{Tyke Bites} Easy Go-Tos & One Pan Dinner

Welcome back to another installment of Tyke Bites, where I share a random day of meals for my two-and-a-half year old quadruplets! (You can follow the underlined link, or visit the Tyke Bites category found in the sidebar on the left to view all my posts about what the kiddos are eating.)

It was an ordinary day at home so I decided to give the kids a slightly out of the ordinary breakfast by adding some whipped cream and sprinkles to some of our favorite waffles, Earth's Best frozen organic mini waffles, along with fresh berries and Applegate Naturals turkey breakfast sausage links (they usually eat two to three links apiece, but we just start off with one).

Lunch was a quick and easy go-to: turkey lunch meat, cheese, raspberries, banana, pretzels and cheez-its. The kids got a kick out of the meat and cheese being rolled up and some ate it that way while others separated the pieces first. As any mom knows, sometimes variation on a popular item is all it takes to revamp interest!

For dinner, I did a one-pan meal to keep things simple. Rachael Ray's roast pork chops with green beans and potatoes was fairly popular, paired with bananas and cheese cubes. 

Occasionally the kids will get a graham cracker in between breakfast and lunch if they start getting hungry, but we typically save a regular snack for that long stretch between lunch and dinner (generally they get it after post-lunch naps). That ranges anywhere from white cheddar popcorn, pretzels, goldfish with raisins, dried fruit, etc.

What are some of your favorite go-to's or easy quick-fix meals?

Happy eating :)
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P.S. Don't forget you can find all my Tyke Bites meals and other tot-friendly fare on my Pinterest board here!


New Entryway Decor & My Cleaning (Sort Of) Schedule

I love having a clean house. But reality often interferes and my house is a mess 80% of the time. Having people over is a huge motivator for the husband and I, because we'll blitz the whole place prior to guest's arrival and have everything tidied up and sparkling. With the New Year, I wanted to adopt a new mantra of house cleaning. (But also not get crazy overwhelmed when things fall out of order, either.)

Below is the cleaning schedule I was actually successfully maintaining for awhile, but then completely got off track around the holidays and am now hoping to resume again. It breaks everything down so that I don't feel like I have to do 18 things each day, yet it's enough to keep the house in good shape and dust from growing on my walls. I also have to tell you right now that meal planning each week is the best thing ever. It keeps the guess work out of cooking, I plan my meals based on what days are busier and which days I'll have more time to prep food and it enables those who might be home with the kids when I'm not (the husband) to stay on track. I've been using this simple meal planner for months now....and if you love my cleaning schedule sheet, you can download or print your own copy right here—because I believe in sharing. :)
Though I try my hardest not to let the mess cause me stress—and put play time with the kids, work and family time first—sometimes I just can't take it anymore. I'd fallen so behind in house cleaning then I'd packed up all my Christmas decorations and hadn't repaired any of the aftermath that my foyer looked like this...


But I got randomly motivated on Monday while the kids were at school and was able to speed clean a few things, including my floor that was covered in a lovely array of crushed graham cracker, and now I feel better. Or at least my eye has stopped twitching.

During Christmas, I got several of the cheapo white frames from Ikea for the wall that you see as soon as you come in the front door. I had Christmas tree coloring papers that the kids had decorated and then new family photos we had taken, which are still on display. Now that the holidays have come and gone, I wanted something fresh so I printed out some free wall art courtesy of Pinterest and am loving the new look! Plus, I've ordered some new black and white prints of the family and the kids to replace the current images for a less holiday-ish vibe.

Texas printable (other states available) | think deeply quote
...more free printables available here

A few simple light-hued accessories, photo frames, candles, flowers and one lamp later, I was satisfied with the refreshed look and it no longer looked like I hoarded laundry, toddler shoes and graham cracker crumbs when you enter my house. It was a close call there for a little bit, y'all.

