Friday, June 29, 2012

Mommy Bootcamp Day #3 (and a Patriotic Craft)

TGIF!!  I am looking forward to the weekend.  We are headed back to where we moved from so I can run my first 5K race:  The Dirty Girl Mud Run.  The extreme heat and humidity is making me lose some confidence in my ability to run it all, but it should be a great time!  

We are in our third day of Mommy Bootcamp and I am pleased to announce that we made it through story time with no temper tantrums and everyone earned a sticker for their behavior while we were out.  These sticker charts are working miracles I tell ya!  They are so eager to follow any direction that I give them that the minute it is out of my mouth they are off and running.  This is followed by, "Look, Mom!  I did what you asked!"  Bravo, kids!  You've earned another sticker.  Rewards are happening at least once daily and I've increased the younger two's charts because they were going through them too quickly!  I feel great about our progress and they are having fun.  We still have our moments, but I don't feel nearly as desperate as I did when this all started!

We are on the second day of our chore charts and they are also a big hit.  This morning everyone was ready to move those circles.  Most of their "chores" were activities we already did daily, but making their bed is a new addition.  This morning my older two kids were downstairs in a flash and yelling up to us to check out their beds.  What pride they had in their accomplishment.  It goes to show you that you shouldn't underestimate a.) what they can do and b.) the pride they feel when they are able to complete a "big kid" task independently.  We are all learning some valuable lessons throughout this adventure.

Next week we will be focusing on smooth bedtime routines and keeping kids in their beds.  That is like real bootcamp as the sleep deprivation that comes with parenting is horrible.  Very few will tell you that the sleep issues extend much further than the newborn stage.  It's okay.  While it really sucks, I'm still alive to talk about it! 

Given that the 4th of July is creeping upon us, we decided to have some fun yesterday and begin a set of patriotic crafts to get ready for our celebration.  I did two projects to accommodate the different abilities of my kids.  The oldest made a flag by tearing tissue and construction paper to fill in the colors and the younger two glued red and blue stars on some white paper.  The kids were all very excited to be using real glue.  It was the highlight of the activities!  

The flag turned out great!

Simple, but fun

While this was fun, I am much more excited about the goodies I'll be making next week.  I've been pinning away and can't wait to try some new treats.  I hope to share some positive results early next week!  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mommy Bootcamp Day #2: Responsibility (DIY Chore Chart)

Day 1 of Mommy Bootcamp was quite successful.  Both kids ended up with one time-out sticker left, so no one was grounded.  They have also been doing a great job with listening and happily running over to their charts to put up their latest sticker when they've earned it.  Even the little guy is understanding, so I am pleased with our progress from just one day.  More rewards have been given out today and our kindness jar is filling up, too!  Positive reinforcement really does go a long way!

Day 2 is upon us and we are learning a bit about responsibility today.  I finally completed their chore charts yesterday, so we are wasting no time in implementing those.  I was going for a very cutesy chore chart, but conceded to the fact that I couldn't find the materials that I needed without spending a fortune, so I made the next best thing:  an economical, simple chore chart.  

Supplies:  I nixed the spray paint and added a paint pen

Here's the run down of supplies:
-Cookie sheet (Dollar Tree), but check to see if it's magnetic first
-Wood Shoppe Wooden Nickel cutout circles (Hobby Lobby)
-Tree House Studio paint marker (Hobby Lobby)
-Craft Magnets (Hobby Lobby)
-Fine point Sharpies

All together I spent under $15 for the three charts with leftover materials to boot.  I plan to hang them using the 3M Command Strip picture hangers.

Each child has an age-appropriate chart.  Some of their chores are part of their daily routine, but the visual cues will hopefully decrease the number of times I have to repeat myself to get these daily tasks done.  The oldest has five chores:  make bed, get dressed, brush teeth, clear dishes from table (which I move over before each meal), and clean up toys.  The middle has four chores:  make bed, get dressed, brush teeth, and clean up toys.  The youngest has three:  get dressed, brush teeth, clean up toys.

Once they completed their chore, they happily ran over to their charts and moved their circle to the done side.  We will continue to add to these as more tasks become age-appropriate, but I am happy with what we have now.  It gives everyone a sense of responsibility and they feel a sense of accomplishment.

