parents were invited to attend but there was no way for me . . . which child would I have chosen to watch with??  I'm not sure why this picture is formatting so weird but my K2 looks too cute all eclipse ready!
Instead of heading to the school, I had Kendra and Cady head over here.  We had Sun Chips and Blue Moon.  And Sunny D for Kendra's daughter.  We're really lucky that a local company was a supplier of the Eclipse glasses and set up a "pop up shop" last week with NASA approved glasses.  Kendra braved the lines and got us each a pair.

It was SUPER cloudy for most of Monday.  We were pretty bummed.  But then the clouds would break and we'd grab our glasses and run for a view.  We hit our peak (94%) at 1:22 in the afternoon.  At about, oh, 1:00 the bottom fell out and it started raining.  Like . . . really?!?  We honestly thought we weren't going to be able to see it at all.  And, seriously, the rain stopped and the clouds broke right around 1:20 and we were able to view! 

We took a selfie of all of us in our glasses - but we were also all in bathing suits and, therefore, have decided that picture will never again see the light of day.  Here's a cute one of Miss A though.

And two of my cuties when they got home later in the day:

Aaaaaaand.  One more of K2 that her teacher posted on Instagram.

So, we got 94% in Memphis.  It didn't really get like dusk but we did have weird shadows and the temperature dropped a bit.  The best way I could describe it is . . . weird.  Kendra managed to snap this photo:

We live just three hours from totality so I saw A LOT of Facebook posts from people who traveled.  Honestly, travelling never really crossed my mind -- I hate traffic and I'm not a fan of huge crowds.  But seeing the videos and the pictures?  It made me kinda wish I'd gone to Nashville or southern Illinois!  I snagged this pic from a friend who went to Nashville:
Kids are in their third week of school.  The fifth graders have already had a math quiz, vocab quiz, geography quiz, and math test.  And there's a science test tomorrow.  They're busy bees!  This is also the first year that teachers are marking off for errors in grammar.  That's rocking the boat a little bit but, I mean, they know.  I've corrected their grammar since the "write in full sentence" days.  They know.  K1 is loving fourth grade so far and K2 is a readin' fool on the sudden.  She wants to read all the time and I'm loving it.  (Except, if I'm being honest, I'm tired of the Princess book she prefers.  It reminds me of when J was tiny and we read Click, Clack, Moo approximately 2834289 times an hour.)
Being sick.
Womp womp.  Third week of school and the germs have hit. The Boy was with us over the weekend and he felt so bad until about Sunday afternoon.  It hit J and K2 by Monday evening -- we were calling K2 Marge Simpson because she lost her voice.  All of us have had at least a touch of a summer cold.  Aaaaaand.  On Wednesday I got my first call from the school nurse.  IT'S THE THIRD WEEK OF SCHOOL!  Lord have mercy.  The child in question wasn't running a fever or throwing up so send their butt back to class.
So that's what we've been up to . . . sports, school, eclipsing, sickness.  This is a crazy busy time of year (like, next week I have ZERO free nights unless football practice ends up rained out) but it's also the reason we take it easy and don't do any sports or very many activities in the summer.  We like to prepare that crazy back to school time.  We'll breathe again in . . . in . . . in . . . well, Maybe late May 2018?!? 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Foodie Friday: I Actually Cooked This Week!

Meal planning, my friends!  Meal planning!  That means that I actually cooked this week!  I hate cooking during the summer.  I don't mind making potato salad or a corn dip or maybe sautéing shrimp for tacos.  But I hate turning my oven on and I always think the crockpot is best for cooler months (I know, that's silly.)  This week, though, I was staring down a week full of football drop offs and meetings at the school and all kinds of things.  So, wonder of wonders!  It's August and I actually did meal planning AND cooked those meals

Here's what our week looked like:


Make Your Own Pizza Night

This is a great way to get rid of leftovers!  We buy an 8-pack of mini Boboli pizza crusts with sauce at Sam's for something like $6.99 and use leftovers to make our pizza.  So it ends up being a pretty cheap meal too.  The girls each had cheese pizza.  Mark and both boys used leftover taco meat on theirs and I had a buffalo chicken pizza.  We served with salad.