And a cleaned up foyer and living room means it's the perfect time to have four two-year-olds leave a fresh trail of popcorn behind them as they settle onto the couch for a Disney film. Good thing they're cute. :)

Do you have some awesome printables? New decor up? Cleaning tips or schedule? Send me a pin on Pinterest, fool, or share a link to your fave stuff in the comments below.

Happy (almost) Friday!!
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Weekend Recap (Plus a Cookie Book + Craft!)

Weekends don't typically include Thursdays, but I'm tossing in a couple photos from our Thursday evening because it involved a play date with our fellow quad squad besties at their house and the husband got to come along! He'd been out of town for work so not only was I all too happy to see his face at long last, but also for him to get to join us and see the kids at play with their buddies. It was a wonderful evening and Amber (my quad momma BFF, and yes we even share the same name!) made such a delicious pot roast for dinner and all eight two-year-olds played their little hearts out.

On Friday morning, I was planning to take the kids somewhere but hadn't finalized my plans yet when the husband called. It was a chili cook-off at his office for lunch and he was game to have some pint-sized visitors, so we loaded up and headed off to join them! The kids were so well-behaved and enjoyed lunch. The husband's chili came in second! (I may have helped.) And the entire office got a kick out of Harrison when he managed to conference call everyone's phones and share a couple words with them all. Haha.

On the way home, I started feeling pretty bad. All last week I had a terrible sinus infection and it was just starting to get better when I came down with some pretty bad nausea, throbbing neck and shoulder pain and an awful headache. It stayed that way for nearly two days. :(

We had pizza for dinner since I didn't feel up for cooking, but I did manage to do a book + craft combo with the quads and thankfully the husband was home in time to help. They loved the book and they loved decorating their cardboard "cookies" even more! I cut own frosting-shaped pieces of sticker foam then gave them colorful foam sticker shapes to use as sprinkles. We discussed shapes and colors throughout the entire project and they got a kick out of putting their finished cookies on the wire rack I set out.

Saturday didn't amount to much since I was still feeling badly and the husband picked up most of the slack for me so I could rest. I think stress from the past week may have contributed to me feeling sick, I hate that terrible ache you get in the back of your skull and neck sometimes that literally hurts so much it makes you sick. Ugh!

Sunday was a definite improvement and we got everyone ready and made it to church. The quads just love going to church, they attend children's church while we're in the service, and then we go back on Mondays for school (Mother's Day Out). I also just registered them for summer camp, which will be Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to 2:15pm, as well as pre-school for the fall!!! Can you believe it!?! By the fall, my babies will be three years old (and potty trained, that's happening soon!) and attending pre-school two days per week. I just can't believe we've come so far...

They attracted several admiring onlookers at church while they sat patiently and waited for daddy to go get the car. They are all four so sweet and well-mannered most of the time, especially when we're out of the house. Nearly every time I pick them up from school, their teachers are telling me how polite they are. Music to my ears!

We headed straight to a fried lunch at Chicken Express then home in time for naps. My mom swung by and picked up Kailey and Logan to take to her house for the afternoon, so while Harrison and Trystan chose to sleep in their absent sibling's beds, I snoozed on the couch downstairs. 

After we woke up, I took my two munchkins to a local bounce house for some jumpy fun. They were so sweet together—Harrison would wait for Trystan so he could "help" her climb up the steps to the top of the slide. Then he would slide down first so she could see how to do it and she would follow him. They had a blast and I have to say that two kids is a piece of cake for me!

Now I'm back to four kids, which I dropped off at school this morning, and I'm hitting the ground running with a long to-do list to knock out while they're there. It's a busy week, but will hopefully be a productive one, especially since I'm starting to feel better. I'm still working on cleaning up and organizing my house for 2015, and the downstairs is getting hit today! Stray toys are not barefoot friendly....
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A Bobcat in My Yard, and the Quad Table is Gone!

There was a bobcat in my front yard.