The simple chore chart

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Kids Begin "Mommy Bootcamp": Day 1

Mommy confession:  things in my house seem a bit out of control.  I sat down with my husband last night to discuss my frustration with how the kids are behaving and the troubles that we are having.  While he understands to some extent, he is not here all day to deal with the whining, inability to listen, and the effects of children not getting enough sleep.  While he can be sympathetic, I feel it's my job to take action and come up with a plan.  Hence "Mommy Bootcamp" (and no this is no fitness regime for moms!).

In my former life, I as an early childhood special education teacher.  My classroom was well-structured with a consistent routine and I had a discipline system in place.  My home has now become my classroom.  I have decided to create a positive reward system, but will still be using negative consequences (time-out and grounding) as well.  These are all things I have done in the past, but consistency is my downfall.  Let's be honest, these things take time.  You have to pay careful attention to catch those desired behaviors and reward them.  You also have to stick to your guns and take those favorite activities or toys away, which in turn usually leads to a very loud and long fight from the kiddos.  This is something that I have to commit to, for longer than a few days, and I have made the decision to do so.  Sigh...

Today is Day 1.  Let the lessons begin.

My first step was to choose one behavior for each child that I would like to diminish or eliminate all together.  It was hard to choose just one!  My oldest has a tendency to be "the boss," especially of his sister.  While at times this can be helpful, most of the time I find it very annoying as does she.  The biggest problem with this behavior is that he is too busy worrying about other people that he can't get done what he needs to do.  I warned him:  anytime you boss your brother or sister around you will sit in time-out.  He sat twice before he'd been up for an hour.  The rest of the morning went better!

It was a bit harder to choose a behavior for the younger two, as I feel like it's harder to get the point across, but we'll try just the same.  My middle child is three and I find this to be a very difficult age.  In my opinion, it's more the terrible 3's than 2's.  She is the queen of doing the polar opposite of what is asked of her.  This is the behavior that I have chosen to work on.  I have been using the "1,2,3" system with her and if she doesn't stop, she ends up in time-out.  I am going to retire that system.  When she deliberately disobeys me, she will be sitting in time-out.  She could be spending a significant portion of her day there at this point, but I am hopeful that it will change.

Our youngest has an issue with his temper.  He goes from zero to sixty in .5 seconds I swear.  The screaming, hitting, and head-butting need to go.  He'll be spending some time in his pack-and-play for timeout when the monster emerges.  At least I can close the door!

Time-out is the method I am using to diminish or eliminate these behaviors.  I had gotten a little bit lazy about how long they are sitting in time-out, so we are going back to the rule of one minute per year of age.  The older two have been given limit on how many time-outs they can get.  I have made a sad face on sticky notes and placed them on what has become my "behavior system" wall.  The oldest gets three sad faces and the middle child four.  Each time they get a time-out, they have to take one down.  If they run out of stickers they are grounded from tv for the rest of the day.  If it's late in the day, they're grounded the following morning.  This has been a rather effortless system.  The minute the timer goes off, they have both been going over and taking a sticker down.  There's something about seeing only one sticker remain that has been motivational.     

The sad face sticky notes for time-outs

Listening has also become a problem in our home.  This is a big deal, because they all feed off of each other and before I know it I feel like I'm in a three-ring circus.  This is especially difficult when we are trying to go somewhere.  There are days when it's taken me 15 to 20 minutes to get everyone ready to go out the door and two of them can get ready independently.  It frustrates me to no end.  With two kids going to school in the fall, this really has to stop.  Enter in the sticker chart.  

Each child has been given a chart that is age-appropriate.  My oldest has ten boxes with the numbers 1-10 (this is also a good math lesson for addition), the middle has five pictures, and the youngest two.  I made them myself, but there are many online with a variety of characters and amount of boxes to be filled.  When they have filled up their chart, they get a reward.    

The key is to find what motivates each child.  This is also easier to figure out for the older two, as they can verbalize what they think a great reward would be.  So far they've come up with playing a game, watching a show, and reading a book.  I am trying not to use prizes or food for them, as I don't want to spend a bunch of money on Dollar Tree junk or load them up on sugar.  The younger one, however, really only responds to treats at this point.  I've decided on a fruit snack (yes, just one). 

