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Scattered Sundays

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Do you know what’s awesome? Having both kids out of the damn house and physically IN school. Getting to work in pure silence is heaven. Five stars, highly recommend. Will do it again.

Immediately in fact. They return tomorrow! Why are public schools SO AWESOME?!?

a boy holding a sign that says "first day of kindergarten" in front of a white door

Those may or may not be pajama pants. But I’ll allow it.

I’ve been loving the extra work time and not constantly being interrupted by fighting, Nerf darts, or being asked if lemurs have buttholes. Spoiler alert: they do.

In the first five minutes of being home alone, I tackled something that had been driving me nuts for over a month. Being a soccer coach means a lot of “gear” and I had been loading and unloading it out of my car and just shoving it against the wall in the garage. It was always in the way.

With a few penny nails, a hammer, and a plan, I transformed the space into something much easier to navigate. No, I don’t have any before photos, but I’m in love with the end product.

soccer items hanging on a wall in a garage

The carpet remnants on the wall line up with where the doors in my car open. Let’s just say that Bennett isn’t 100% concerned about how hard or quickly he opens his door.

We dropped Bennett off at school and because of Covid, everyone who is not on a bus gets dropped off and escorted into the building by staff. This is fine by me because I’m a big fan of the drop-off and run. Bennett was pretty excited about the morning, got out of the car, waved, and gave us a piercing “do not embarrass me look” as he walked away.

a boy smiling in a car seat

The photo is blurry because he could.not.stop.moving

When he finally went back to preschool after lockdown, the first few weeks were brutal. Crying, snot, clinging to us, etc. Actually, clinging to ME. I wouldn’t let Troy drop him at school because he absolutely would not have forced him to go into class as I did. The two of them would have hidden at a park all day until it was time to come home.

Needless to say, I’m glad we put him back into preschool before kindergarten started. I think it made the transition easier, and my heart goes out to all the kiddos and parents who are experiencing school for the first time this fall.

He survived his first week of kinder, and in his normal “angel in public, devil in private” mode, he did great. He was an utter pearl clutcher about some kids who were talking during class and not paying attention. Meanwhile, he interrupts me constantly.

It was a good opportunity for me and Bennett to discuss why some kids might be having a harder time adjusting to kinder (maybe they never got to go to preschool because of Covid or family reasons, maybe haven’t been around other kids because of lockdown, everyone is a bit feral thanks to lockdown, or maybe, the kid is just a giant buttface in school like your big brother used to be) and that we can only control our own behavior.

The night of his first day, he was a bit dismayed to find out he not only had to go back the next day but that he would be going five days a week. He really only remembers Jack attending school in person 2x per week, and he only went to preschool 3x a week. School ALL week was a bit of a gut punch to him.

He had soccer practice the first night of school and I thought he would crash hard on the drive there. He stayed awake but was pretty tired. Five minutes into practice and I got a text from one of the parents saying they were in the parking lot but that their kid was totally melting down and they were headed home. 

At school, he’s made a few friends, but in typical Bennett fashion, cannot for the life of him remember their names. If they’re not stuffed kitties, he doesn’t have much use for names. He loves having three recesses and two snacks, but they never have enough time to eat lunch. Me questioning him actually focusing on eating his lunch has produced zero moments of self-reflection on his part.

Years ago, I read an article that made the case for elementary schools to reverse their bell schedule and have recess BEFORE lunch. The point of the article was that playing before lunch made kids hungrier.

The article went on to say that hungrier kids ate more of their food and were also less likely to only eat a portion of their food so that they can go play. And that schools that had moved recess to before lunch, reported less garbage waste because less food was thrown away uneaten.

Bennett’s school got a new principal last year, and she has been working to reform some things. For a few of the lower grades, they’re trying out recess before lunch. It has not proven to make Bennett eat more, but also, it’s not magic. My kid eats SLOWLY.

Buying each boy a second Yumbox (<—the prices seem to have gone up quite a bit since we purchased ours) this year has been a game-changer in terms of how many dishes we’re doing each day. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a ton of dishes, but the extra bento boxes are saving our bacon on a daily basis.

a bento box with a cat cookie and other lunch items

When I went to a local bakery to pick up donuts for our Sunday morning tradition, I noticed they had frosted cat cookies. The person behind the counter was new and didn’t see which kitty I was asking for (it looked exactly like Bennett’s stuffed cat, Baby GG), and gave me one that looks like it got in a fight. But Bennett was still SO excited to find it in his lunch.

With both kids in school, and our afternoons/evening packed, this last week seemed like a lot. We were constantly in the car, doing something, and going somewhere. It has definitely made me realize that the “one activity at a time” family policy I created years ago was put in place for a reason.