He got a little ambitious and ventured past the green belt behind our house to my very own front yard. He crouched and snuck his way through the tricycles in the yard, very intently eyeing some pray one yard over. I moved from my view at the front door to one from a window in or living room just in time to see him snatch up a squirrel and then head for the wooded area that lies beyond our backyard fence. I couldn't intervene—it's the circle of life and we do have a very heavy squirrel population here. Eek.

I kinda wished I could crouch down and sneak away for awhile. Not to hunt squirrels, but to evade toddlers. But then when I tried that for a second yesterday, the tiny little army that rules my house managed to snag my energy drink off the kitchen counter—a grape-flavored Spark by Advocare if you must know—and proceed to attempt to spoon feed it to each other. Well, I mostly blame Kailey because she was sitting on a kid-sized chair with the other three on the floor around practically begging for a sip of the good stuff. They hadn't had it but for a mere moment—I'd gone to the freakin bathroom for 30 SECONDS IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK—and I immediately took it away and began cleaning up the grape colored stains on the play room carpet.

We've been working on independance around the house so the quads have been free roaming a lot versus being in the play room during certain parts of the day. And I have been trying to maintain structured activities when I can to help keep them entertained. But some days it's honestly okay with me if they prefer to race their miniature shopping carts in a haphazard circle around the house because it means I'm able to empty the dishwasher. So while I worked on the carpet stains, my non-confined crew went to work in the guest bathroom down the hall. They all piled into the shower then proceeded to squirt half a bottle of body wash on the shower floor and start sliding around in it. By the time I got on the scene, everyone was given notice that free play time was over and were quarantined to the play room after a thorough foot washing. I finished my Spark drink and let them watch the last half of Frozen while I undecorated the Christmas stuff from the play room.

Being a mom to several toddlers all at the same time has certainly taught me to not always keep such a white-knuckled grip on things. I can't always be in control. Sometimes I have to give a little in order to get a little. Or we all end up just looking crazy, case in point...

Thankfully the husband and I have kept the crazy at bay and enjoyed a date night for his birthday this past weekend, attending a Stars hockey game (they won!) and catching a late night movie while his parents watched the quads. I swear, my husband just gets more handsome with every year and his patience and unwavering dedication to our family is truly amazing. Love him!

In other news, we've graduated from our beloved handmade quad table to a full fledged easily-seats-six large round granite top kitchen table. It was a big milestone for those little munchkins and they were ever so excited to "help" take it apart and usher in the "new table." We are borrowing our dining room chairs for now and will find some more appropriate ones for the new addition soon. The quads enjoy eating their meals big-kid style and the husband and I are enjoying sitting with them and having solid family dinners.

My babies are growing up!


The Best Loaded Sweet Potato Recipe Ever

When I asked my friend, Vanessa—a rising personal chef in California's Bay Area scene—about some of her go-to dishes that she makes at home for herself and new husband, Julian, she barely got through the first one before I was convinced I needed to recreate them in my kitchen. (And she does some amazing culinary crafting, y'all, so if you're in Cali...)

I'm all about new recipes or reinventing the same foods in a different way, and her versions even incorporate low-carb ingredients. Perfect, I thought. I don't really do diets but I like opting for healthy foods and the whole "less carbs, more fruits and veggies" mantra. My weekly grocery list is predominantly fresh foods and produce as it is.

I got the chance to make this loaded sweet potato deliciousness yesterday afternoon for myself and my friend, Jo Ann, who came to visit us for the morning. The quads had gone down for naps and I immediately went to work in the kitchen since I was eager to try this out. It got rave reviews from Jo Ann, who also intends to make it at home again soon, and I loved how fresh and flavorful it was. Vanessa and I both tend to cook without measuring and just eyeball ingredients, so her recipe she sent me came with no precise amounts. I've done my best to approximate what to add, but feel free to use less or more as you prefer. And yeah, there really is a sweet potato under there.

(Psssst! I've got a handy new printable recipe option available, the link is at the end of the post.)