Instant Pot Pork Loin and Mashed Potatoes

I had a GNO but given that we all know how Monday nights can go, I wanted to make sure dinner was ready for my family before I left.  No way was I leaving Mark dealing with the kids and homework and general Monday-ness while also having to cook dinner.  So . . . bust out the Instant Pot!  I want to post my method here because the kids LOVED this meal.

First, I seasoned a 2-lb pork loin with poultry rub and garlic salt.  I set the instant pot on the sautee setting and sautéed each side for two to three minutes, until seared.  Then I poured a cup and half of chicken broth over, set the instant pot on manual, high pressure for 27 minutes and let the Instant Pot work it's magic.  I started early in the afternoon so, once the meat was done, I let the Instant Pot on "keep warm" for a couple hours.  When I was ready to make the mashed potatoes, I transferred the meat to a foil packet with a little bit of the juice it was cooked in, placed in a Pyrex, and put it in the oven to keep warm. 

Then it was on to the potatoes!  I didn't drain the "juice" the meat was cooked in.  I just tossed the potatoes in (I think I used about eight baby reds) and set the Pot using manual setting, high pressure for eight minutes.  Once they were done, I mashed them right in the pot and added butter, salt, and pepper.  The end result was SUPER flavorful mashed potatoes that my whole family loved.  We'll be doing this again fo' sho'!



Fun Fact: I didn't eat spaghetti for nearly 20 years.  Growing up, we had it all.the.time. and, up until a couple years ago, I would've told you I hated it.  I don't hate it -- we just needed a break.  ;)  Anyway, my kids love it and J requested it last week, with Mark adding an addendum to the request that I use Italian sausage rather than ground beef in the sauce.  I figured this would be an easy one for a football night since I could do the sauce early in the day.  I browned the Italian sausage with garlic, mushrooms, and peppers then transferred to the crockpot.  I added jarred Prego and let it simmer all day long.  My house smelled SO GOOD.  We served over spaghetti noodles with salad and garlic bread.


Shredded Buffalo Chicken

Crockpot again for the win!  I threw chicken breasts in the crockpot and seasoned them with Ranch dressing seasoning, topped with Frank's Red Hot Sauce.  I cooked for six hours then shredded the chicken.  This was one of those meals that we all ate at different times: the girls earlier and then the boys after football was over.  It's also a meal that we all ate slightly differently.  Mark and K2 both ate theirs in tortillas with cheese and Ranch, The Girl and K1 ate it over chips like nachos, and J and I both had ours with sandwiches -- he added cheese and Ranch, I stuck with just Ranch.  This meal was a HIT!  I mean . . .


Cheesy Pasta Bake

We took the leftover sauce from Tuesday night to make an easy, cheesy pasta bake.  I just boiled penne noodles a dente.  Then I mixed noodles, sauce, and mozza cheese and placed in a baking dish.  I topped with more cheese, covered with foil, and baked on 350 for 45 minutes.  Pasta is always a hit in this house and, last night, every single kid asked for THIRDS (and, in a couple cases, even fourths!)  The sauce was veggie heavy, too, without them even knowing.  Parenting win!  (And, believe me, we needed a parenting win after the shit show that was yesterday afternoon/ early evening!)


We only have two kiddos tonight so who knows what we'll do.  Mark might grill, we might go out.  All I know is I don't have to drive any kid anywhere so . . . pass me a drink! 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Thursday Things

1) I'm just going to say it: what our president said in his press conference Tuesday was disgusting and absolutely a low point for our country.  He spoke of violence "on both sides."  People.  One side was freaking neo-Nazis and white supremacists (and one of these people DROVE HIS CAR INTO THE OPPOSING CROWD AND KILLED A PERSON) and the "other side" was, you know, PEOPLE WHO OPPOSE NAZIS AND WHITE SUPREMACY.  I weep for our country.  I cannot believe we have a sitting president who basically sympathizes with hate groups.  Oh wait.  Yes, I can.  He freaking told us the entire time he was on the campaign trail!

2) Let's move on to things that aren't gross, disgusting, and, well, Trumped.