As I was scrambling to get everyone to Bennett’s soccer practice on time, because once again, Jack’s track practice went late, I realized this was not a sustainable level of activity.

I was at a red light and thought “Bennett’s team are a bunch of five and six-year-olds. Now that games are weekly, do they really need to practice 2x per week and also have a game? I wish the coach would go ahead and switch to practice once a week”.

And then I paused, realized I am the coach, and 15 minutes later I told the parents we were moving to one practice a week. Let’s just say, it was a well-received announcement. 🙂 We’re still going to have two practices for this coming week, but starting the last week of September we’ll be a team full of very happy parents.

2 boys in soccer uniforms at a soccer field

Last week I asked for donations for some kitchen-supply kits that our church was putting together for refugees that are resettling in our community. And ohhhhhh boy, you all came through in a huge way! We raised a whopping $1225, our family matched the first $200, and thus we had $1,425 to spend on these families.

So far, the lovely woman coordinating this effort has asked me to purchase some laundry tubs that we can fill with items and the families can use in their homes. She is tabulating all the physical items that have been also donated by our church members, and then I’ll be ordering whatever else is needed using the remaining donations. We may already have too many physical items and might use some of the donations for grocery gift cards for the families.

As soon as I have my marching orders from the church ladies, I’ll be sharing the details with you good people. And I have already asked the people assembling all the kits to make sure photos are taken when all is said and done and I’ll share those next week. I can’t wait to see it finished, and I cannot thank you enough for your role in making this happen.

a messy kitchen

Recipe testing in a quiet house needs to be bottled and sold as liquid joy.

Thursday morning I spent almost two hours hanging out at a Subaru dealer so they could replace some rear sensor thingy. It was the final step in getting my car officially put back together after that lady hit me back in July. Initially, they said it would take half the day and arranged a loaner car for me.

But that morning, they said it would only take about two hours, so I decided to just stay and save myself the 45-minute roundtrip drive home. I hadn’t really prepared to spend two hours there, but thankfully, I did have my trusty Kindle downloaded with library books.

I decided that wearing a mask and staying inside that whole time was not ideal. Instead, I grabbed a hot cocoa from the self-serve machine, snagged the picnic blanket I always keep in my car, and also a pair of gloves and camped out in the 47F morning sunshine. Chilly but lovey.

a woman reading a kindle while wrapped in a blanket

We got our first real rain starting on Friday, and I’m thrilled! It’s been over 100 days without any measurable rain, and I was so excited to see it! 

Bennett’s game was yesterday and was as highly hilarious as the last one. Why are little kids playing soccer so dang funny? It’s full-on amoeba bunch-ball, and none of them can stay on their feet longer than 45 seconds. Jack has a game later today and I’m so excited to watch them play. Even if it is raining.

My mother-in-law’s birthday is today, and we celebrated yesterday after Bennett’s soccer game. Troy grilled some of the many steaks we have from our Butcher Box order, I made Instant Pot Asparagus Risotto (minus the asparagus), a big salad, stovetop garlic bread, and strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

In the Garden This Week

In preparation for the coming rain, I scrambled on Friday morning to pick as many raspberries, blueberries, and tomatoes that I could. When it comes to tomatoes, ripe or almost ripe ones will split in the rain. Green ones are fine and can be left on the vine.

Raspberries are finicky little fruits and ripe ones will mold after too much rain. It’s a shame they’re so delicate because our fall berries are giant and delicious. It becomes a daily race against time pick them.

tomatoes, zucchini, and raspberries on the ground

I was at the kitchen sink washing dishes (you can find me there about 400x a day) and I said “Troy, did our apple tree tip over, or am I having a stroke”? Good news: I was not having a stroke. Bad news, our mini drawf apple tree had tilted about 30 degrees.

Mini drawf apple trees are an amazing fruit tree option for small growing spaces like ours. They’re supposed to max out at 8 feet, but this one has never read that memo and just kept getting bigger.

Trimming the top of it has been on my to-do list for a while now. We live on a steep hill, so yards are terraced, and I will need to go up into my neighbor’s yard to trim the top of this tree. We’re also going to have to stake it to keep from tipping again.

This tree is growing in our strawberry patch, which as I discovered this year, has really poor soil due to years of neglect by yours truly. This lights a fire under my butt to finally put in pavers or something to raise this planting area to make it deeper, and amend the crap out of the soil over the next few months.

Our sweet baby lettuce starts are doing well, especially with finally getting some rain. I took the shade cloth off so that they could get a great drink of all that sweet free water. I’m so tired of watering.