The kids are eating this up.  The younger two have already received one reward today and the oldest is close.  This is where I have to be diligent about paying attention and giving them that sticker when they listen the first time.  We've all done quite well today.  I'm hoping some more rewards will be given out this afternoon.  The older two think this is really fun, as they get to choose their reward.  Giving them that sense of control is key.  My youngest is enjoying putting the stickers on the trains and having a treat.  It's a win-win!  

Sticker charts:  Pictures reflect their interests
This is just the beginning of our adventure.  I will be adding some new things into our daily routine and tweaking what isn't working.  Stay tuned to see how we're progressing!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I'm a Frugal Mom

My job description goes a little bit further than "Mom."  One of my other responsibilities is finance.  I am working on creating a budget for our family and moving to an all-cash system.  I'm giving myself a few months to get a rough budget in order since our lives have changed quite a bit in the past few months, but it is something that needs to be done.  In the age of plastic, it is easy to swipe the card at the checkout and not even pay attention to how much you've spent.  I have started to use cash for groceries and after running around to the different stores I now know how much I've spent.  I think the days of swiping the magic debit card are coming to an end!

I like to shop around to find the best price for everything.  I am a grocery ad reading, coupon clipping, online shopping mom.  Yes, I understand that this takes more time, but when it comes down to it we are living off of one income and saving money whenever possible is a must.

One of my favorite money-saving sites is Ebates.  Whenever I am purchasing online, I log into Ebates and see if my store participates.  The concept is simple:  enter a website through Ebates and receive a percentage of cash back.  The hardest part is remembering to start at the Ebates website!  Most of the time, the cash back is a small percentage of your total purchase, but there are times throughout the year where the percentage of cash back may be doubled or more.  You receive a check every three months if you have more than $5 in your account.  This can be a really good deal if you like to do your Christmas  shopping online.  I have received several checks and love that it's so simple to do.

A lot of stores also allow you to shop online and pick up your items in the store.  This is another great way to save some time and money, as you can still access the store through Ebates and receive your cash back.  I have one tip, though:  always keep your order confirmation.  I have had a few times where my purchase didn't get credited, but they keep tracking tickets on the website and you can provide your order confirmation to solve this problem.

If you shop online, give it a try!  Who doesn't like free money?  You can check it out by clicking:


Happy shopping!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Summer Treat: Ice Cream Sandwiches!

My oldest son has a peanut allergy, so at times in can be hard to buy the "fun" goodies at the store.  We are unable to purchase bakery items and many pre-packaged treats, so I have taken it upon myself to make those items myself.  Over the years I have found that I really love to cook in general, but I love to make fun baked goods.  So much, in fact, that I've started a little business out of my home making goodies for parties.  It is something that I truly love to do and it brings me great joy!

This weekend we had some friends over for a BBQ.  I had come across a recipe for brownie ice cream sandwiches in my Everyday Food magazine that I wanted to try and this seemed like the perfect occasion.  I had also promised the kids we would make homemade ice cream, so we killed two birds with one stone!  They turned out great and everyone devoured their sandwich (and some had a few more!).  The best part about this recipe, though, was I knew every ingredient that went into it and there was no "extra" filler junk or high fructose corn syrup.  Just delicious chocolate brownie and vanilla ice cream.

The recipe was very easy and quick to make.  The only hiccup I came across was transferring the brownie without it cracking.  Another try at it, though, and I think I could do it.  Here is the recipe:

Brownie Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 stick unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 pints ice cream softened (I used homemade)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10-by-15 inch jelly-roll pan.  Line with parchment, leaving a    2-inch overhang on short sides, then butter paper

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together butter and sugar, then whisk in eggs and salt.  Add flour and cocoa and mix until just smooth.  Spread in pan.  Bake until brownie is dry to the touch and edges have begun to pull away from pan.  10 to 12 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes.  Using paper overhang, transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

3.  Transfer brownie to a work surface and cut in half crosswise.  Cover pan with a large sheet of plastic wrap and place one cake half on it.  Spread with ice cream, invert remaining brownie half on top, and wrap tightly in plastic.  Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

4.  Unwrap, cut into 12 pieces, and serve.  (To store, wrap each sandwich in plastic and freeze, up to 1 week).

*We have a Cuisinart ice cream maker that is fabulous.  It is so easy to use (no rock salt) and in 30 minutes the ice cream is ready.