 I'm excited about the eclipse!  And, I'll be honest, this is mostly due to influence of my children (J has already had a quiz concerning the eclipse and we've had to sign waivers agreeing to let them watch) and social media.  But . . . ECLIPSE!  REASON FOR A PARTY!  I'll (maybe, probably, hopefully) be posting about the "party" after it happens but in the meantime I thought I'd pass this along: I'm sending each of my kids to school on Monday with a MOON pie and a single sized SUNny D.  I consider it genius, Mark laughed, and J said, "another corny mom thing!"

3) The kiddos had club night at their school Tuesday night where they received information on the various clubs and organizations.  I learned my lesson last year and limited them to two clubs (in addition to the sport they're doing) each.  We're going to have a busy few months!  J is doing intramurals, football, and playing violin in the orchestra.  The Girl is running Cross Country and doing Girls Club and Ceramics.  K1 has picked football, intramurals, and rocks (the city rocks that they paint and hide all over town.)  And K2 is old enough for clubs this year!  She's doing a special Accelerated Reader to club and also wants to do Glee Club (it's limited to 40 kids and, since she's amongst the youngest, there's no guarantee she'll get in.)  I almost agreed to let the boys do cross country too - they wanted to! - but it interferes too much with their football. 

4) Monday night was one of my last "free" week nights for the next several weeks so I did a GNO with Kendra and Cady.  We headed to Kooky Canuck for burgers and beer and just had the best time laughing and catching up.  It was much, much, MUCH needed girl time.  I'm so thankful I have a partner who will willingly take the kids to let me have some down time.  He even told me Tuesday morning, "my only complaint about your Girls' Nights is that you don't get enough of them."  He's the best.  My friends are the best.

5) Over the weekend, we went to a pretty cool birthday party!  We have friends who live here about 40% of the year . . . meaning, they maintain a house in the greater Chicago area but also one here.  They spend their fall, winter, and spring breaks in Memphis as well as the entire summer.  Their son turned 11 over the weekend and we all celebrated with a Nerf gun battle then swimming at the JCC.  The kids LOVED it!

6) The Boy had his first ever junior high football game!  It was a Saturday night and we had no idea how short it was going to be -- each "game" only lasted ten minutes.  And, unfortunately, the Boys' team scored defensively on the first drive (yay!) but the other team kept getting penalties on offense and the Boys' team never really got a chance to take the field offensively.  He was pretty disappointed and we were a little bit too.  The good news is he's a seventh grader so there are SO many more chances coming his way!

His second game was last night.  I wasn't able to go -- both J and K1 had football practice -- but Mark went.  Aaaaand . . . they lost.  And lost pretty big.  Disappointing.

7) At his practice last night, K1 received his first ever helmet stickers!  He was rewarded for most effort and teamwork.  WAY TO GO KYKES!  He's going to fill that helmet up!

8) Aaaaand . . . to continue all the football talk, J's team went full contact for the first time last night and my baby is BRUISED.  We even had to ice down his arm for a bit last night.  You know what though?  He LOVES it.

9) I had three weeks "off" between the kids going back to school and me getting back to the grind.  And guess what?  We're at the end of week two.  Noooooo.  Make it stop!

10) Basically the most ME thing ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer Reading List: Moriarty and Hilderbrand

When I took the kids back to school shopping, we went to the Goodwill and after perusing the kids' clothes I made my way to the book section.   It was there that I found a hard copy of Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty.  Yessss!  I read the book a couple years ago - via iPad - but is there anyTHING better than finding a good book at the Goodwill??

Three Wishes is the story of the Kettle triplets: identical twins Lyn and Cat and the "other egg" Gemma.  It's set in Australia and, apparently, is Moriarty's debut.  Lovely debut it is!  The book begins by setting the scene at the sisters' 34th birthday party . . . wherein one has thrown a fork - that lands in her pregnant sister's belly . . . and goes backward from there.

I adored this book.  I adore Moriarty (we'll not talk about The Hypnotists Love Story!.) 

One of my favorite things about Moriarty is her multi-faceted characters.  Each of the triplets in this book are assholes in her own way yet they're all so endearing, so goshdarn likeable.  The characters are very well-developed and, honestly, it made me want to be a Kettle sister!  Moriarty did an outstanding job with her character development.  No one in this book is perfect, far from it, and that makes you enjoy the characters and the story all the more.  I think this was a great book and a good starter for a Moriarty novel.  She does have other, better books (The Husband's Secret and The Last Anniversary) are my favorites.  But this is such a cute and fun book, an easy summer read.