What I’m Listening To This Week

A few weeks ago I was interviewed on the Food Blogger Pro podcast, which is pretty much the OG of blogging-related podcasts. It was such an honor to be on the show, especially since it was this very podcast that motivated me to keep blogging when I was fed up and almost quit in May 2017.

It’s a pretty nerdy/business/jargony episode, but if you’re interested in hearing about my blogging journey, or are interested in starting your own site, it’s a decent listen. It was recorded when I had a cold in August, so there is a lot of me sucking air in to answer questions after I had just muted my mic to cough my face off. Charming.

What I’m Reading This Week

I sucked it up and really got into When The Stars Go Dark, and while sad, the writing is beautiful. I’ve been spending a lot of time waiting in cars these days, and am moving through this at a fairly steady clip.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Long-time reader, Lisa, left this five-star review on our French Onion Pork Chops {Pin this recipe}:

These were so goood! I did not do the French onion soup but the pork chops were so flavorful and juicy. Excellent and I will be adding this to my weekly rotation.

a pan with boneless french onion pork chops

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Dry Brined Chicken (my friend texted me in a panic this week thinking I made a typo and accidentally published a post called “Dry BURNED Chicken”. This friend has also realized that putting her glasses on first thing in the morning is a good policy. Oh, and it is her birthday today, so happy birthday, Elaina!) – Learn the secrets to making the perfect Dry Brined Chicken each and every time. This is hands down the best roasted chicken you will ever make. {Pin this recipe}

paleo roast chicken on a white plate with herbs and lemon

Homemade Vanilla ExtractMaking your own Vanilla Extract Recipe is so simple and makes the best handmade gift. There are even free printable labels in this post for your own bottles! If you have a pressure cooker, I’ll even teach you to make Instant Pot vanilla extract. {Pin this tutorial}

three bottles of homemade vanilla extract with a dish of vanilla beans

Crispy Butternut Squash FriesCrispy and so delicious, Butternut Squash Fries are a garlicky craveable snack or side dish. This healthy butternut fries recipe is Whole30 compliant, paleo, gluten-free, and vegan. {Pin this recipe}

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  1. How to Can Pears – our family’s favorite canned fruit! {Pin this recipe}
  2. Canning Peaches – the queen bee post of summer has been dethroned! {Pin this recipe}
  3. Canning Apple Butter – this post has both canning and freezing instructions. And it will make your house smell AMAZING. {Pin this tutorial}
  4. Crockpot Spaghetti Sauce – everyone is using up all the last of the garden goodness. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Canning Applesauce – such a tasty sauce that can be made without any added sugar. {Pin this tutorial}

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12 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. I am listening to the podcast episode now. I am so freaking proud of you and thankful that you were willing to answer my questions about your job years ago!! ❤️

  2. I recently made your homemade vanilla extract and I  used it in some ricotta that I sweetened a bit and spooned raspberries over for dessert. You inspired me to plant those raspberries a few years back and they are amazing with the homemade vanilla!

    Great podcast!!

  3. I look forward to reading your post on Sundays, but there was no weekly menu. Are you doing away with that?

  4. Nice to see the new school year coming together. I hope all continues to go well. Iwaited once in a car dealership and they never told the service guys I was waiting, so my car sat in the parking lot completed while I was left high and dry in the waiting room. Story of my life .

  5. Congrats on being The Cool Coach!  Making lives easier!

    Our garden is still churning out all varieties of peppers but, sadly, when my husband asked why the pasta I made tasted “different” (meaning “worse”) than usual, I had to tell him we don’t have fresh basil anymore.  It is still in the 90’s and sunny here and I think the basil just Had Enough.

    This week, in addition to my daughter’s cross country practice, I have Open House at school Wednesday and won’t get home until almost 7:00.  So today I’ll be chopping veg for fajitas, lo mein, Mexican quinoa, and bolognese, AND defrosting a cheater Costco chicken tikka for Open House night.  Sunday afternoons make the whole week work!

    • Oh boo! Do you think you could start another basil plant and see if it limps along until fall?

      “Sunday afternoons make the whole week work” would be a fantastic apron. 🙂

  6. We will definitely be trying the french onion prok chops this week! I am so glad that B liked his cat cookie and is adjusting to kindergarten. What are your plans for once soccer season is over?

    • Can’t wait to hear your GF/DF substitutions!

      Post soccer is unclear. Jack had been talking about maybe doing basketball, but the idea of an indoor winter sport during a pandemic is not exciting to any of us. If he really wants to do it, we’ll look into it. He’s played sports with a mask before and is not a fan. 🙂

      He also starts confirmation classes through church this coming Sunday, and that might also dictate our post-soccer schedule. He hasn’t been attending mid-week youth group meetings because of soccer and it would be nice for him to do that when sports are done.