 The smallest critics thought they were great!

The pan of yumminess!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Happiness Project

As I had previously mentioned, I struggled for a long time to have an identity other than "Mom."  For some reason, once our oldest son was born, I just let go of most everything I enjoyed doing and let my child-rearing take center stage.  In hindsight I realize this was a big mistake, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.  He was our first child and I wanted to do everything right.  I read the parenting books and magazines religiously and closely followed my birth board on Baby Center.  It just seemed natural that my life was consumed by this beautiful little boy we had brought into this world until my eyes opened one day and I realized that I had lost myself.  My husband would often ask me, "What do you like to do?"  I really had no answer other than being a mom.  

One hobby that I enjoyed before baby was reading.  I loved to pick up a good mystery or romance and read it front to back in a few days.  I decided that I would like to pick that back up again.  Over the course of the past four years I have read many books, though my tastes have evolved.  Don't get me wrong, I still love "mindless reading" as I call it, but I have also dabbled in the non-fiction world as well.  I usually choose some inspirational or thought-provoking book and try to apply it to my life. Now the majority of the books I check out from our local library are from this genre.

Earlier this year I read a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I enjoyed it and it made me think about my own happiness.  Wait, you might think, your own happiness?  Up until that point it was something that I never really gave much thought to.  I was always going out of my way to make others happy, especially my kids, but I didn't really do much for myself.  This book opened my eyes a bit and I began my own version of a "happiness project."  It was not a very in-depth project.  I bought a journal with three sections and created areas I'd like to work on:  health, personal, and financial.  Each month I would create three goals in each of those areas and track my progress weekly.  I would challenge myself to go out of my comfort zone a bit, but I found that once I completed my goals I was indeed happier.

This went well for a few months and then the big move came into the picture.  I had to put my project on hold, as I was too busy looking for a new home and packing up our belongings.  Now that we are beginning to settle in, I resumed my project in the beginning of June.  I am finding that it is helpful to set those personal goals and it still brings great joy when I accomplish what I set out to do.  While it is still a work in progress, I am making an effort to bring some balance back into my life and this seemed like a great way to focus and track my progress.  

I would encourage you all to set some goals each month and work to meet them.  My goals are all over the place from trying a new exercise class to using reusable bags instead of the plastic bags at the store.  They are by no means crazy, but they are little things that make a difference to me.  The beauty of this project is that each person's is unique.  It makes you think about the little things and what you could change to bring more happiness into your life.  You know how the saying goes, "Happy Wife, Happy Life."  Go ahead, give it a shot!  

It's the little things in life


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I'm a Creature of Routine

I have found that I have unintentionally created a weekly routine for myself.  One would think this would not be the case since I stay at home with three young children and you never know what the day will bring, but it is.  I have a Type A personality.  I like a plan and I try hard to stick with it.   Since we have moved, I have tried to alter the "schedule" that I had created for myself, but in less than a month I have returned to my old ways and added more to that routine.  Instead of viewing this in a negative way, I am going to roll with it and be proud that I have a plan.

After years of spending Saturday mornings cleaning the "priority" areas of my house, I am making a conscious effort to quit.  Just like those who have Monday-Friday jobs, I would like my weekend to be free of "work."  This has added some pressure, though, to schedule these tasks into an already busy week.  I have decided that I will divide and conquer, as I don't have enough time to finish it all in one day at home alone with the kids.

This brings into play my other lists.  About a year ago I finally decided I needed to purchase a spiral notebook to write all of my lists in.  My lists were scattered everywhere with many different titles and I was losing them causing me to make yet another list.  For now the spiral notebook is the solution.  I'm thinking of changing it up a bit soon, though.  Perhaps a DIY dry erase board will spice up my daily "to-do" list.

These days, my weekly schedule looks something like this:

Monday:  Clean the bathrooms (why not knock that one out right away!).
Tuesday:  Dust
Wednesday:  Wash towels, vacuum upstairs, plan the meals and create the grocery list
Thursday:  Kids' laundry and vacuum downstairs
Friday:  Our laundry

When I look at everything broken down this way it seems attainable.  I don't feel overwhelmed and it is good to know when I get up in the morning what I need to accomplish that day.  I'm sure women of previous generations would think this is a pretty skimpy list of "chores."  I feel like the older generations put more value on a clean house than I do.  For me, I want to make sure that the basics are covered and anything I can do additionally is a bonus.  After all, who has time to mop the floors once a week?  Not me!

