Friday, February 28, 2014

Too Much to Do, Too Little Time

Today was one of those days where I thought, "Why did I decide to do all of this?"  Nothing about the day was necessarily bad, but I felt like I was racing against the clock every second.  I try not to make too many time-specific plans nowadays.  Everything takes longer than I think it will and I end up having so many interruptions during the smallest tasks.  I quickly feel anxious and defeated if things start to fall behind schedule, especially if others are relying on me.

My plan was to shower, pump, and feed babies as usual during our already packed morning routine.  I then had to bake two cakes and complete the prep work for dinner between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. By 2:00 I needed to load everyone into the van and drive 35 minutes to my sister's house, where I would help my niece make her princess birthday cake.  I needed to be at my other sister's house by 5 p.m. to begin cooking dinner.  I volunteered to bring dinner to my aunt and uncle at 6 p.m. and I promised to bring the kids for a visit.

I forget how much more challenging constant running around is with four young children.  Here are bits and pieces of my race against the clock today:
  • I ended up giving formula for an entire feed because I didn't have time to pump in between baking and soothing babies who refused to nap.
  • I spent nearly ten minutes looking for James' pacifier while he screamed bloody murder, only to discover I had zipped it up in his pajamas after I changed his diaper.
  • I left the house in utter disarray with dirty dishes, baby gear, and trash all over the kitchen.
  • Just before getting on the interstate, I realized my aunt's cake was still in the fridge, so I had to turn around and retrieve it.
  • I spent fifteen minutes in a Panera drive thru  just for some coffee.
  • By the time I got to my sister's house, a whisk and mixing bowl covered in icing had rolled around in the back of the van.
  • After packing up nearly my whole kitchen into the van, I forgot shredded cheese and had to "run in" and buy some.  (There is no such thing as a "quick errand" when you have four kids ages 2 and under.)
  • While cooking dinner at my sister's house, I heard Jackson cry, "Oooooh.  Mommy, I'm wet! I peed on myself." Next thing I know he is stark naked in my sister's shower yelling, "I take a bath."
  • While waiting for my brother to graciously bring a change of clothes for Jackson from his own children, the babies were crying in the living room and the cheese started to burn on my chicken tetrazzini. 
  • The plan was to all eat dinner together with my aunt and uncle, but I had to run the dinner over (three houses down from my sister) while my brothers dealt with a naked Jack and overly tired babies for a few minutes.  I felt bad that their meal was 20 minutes later than I promised, but I'm glad they didn't wait on us to eat.   
  • Even though my aunt's house is just a few houses down from my sister's, I had to put the babies in their carseats and drive there because I couldn't carry all three at once and I knew the stroller wouldn't fit through their doorway.
  • We stayed well past the point of happy babies.
  • The challenge of the day was how many times I could load and unload babies into carseats and strollers.  Final verdict: 9 times.
Despite the frustrations and challenges, I was able to enjoy baking and share/teach cake decorating tips.  The end results brought sincere joy to multiple family members today, which is a greater blessing than I can say. 

Lila was concerned that the cake didn't "look pretty" yet

Two princesses

Celebrating my aunt finishing half of chemotherapy with a cake, card, and necklace
(Pink represents breast cancer, zebra symbolizes carcinoid cancer)

(Un)Fortuately, tomorrow will prove to be just as rushed with more baking, more driving, a birthday party, and cooking dinner for a former teammate.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

So Much Chicken

Over a month ago I took over all grocery shopping for the family.  Maddie and I typically go grocery shopping on the weekend.  I've been comparing prices at various stores and looking through the weekly ads to find the best buys, particularly on ground beef and chicken breast.  I was elated to find this Aldi special in the newspaper:

I left after dinner on Wednesday and purchased 16 lbs of fresh chicken breasts for $27.  Score!

In case you're wondering why I purchased sixteen pounds of chicken, a fellow triplet mom posted a link on how to make and freeze large batches of shredded chicken.  She remarked on what a big time saver it was and that she only buys meat when she finds a great sale and stocks up.   