"Cute and fun" and "easy summer read" are currently what I'm craving in a book.  So my next pick was another re-read, Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand.

Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married and both families have descended on Nantucket for the ceremony.  Jenna's mother, Beth, died of ovarian cancer seven years previously and, in her final months, kept a meticulous notebook to be used (or not used) as a guide for Jenna's wedding.  The book is told in the voice of three characters: Jenna's sister Margot, their father Doug, and Stuart's mother Ann.  Each character is dealing with and working through heartache, either past or present. 

I really enjoyed this book.  It did invoke one of my biggest pet peeves: the dead person was practically sainted.  I get it, that's what we do when someone passes away.  But the book doesn't tell us any of Beth's flaws and, honestly, some of the notebook passages made her seem a little controlling.  The characters are well-developed, even though there are a lot of them, and I loved how even though it was the story of Jenna's wedding, it's not told in her voice.  It's less about the wedding and more about everything going on at the same time.  Yet, at the same time, still made me want to get married on Nantucket! 

My biggest complaint is that we know Margot did something professionally unethical but we don't find out what until the end of the book and it's alluded to CONSTANTLY.  It was a little much.  Also, I hate that her character - otherwise likeable - was so gullible in the situation.

I wanted to share a couple favorite quotes from the book.  The first one may seem a little weird but this is something I'm struggling with trying to instill in my kids right now.  OWN IT.  Own what you do!

". . . and because she was the mother of three young and growing souls.  She could feed them takeout every night, she could leave them for hours with Kitty, the afternoon babysitter, but ultimately the person who was responsible for installing their moral compass was her.  It was okay to mess up - to set a scorching hot pan directly on a soft pine table and mar it forever, to file for divorce when she was no longer in love and had exhausted every hope, to become utterly infatuated with the wrong person and then commit what was essentially a crime of passion - but she had to own it."

YES.  Own what you do!  The part about installing their moral compass made me choke up a little.  What a honor - and horrifying thing! - to be responsible for that in another person.

 And this line from the notebook:

"He did two things for me every single day of our marriage: he made me laugh, and he was my friend."

So simple, so lovely, and so needed in a relationship.

Once again, this is a fun and easy summer read.  You'll want to be on Nantucket with the characters!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tennessee Tuesday: Tennessee Safari Park

The last week before school started (July 31- August 4th) we had all five kids, Grandma B came to town, and, that Wednesday, our friends Ed and Beth and their family joined us.  And Mark took the week off work and staycationed with us!  We initially planned on traveling but the Boy had football practice and J and K1 had football evaluations and, y'all, FOOTBALLFOOTBALLFOOTBALL.  It's what my life (and mileage on my car) revolves around these days. 
Seriously, we originally planned everything around football.  "Well, can't do anything from around 2:00 for Hay or until after 8:00 for the other two boys.  So, we'll get up way early and go to the zoo?!?"  Fortunately, J and K1 had evaluations end a day early and the Boy's coach decided he wanted to really enjoy the last couple days of his summer break and announced there would be no practice the next day.  We were free (-ish) on Thursday!  The -ish because we did have to be back in time to make it to Meet the Teacher night for the younger four kiddos.
Anyhow.  Long, convoluted way of saying this: we suddenly sound ourselves free until late Thursday afternoon so we decided to make our way to the Tennessee Safari Park.
And, spoiler: WE LOVED IT. 
The park is located in Bells, Tennessee.  From Memphis, it's about an hour and a half drive.  You take I-40 toward Nashville, get off on exit 79, and drive another 15 or so miles.
Monday through Saturday, the park is opens at 10 a.m. and the last car is admitted at 4 p.m.  The park closes at 5.  Gates do not open until noon on Sundays.
The price is $14 for adults, $10 for kids 12 and under, and kids under age one are free.  Feed buckets are $3 each or four for $10.  CASH ONLY!
Pro Tip: If you meander your way out to the Safari Park, there's an Olympic Steakhouse with an all-you-can-eat buffet that's pretty decent and seriously cheap.  When we got the bill, Mark was wide eyed with surprise and how cheap it was and I said, "that's whatcha get with country living, babe!"
One more thing before I get going with my review.  We had four kids in our car (The boy, J, The girl, and K2.  K1 was in Ed and Beth's car.)  We took a poll on who would lose their feed bucket to an animal first and, hands down, we thought K2.  Hold on to that nugget of information . . .
So, getting into the Safari is slightly frustrating (or maybe I was just irritable.)  You sit in a line of cars and then, when you finally get to the window, you understand why: so many instructions!  I get it, they really care for these animals and after listening to the lady I was no longer annoyed.  But keep in mind: there's a good chance you'll sit in your car for a bit before you even get to the gate to pay to get in.