Half or whole sweet potato per person
1 lb ground turkey or beef (85% lean)
1 can black beans
1/3 cup diced cherry tomatoes or whatever you have on hand
1/4 cup diced purple onion
Juice of 1 lime
Dollop of Greek yogurt
14 - 1/3 cup shredded cheese per person
1 tsp cumin
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Cayenne
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 avocado, diced
Chopped jalapeño to taste
Chopped cilantro to taste

1. If you aren't baking the potatoes ahead of time, wash and poke potatoes and stick them in the microwave, checking every 4 minutes or so.
2. Heat up canned black beans. Add a couple spoons of tomato paste, cumin, salt and some cayenne.
3. Brown the meat in a skillet with some oil. Add smoked paprika, salt, pepper, remaining tomato paste and 1 to 2 chipotle peppers with some of the sauce. Just mash up the chipotle pepper with the spoon and mix it in. The tomato paste should cook a few minutes to caramelize and enhance in flavor.
4. Make a quick "salsa" with diced red onion, jalapeño, cherry tomatoes, lime and cilantro. Add some of the chopped cilantro to the beans.
5. Assemble: Slice potatoes down the middle (can serve 1/2 or whole potato to each person) and mash the inside slightly with a fork. Add some meat and top with black beans, salsa, avocado, cheese and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

This can be as spicy or mild as you want it by reducing or eliminating the peppers. You can also add to or take from the veg in whatever way you want.

For the printable version of this recipe, click here.

Thanks to Vanessa for sharing one of her favorite meals with us! You can follow her on Instagram where she shares tons of mouthwatering foodie photos, scenic travel shots and more. 

Happy eating :)
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What Happens on Mondays?

There is definitely a sort of theme or schedule to our days of the week—which I'm currently working to teach the quads, they have learned all the things that happen on particular days but now we need to understand the order!

Sundays we go to church and have lunch with my parents and sometimes one of the kids goes to my parents house for the afternoon and enjoys some one-on-one time. Mondays are school days and the kids attend Mother's Day Out from 8:45am until 4:15pm and it's absolutely glorious. I pick them up and then run an errand or two (sometimes I have my high school gal helping me if she's here), then we do dinner, baths and bed. Tuesdays are stay-at-home days, with the exception of a trip to the gym with the kids, and I try to do a craft or fun project with them. On Wednesday, the quads go to my parents house for the entire day or my parents come here and help me with them the entire day. It's no secret—I look forward to Wednesdays! Thursdays we tend to hang out at the house and sometimes our beloved Jojo comes over for a visit or we make a Target run. My high school helper comes Thursday afternoons from 4-7 when she's available and the kids enjoy playing with her and reading books and watching Frozen. Fridays we go to the gym in the morning for anywhere from one to two hours, sometimes I even tack on a long hot shower in the locker room post-work out while the kids continue to play in the kid's club. They love going and it's a great way for us all to get out of the house and get some exercise. We come home in time for lunch and naps then play in the afternoon until the husband gets home from work. Saturdays are all about family—whether we're lounging around the house together, running errands or enjoying a family outing.

While that's the week in a nutshell, things obviously flex and change depending on what we have going on. Sometimes we visit friends, sometimes we host or attend play dates (usually with our quad buddies), we go on field trips and check out new places, hit up the local park if the weather's nice, stock up on groceries at Tom Thumb or Costo or make impromptu visits to my parents house if we're all coming down with cabin fever.

This particular Monday, the quads went off to school and I came straight home after I dropped them off. I crawled back into bed—something I've never done on their school days—and slept for three solid hours. It was nearly 12:30pm when I woke up! Clearly I needed the sleep and I was grateful to have the opportunity to get it. I stayed up until 1am the night before finishing 12 adorable Mickey Mouse-themed party favor necklaces for my triplet momma friend. She's having a super cute party for her triplets third birthday!