I placed one 5-lb pack of chicken breasts in the crock pot, along with 4 cups of water, 2 chicken bouillon cubes, a dash of garlic salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of Stevia.  I cooked it on high for five hours.

One of the tips I read was to shred the chicken in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment.  I was skeptical of how that would work, but the chicken was perfectly shredded in under a minute!

Five pounds made just over 12 cups of shredded chicken.

I portioned the chicken into freezer bags with three cups in each.  This was just the first batch:

I repeated the five hour process with the second batch of chicken breasts, and froze the third batch as individual breasts.  After all was said and done, $26 bought me 24 cups of shredded chicken (enough for 8 dinners + leftovers) and 6 large chicken breasts (enough for three meals). 

Some of my favorite dinners that feature shredded chicken breasts are chicken pot pie, chicken tetrazzini, enchiladas, quesadillas and taco soup.  Of course, I'm always happy to try new recipes if you have any favorites to share.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trying to Be Big

My babies are trying to grow up on me.  I'm not sure if I like it.

Maddie sunbathing

James driving the tractor at Discovery Place Kids

Amelia going down her first slide

Maddie taking everything in at the water table

James still figuring out the sippy cup

Amelia jumping
Maddie riding the snail

James nibbling on a banana

Amelia relaxing in the wagon

All three eating dinner at the table

Feeding themselves.  Free at last!

I know it's cliché, but I seriously need time to slow down.  Look at these kids!

FYI, if you're wondering why James looks startled in most of the pictures, it's because I took them with my phone rather than my camera.  The flash on my phone startles everyone!

Cookie Monster

My new selfie
I've developed a cookie obsession over the past two weeks.  It began with replicating my sister's cookie cake on Valentine's Day, and has spiraled out of control.  Our church has a "cookie mission" where we sign up to bake and deliver cookies for local agencies and schools. I made another cookie cake, chocolate whoopie pies, and sugar cookies for the fire department.

Jackson has become the master sous chef.  He does really well scooping out ingredients from the large canisters, though we're still working on making a level measuring cup.

Jack knows the difference between the speeds on the mixer and will ask, "Like that or faster?"

I've learned by trial and error that the cleanest and most effective way to roll out cookie dough is to sandwich the dough between two large pieces of wax paper.  It eliminates the need for flour and doesn't create a sticky mess.

We make icing while the sugar cookies bake.  I prefer to handle frosting and let Jackson be in charge of sprinkles.

Jackson and I make a good team.  With our most recent sugar cookies, he moved the cookies from the cooling rack onto a plate and said, "Here's one heart for Mommy, one heart for Daddy, and one little heart for Jackson!" 

Then he licked the icing off all three!  This kid could get away with murder.

Fastforward a few days...

Jackson wanted to make cookies for the firefighters we saw last week.  I printed a personalized thank you card from Walgreens for $1 and gathered the ingredients for baking cookies. Our first batch of no bake cookies was a major fail.  Apparently steel-cut oats don't quite work.  The taste was great, but the texture was a bit crunchy.  Jesse and I nicknamed these the "colon cleanser cookies".  Needless to say, the first batch didn't make it to the fire department. 

Jackson's preschool is directly beside Aldi.  After dropping him off, the babies and I ran in to pick up some instant oats along with a few other items.  (Sidenote: This is the second time Aldi has been completely out of milk, which meant a trip to an additional store was required.)  Aldi had red velvet cake mix discounted to 45¢.  The babies and I had a dance party while baking red velvet whoopie pies.  I used this recipe, which resulted in a texture much more like cake than cookies.  The batter was very sticky and hard to work with.

They cooled while we picked Jackson up from school.  Jack helped me  whip up some cream cheese icing.  He handed me the cakes while I filled it with icing.


Jackson was so proud and eager to hand deliver the cookies and card to the firefighters.  We waited 'til Jesse got home so I wouldn't have to take the babies. (Plus, Jackson was way overdue for a haircut and the fire department is on the way to Great Clips.)