I have found that my kids are creatures of routine as well.  If possible, we start and end our day the same way every day.  The upside to this is they know what to expect and we can work our way through our morning and bedtime routines.  The downside, however, is when that routine is changed ever so slightly and the meltdowns that occur.  We do our best to get through it all, but I have to admit that I empathize a bit when we throw them off their game.  I don't like it much either!

All things considered, I think being a creature of routine and having my lists keeps me sane and moving forward as a stay-at-home mom.  When I was a teacher, it was how I ran my classroom and prepared my lessons.  Everything was quite predictable and planned out.  It's just how I operate.  I am a planner and I'm proud of it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

Being a parent is by far the most important job in the world.  If I were to write a job description for being a parent, it would go something like this:  "Responsible for feeding, clothing, teaching, shaping, providing, loving, and caring for an individual day in and day out for the next 18 years and beyond."  That, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.  Being a parent is tough.  Each day brings new challenges, surprises, and joy.  It is a constant learning process with ups and downs.  Some days you feel successful and others you feel like you have done nothing right.  The fact of the matter is this:  at the end of the day there is still someone who thinks you are the most fantastic person in the world....your child!

As a parent, you are your child's first teacher.  It is our job to mold these impressionable little beings into good people.  There are times when it is easy to forget that someone is watching your every move (or so it seems) until you hear or see something you wish you hadn't.  Come on, you know you've all been there!  I do my best to correct the problem and move on.  After all, no one is perfect!

Kindness is a virtue that we feel strongly about.  We encourage our children to be kind and respectful to others.  This behavior starts at home.  As in all families, our kids fight.  They are close in age, so their interests overlap and this can cause some problems in our home.  It is my goal to teach my kids to resolve their problems in a calm and kind way instead of screaming at and hitting each other.  Now that summer is here and all three kids are home every day,  I knew we needed to make something to create some incentive to think about our actions and words.

It is a well-known fact that kids respond better to rewards than punishment.  Our kids are familiar with both, but I am trying to come up with more positive ways to shape their behavior versus just using time-out and/or grounding.  In order to cut down on the fighting, I decided to reward kind behavior.  Yes, this takes more effort on our part to pay attention and remember to reward them, but in the long run I think we'll all be better for it!

Today we implemented the "kindness jar."  I needed to use something that wasn't breakable, so we upcycled an empty parmesan cheese container to make our jar.  I broke out the old glue gun and glued some foam bugs on the container to dress it up a bit.  I also bought colored poms to fill it with.  The concept is simple:  if you are kind to someone in the house, you may put one pom in the jar.  If you are unkind, you have to take two poms out.  Once it is full, the whole family will receive something special.  Easy enough, right?

Since our kids are still pretty young, we had to have a discussion about what types of behaviors will be rewarded with a pom for the jar and what will get them taken away.  I added one more rule:  don't ask to receive a pom for something that you did.  I'd like this to be a genuine act of kindness and not an intentional act to receive a reward.  The kids think it's a great idea and I am hoping we have positive results!

Our Kindness Jar

Monday, June 18, 2012

Let's Get Organized!

After the big move, I lost a lot of motivation to actually work on the house.  We unpacked our necessities and took a few weeks off to recover from the whirlwind of packing, cleaning, and unpacking.  Over the weekend my desire to start turning our new house into our home began to stir.  I had pinned some organization ideas to Pinterest and finally to the time to really look at them today to see how I could adapt them to fit my needs.

My two biggest tasks are a control center and chore charts.  Many of you may be asking, "What is a control center?"  Let me share.  I plan to create a space that holds the following:  dry erase board for appointments, games, activities, etc., a menu board, and the chore charts.  I am not the craftiest person in the world, but I think I can make all of these items myself.  I just need to get my supplies so that I can get to work!  My goal is to be sharing the finished product with you by the end of June.

I am looking to bring some order to a home that is a little chaotic by nature.  Having young children lends itself to this, but I really like everything to have a place.  Now that we have much more space than we used to, I desperately need more storage and organization items to create order.  As a former teacher, the wheels have been turning in my head since we bought this place.  How can I create designated spaces for the kids' areas of play?  Even better, how can I teach them to put their treasures back where they found them?