I opted to take myself to a quick lunch at On the Border and crafted my meal plan and grocery list for the week while I ate. I'm making some new recipes shared by a chef friend of mine as well as one from the last issue of Rachael Ray magazine. Will certainly be posting those after I've made them!

From there, I stopped by a cute local boutique I'd been wanting to visit for ages that was just a couple doors down. Everything in there was charming and they offered monogramming on practically every product. I found a stylish "A" gold monogram necklace for $10 and look forward to wearing it soon.

In the same parking lot was Tom Thumb so I got the first half of my grocery list there. Including some hydrangeas, which I've been buying frequently lately because they're always just so pretty and have been on sale for $7 at Tom Thumb the past few weeks. I tend to always buy some flowers when I make my weekly grocery store trip because I enjoy having them in the house to admire.

A stop at the Post Office and the library and I was ready to pick up the kids so I made my way to our church where they also attend MDO. Their teacher paused before she opened the door to let them all out and told me what incredible manners they have and how polite they always are and how much she enjoys having them in her class. She said I was doing a wonderful job with them and I beamed with pride! There's nothing better to hear as a mom than heartfelt compliments from others, especially those who interact with your children on a regular basis.

We loaded up and headed to Costco for the rest of our groceries, since there are a few things that make more sense for us to buy in bulk and I like Costco's food quality and organic offerings. We stocked up on lots of our snack staples for the kids as well as fresh salmon, chicken, beef, fruit and more.

The quads love to help me unload groceries, which means they take everything out of the bags and set most of it on the kitchen counters and some on the floor. It actually doesn't bother me and I find it somewhat helpful because then I can just flit around the kitchen and quickly put things away. But it does look pretty chaotic while it's going on, and then there's the times that they crush a few animal crackers underfoot or Kailey decides to peel all the outer layers off all the onions.

Anytime I am doing grocery shopping in the afternoon, especially with my crew in tow, I plan for a quick and easy dinner. I had picked up a rotisserie chicken while at Costco so we had that for dinner along with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, basmati brown rice, cheese, strawberries and grapes. And momma had one reallllly big glass of wine. Because in that short time that I was getting dinner on the plates, Trystan stuck her face in a candle (it wasn't lit) and licked the soot on the sides of the jar and Logan was walking across the top of the dining table (we've been eating in there more often versus the quad table). Some days, I am most thankful for being able to maintain a sense of humor...

One bathtub full of two year olds, fleece pajamas and four goodnight kisses later, the husband and I cleaned up some of the mess downstairs then he went to the dining room to work (not an uncommon thing lately) and I took up residence on the couch. I'm planning a birthday surprise this Saturday for the husband since his birthday is coming up. He knows we're doing something but has no idea what!

And basically, that's our Monday. Time to refill that wine glass and craft some more jewelry. Just hopefully not until 1am this time. Either way I've got my Spark packet out and ready to drink in the morning so I can stay energized all day. (Shout out to my girl, Jill, for getting me on the bandwagon with a great energy drink!)

Big plans include a trip to the gym and an afternoon showing of Lady and the Tramp, complete with popcorn. I've been getting classic Disney movies from the library and so far the quads have seen (and loved!) Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella. They loved the mice in the latter and Trystan will sometimes break into song with "Cinderelly, Cinderelly..." It's sweeter than sugar.

Back to our weekly schedule...

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday too.
Wednesday, Thursday just for you.
Friday, Saturday that's the end .
Now let's say those days again!
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday!
(to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star")
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New Years Resolutions, Sweet Videos & Organizing

It's taken about 10 days but I think I've finally made some headway on my New Year's resolutions. Normally I don't make resolutions to begin with—I prefer to just look forward to whatever highlights we have planned for the year and continue my eternal efforts to improve on my diet, health and family life—but this year I was led to make two specific promises. The most important is a spirit of gratitude. A friend of mine wrote a recent blog post about focusing on gratitude in 2015 and it only further spurred my thinking on the topic. I've always prayed frequently and am constantly thanking God for our blessings, be it our healthy babies, a nice home, the husband's job and so on.