Jackson rang the doorbell.  As soon as a firefighter opened the door he blurted out, "We made you cookies! I put them in kitchen."  Sure enough, his good memory directed him towards the kitchen.  The whole room was full of firemen laughing and smiling.  They were over the top thanking him and giving him high-fives.  Jackson said, "We not stay.  We go eat dinner." as if he was invited to spend the evening there.  Oh, how he makes me laugh!

I've enjoyed cookie baking but will be returning to my original love this weekend by making a Sleeping Beauty cake and a carrot cake.  Birthday parties and old friends require fun, tasty cakes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Park Deja Vu

The weather was perfect yesterday. Clear, sunny skies.  Warm but not hot or humid yet.  The babies were happy and playful as always.  Jackson was energetic and "ready to go" by 8 a.m.  Those conditions created the ideal time to go to my favorite park.  This park is a bit of a drive, but it has everything.  It's like the Central Park of Charlotte.  Since it is a good 30 minutes away, I like to pack a lunch and spend a few hours there having a picnic, feeding the ducks, playing on the playground and train, walking on the trails, and completing the obstacle course.  I psyched myself up for what an amazing day we were going to have on the drive there.

Unfortunately, Jackson fell asleep on the way there, and he couldn't quite recover from his pissy mood after I awoke him.  He rode in the stroller and demanded I take him to the obstacle course.  Once he saw how many kids were playing, he said, "No! No! No!  I not like it.  It yucky.  I go see train."  I strolled to the train and he had the same reaction. "I don't want the train.  Take me to the swing.  The train's gross." We repeated this nonsense with the slide, swing, and ducks, until my optimistic outlook fizzled out.  Desperate to enjoy the nice weather, I attempted a picnic by the lake.  I spread out the blanket and laid the babies down.

Jackson ran away.  I started to follow him but he stopped about 100 feet away and sulked under a tree.  I calmly talked to him and remained positive about what a beautiful day it was and all the fun things we could do.  

After convincing Mr. Grumpy to join us, he decided to walk.  He then yelled at me, "Stop! Move the stroller off my head."  Sometimes you just can't win...

Determined to not let the tiny dictator ruin my mood, I took the babies out to play in our favorite section.  James had so much fun on the climbing wall.  Obviously he couldn't do much, but his face lit up and he laughed continuously while holding himself up to a standing position.

Our plump Amelia tackled the dummies.

And all three raced laid down towards the finish line, exhausted. 

I knew if I waited it out Jackson would join in on the fun.  An hour after we arrived, he was back to his silly, energetic self.  We spent another entire hour retracing our steps, but actually enjoyed everything the second time around.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fun Excursions

In between all the really terrible, stressful things that happened this week, we also managed to go on several fun outings.  Here are the highlights:

Feeding the ducks...twice. 

Wagon rides: AKA "Let's play footsie until we fall asleep."

Rescheduled Valentine's party:  Jackson could not have been any happier at this Buzz Lightyear he received from one of his classmates

Discovery Place Kids: I finally got all three babies at the water table and Amelia had a meltdown.  Maybe she still has a little diva left in her after all.

While making a necklace in the craft area (hello, fine motor skills activities) Jackson continuously ate the Fruit Loops.  God only knows how many fingers had touched the pieces of cereal or how stale it was.  Sigh... 

Park: Thursday was absolutely gorgeous all afternoon so we spent over an hour at the park.  I met up with some of my new Charlotte Mommies friends.  It was the most relaxing park experience I've had in a while and Jackson wore himself out playing.

Impromptu visit to the local fire station: Seriously people, these were the best looking kindest  firefighters ever.  They picked Jackson up, took time to show him every detail, and explained things in kid-friendly ways.


I had called the department a few hours prior to make sure it was fine for us to drop by. Jackson was absolutely precious and so polite.  Of course he loved the trucks, but he was especially amused at the beds and the fact that firefighters sleep there.

I am so thankful for these fun moments.  If not for the many smiles, I could have never endured the more challenging moments of the week.