There are bathrooms VERY close to the entrance (our first stop!) and then we set out on the safari.  The rules clearly state that you may go no faster than 5 miles per hour and no honking at the animals.  I set in the way, way back of the car and let the four kiddos squish together in the middle seats so they could hold their feed buckets out the window for the animals.

I'm going to use this ostrich picture to talk about my personal highlight of the day.  We were stopped behind another car and Mark decided to use the opportunity to borrow the Girl's feed bucket and try to throw pieces of it to a bird that was behind a fence.  While he was doing this, an ostrich came right up and stuck his face in Mark's window.  He screamed and threw the bucket of feed and there's a good chance I died of laughter.  Hahahahahaha.  A total "had to be there" moment but, gah, so funny!

Anyway.  You follow a path and watch the animals roam freely.  You hang your feed bucket out the window and the animals come to you.  Some allow themselves to be petted (llamas) while others (zebras), the park lets you know they bite.

We lost our first bucket to a buffalo and guess which kid was holding it?  The Boy!  He's definitely the strongest of all the children so this was a bit of a surprise but, as he said, "I had nothing on that buffalo!"  The buffalo wanted it, the buffalo got it!

Second personal highlight of the day?  A llama SPIT on the girls!  Hahahahahaha.  Seriously, two prissy girls getting spit on by a llama?  I probably laughed more than I should have.  However.  Did not stop them from petting and feeding every llama we saw from there on that.  Nor did it stop the "Llama Llama Mad at Mama" jokes.

There were SO MANY animals!  It was really cool to see all the different species and even more cool to be able to feed them.

One of the last animals on the safari was a giraffe.

Let's talk about this.

All four kids wanted to feed the giraffe.  All four kids clutched their feed buckets close in order to have feed leftover for the giraffe.  Yet they felt the lure of the buffalo . . . the camel . . . the ostrich.  And, one by one, the kiddos lost their buckets to hungry animals. 

Except . . .

Yes!  The one voted "first to lose her bucket" was the only one who had her bucket left!  And, y'all, it's been a week and a half since we went and we still haven't heard the end of this.  "I did not lose my bucket."  Yes.  We know, sweetheart, we know.

At this point I need to tell you: I did not want to go on this road trip.  It was an hour and a half away, we needed to get up early, I did NOT want to get the children up early nor did I want to deal with their moods re: being awakened early. 

And the aftermath is this: I LOVED IT!   And by "IT" I mean the kiddos' reactions to the park.  It.was.awesome.  As I said previously, I sat in the very back so I was able to see most of the "oohs" and "awwws" and "OMG, THERE'S AN OSTRICH RIGHT THERE's."  And you know what?  Just how much the kids LOVED and adored it was so, so, so worth it to me.  I really did enjoy seeing all the animals and, yeah, next time I go I'll be sitting in the front seat to take selfies with the zebras.

We really did love it.


I have to point out the things we didn't really care for --

For starters, we got involved in a "traffic jam."  Meaning: the car in front of us would not move.  Not because they were feeding animals either: because they were afraid of hitting animals.  If your car moves, they will move!  Really!  It was frustrating being behind an insecure driver and, for the record, I so would've been that insecure driver so afraid of hitting Bambi had I been the one driving!

There were a lot of cool animals but I thought the price was a little steep.  Basically I'm saying the price of the feed buckets should've been included in admission.  Because, yeah, why else do you go??

Those are really my only complaints and they won't keep me from going back.  I think we've decided to make this an annual summer tradition.