I think I will revert back to the days in the classroom and create "centers" so to speak.  This is a project that I also look forward to completing, as I feel like everyone benefits when a space is well-defined.  There are two areas that I really want to make fun and functional:  dramatic play and arts and crafts.  I look forward to some more DIY projects for these areas as well.  Time to get pinning!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Big Race

It is hard to find balance when you're a mom.  It's so easy to get caught up in all that you need to do for the kids, your husband, and maintaining the household that you may just find that you're forgetting one important person:  you!  I will admit that my first year of being a mom I focused nearly all of my energy on raising our son.  I kind of lost myself as an individual person:  I was just Mom.  Shortly after our son turned a year old, I started to reevaluate things a bit.  I had just suffered a late first trimester miscarriage and was struggling with the fact that we were unsuccessful in getting pregnant again right away.  I was feeling pretty down in the dumps and one day it occurred to me that I would like to make a few changes in my life.  I was hoping to lift my spirits.

When I was younger, I was an athlete.  I played many sports and had a very competitive drive.  I let that go as I neared the end of high school.  For the next 10 years, I would go through spurts where I would exercise a lot, lose some weight, and then slip off the path for awhile.  This was something that I wanted to change.  My husband and I began touring some gyms in our area and decided to join an outstanding health club that was affiliated with our local hospital.  The hardest part of this transition for me was trusting others to care for our son.  After a few weeks, though, I realized that the ladies that worked in the gym daycare were wonderful and there was no need to worry.  It was time to dive into a new routine.  I had something for myself and I began to enjoy my hour or so of freedom several days a week.

 I kept this up for two years and stumbled after our third child was born.  I struggled in many ways for the better part of a year after he was born.  I was overwhelmed and I made the mistake of letting myself go once again.  Shortly after he turned a year old, we headed back to the gym.  This time, though, I went out of my comfort zone and started attending fitness classes.  My eyes were opened quickly.  All this time I thought I was challenging myself, but boy was I wrong!  All of the sudden I was doing things I never thought I could do.  It really changed how I felt about myself and has now become a very important part of my life.

Today was a big milestone for me.  I ran my first race.  This is a big deal to me, because I am not a natural runner.  It was a last-minute event we did as a family and I surprised myself by running the two mile race in 20:11.  I know that's not a wonderful time, but I expected that I would need to walk a good portion of the race.  The competitive part of me had a different idea.  Only once did I walk for about thirty seconds.  The rest of the time I ran.  I was very proud of myself when I crossed the finish line.  I proved to myself that, once again, I can do more than I give myself credit for.  It has inspired me to do more.  Best of all, our entire family got to participate in this event and everyone had a wonderful time.

For all of you struggling to find some balance, take a step back and think about who you were before you were Mom.  Make time to incorporate activities that were important to you and realize that everyone will be better in the long run if you do.  It's amazing how your outlook on life changes a bit.  Best of luck on your journey!

 Three generations on racing day.  

Friday, June 15, 2012

And So It Begins...

Moving has given us a fresh start and I'm ready to hit the road running.  After taking a little bit of time to get settled, I am ready to implement some of the ideas I had envisioned before the big move.  That sounds like an easy task, but I had so many ideas I didn't know where to start.  After a little thought, I decided to tackle our menu.  Let the experimentation begin!

I will admit...I am a picky eater.  Unfortunately, I think that my pickiness has been passed on to our kids.  It was time to make a change, as I think we were all getting sick of the same old meals.  I spent a few days scouring over recipes and within minutes had started a nice little folder of recipes to try.  My goal was to find some easy recipes that were outside of the box (for us).  For the past few weeks I've inserted a few of those recipes into our menu and much to my surprise all of us have found some new favorites!  

This recipe for beef taquitos was so easy and all of my kids loved it and requested it for a "leftover lunch" a few days later:

This particular meal brought a few laughs at the dinner table.  My oldest son loved this new recipe even though it was a little spicy.  About halfway through, he asked for more milk because he had "hot breath."  Once his cup was refilled, he downed the rest of that taquito.  Mission accomplished:  picky eaters loving a new meal!

I am enjoying this new meal challenge and hope to add many more recipes to our rotation.  Stay tuned for more success stories!