Raising quadruplets certainly comes with its fair share of stress and exhaustion. At the end of each and every day, I am completely emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. Two and a half year olds bring on endless questions, tantrums, emotions of their own, energy, defiance and the wonderful will to learn and experience. All great things and all things that require constant attention! But instead of letting my frustrations and tiredness enter all my prayers, I'm trying to focus on thanking God for something good right then and there. Rather than automatically venting about the stress I'm under or constantly asking for answers or help, I want to first come to Him in a spirit of thankfulness and find those things that I would otherwise so quickly overlook. Thus far, it's been both refreshing and beneficial. To find all these things that I am grateful to have in my life or that I appreciate at that particular moment is both positive and uplifting.

As any parent can relate, one moment your kids can be driving you absolutely bonkers and the next minute they can be doing the sweetest thing in the world and make you wonder why you ever stopped smiling. It's the crazy parental pendulum swing of emotions and all that pendulum swinging can wear a momma out! And then my quads all tell me how they're best friends with each other and my heart wants to explode...

...or Trystan recites her ABCs!! I am one super proud momma! About a week ago she started singing the alphabet song, but she'd never really gone past A-B-C and then all the sudden she kept going and sang the entire thing!

The second thing I resolved to do was become more active on my blog! I was doing so well for awhile, even after the babies were born, but the past year or so things have slowed down for me online as life has sped up. But I really enjoy my blog and don't want it to fall by the wayside. It's enabled me to "meet" so many wonderful new bloggers and keep all our family and friends in the loop. It's also been valuable for new quad moms who find out they're expecting four and immediately begin googling "quadruplet pregnancy." Connecting with these new quad moms and adding them to our close-knit network has been a lifesaver for many, including myself. I couldn't keep my sanity without having my quad mom BFF's and group to talk to daily!

Last night and today, I've been able to get started on some New Year organizing, too. Not really a resolution but certainly something that's been on the to-do list for awhile. Our baker's rack in the kitchen serves as the headquarters for all things kiddo-related from medicine, cups and plates to snack cups, puzzles and bibs. Keeping all the sippy cup straws and lids organized was about to drive both myself and the husband absolutely insane and I finally came up with some new containers and a system that works. Complete with some simple handwritten construction paper labels. Fancy, I know.

The quads went down for naps after a mac and cheese lunch and I hit the couch for a few to work on some new listings for my Etsy shop, Texas Take, while simultaneously crafting this blog post and watching some Jack Ryan. Chris Pine apparently has his eye on the blinged-out Mickey Mouse necklace I designed for a friend's triplets upcoming birthday!

Clearly I also have some Christmas decor still up, which is next on my list to pack into the waiting bins that I unloaded from the attic this morning. We never rush to take down the holiday after its over but it also always ends up being February before the last of my Christmas cards make it down from their display. I have no shame, y'all!

After that, while the babies hang out in the play room (or possibly careen around the house with their shopping carts picking up groceries—aka their felt play food they've stashed everywhere), I'm organizing all my jewelry supplies to store in my new storage cart from Ikea that my same triplet mom friend told me about. She knows I love everything turquoise and she always has the coolest gadgets and tools. She's also a master cookie maker and churns out delicious and perfectly decorated treats from her own shop, Sugar Coma Cookies (she's also on Instagram!). They're now a tradition for the quad's birthday and my annual quad mom BFF trip!

Speaking of sweet things, the kids have also been doing more imaginative play and I love it. While Kailey might be trying my patience and my willpower lately, I captured her sweetly rocking her baby doll and singing to it in her little rocking chair. 

She must be picking up that sweet nature from somewhere, right!?

Happy 2015, y'all...
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P.S. As I beef up my blogging for 2015 and you've got questions or topics you want me to cover, recipes to share or more, leave your ideas and suggestions in a comment or send me an email! (There's a convenient little form on the righthand sidebar to type in a message.) Thanks!
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