the best way to keep boys full + meal plans

If there's one thing I have learned about feeding a big hungry family, it's this: you need lots of roughage. :D 

Inexpensive, homemade carbs like bread, rice, potatoes, and popcorn are some of my favorite ways to keep growing bellies full:

While Rob worked on a house project this weekend, I stayed in my pj's and made a few rounds of food to get ready for the week. I browned 5 lbs. of beef and then made taco meat, a big batch of chili, a pot of brown rice, several pounds of chicken, popcorn, and several loaves of artisan bread throughout the afternoon.

We ended up eating the chili for lunch that day, and have enough left over for a couple of lunches for Rob. The chicken is also mostly for lunches this week, and the rice goes with beans/tacos/etc.

Our meal plan still pretty much stays the same as usual, but lately we've been eating out more {now that it's winter and I want to get out of the house at night} so we really need to save some $$ and eat at home. I'm hoping that being a step ahead with the food prep might help us stay on track a little more this week. :)

Here's what we have planned for meals for 7 this week:

breakfast: oyo {on your own- we have lots of options like cereal, eggs, etc.}

lunch: sandwiches, leftovers, chicken salad, chicken + rice, salad, green beans + chicken, black bean soup

snacks: apples, carrots, bread + butter, popcorn, string cheese, granola bars

monday: small group dinner
tuesday: taco salad {taco meat, salad, cheese, sour cream, salsa, chips, avocado}
wednesday: baked potatoes {I make the whole 10 lb. sack and serve with cheese/sour cream/avocado/barbecue/turkey bacon/chicken toppings}
thursday: meatless spaghetti + green salad
friday: pizza night {we need 3 pizzas now!}
saturday: pinto beans + rice
sunday: breakfast for dinner- oatmeal, eggs, turkey bacon and toast

I think protein is a great way to keep them full too, but for some reason my kids don't tend to love lots of meat, dairy or eggs, {they love just a little, then they don't want it anymore!} so I'm all ears to hear your favorite way to keep growing bellies full! :) They love it when I feed them salad for dinner, but the downside of that is they can and will eat salad for hours {ok, literally like an hour and a half}. :)

Do you meal prep on the weekend? When's the best time you've found works to make lots of batches of food?

how a man opens a can {video}

So our can opener broke {again}. I called Rob in to help me open a can for lunch, and of course in true man fashion he opened it in 3 seconds flat:

He's my hero. :)

goals this week: reorganizing (before), loving on my kids, and more community

Well, it's our first week back at real life. I was quite happy on vacation, but I'm not sure that would work out long term, so back to school we go. :) The long break was bliss though.

As much as I don't want to {ha!}, I'm setting a few do, read, learn, and be goals for this week:

// do // 

  • catch up on laundry {sadly, sickness just doubled it today!}
  • take two returns back {am I the only person who detests returns? Lately I never want to go into a store, ever :P}
  • work 5-6 hours on short-term web projects
  • exercise 5 hours 
  • clean out this cabinet + 1 drawer {they're SO bad!}

// read //

The 5 Love Languages of Children^ by Gary Chapman + Ross Campbell.
I've never read this before, but I know my kiddos have different languages already. I read the adult version a while ago, so I'm eager to learn about how to love my kids in their love language.

// learn //

listen to this 9 minute Look at the Book by John Piper: Will Others Worship God Because of You?

// be //

in community.

This one is so hard! Every night and day is packed with homeschooling, feeding babies, changing diapers, cooking, cleaning up...just regular work. I fall into bed so very tired. Somehow getting together with others in small groups has been so hard with all we've had happening in the last year. But maybe we've turned a corner with the baby being here and the house nearly being finished. :) This year we want to grow closer to our new church family and get more involved in serving alongside them. 

Our preacher spoke on Acts 2 last Sunday, and he mentioned one of the big results of the Holy Spirit making his church is that the people were together! They could bear each others burdens and show the world what love looked like when they loved one another. Is it any surprise that our natural tendency is to want to be alone and do our own thing? "Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment." Proverbs 18:1

the dining room is done for now! At least one time I had one room that was kind of mostly clean, ha! :)
I'm hoping to invite more new guests over for dinner this year- I have a minimum number in mind, but I'm going to try to see how hosting goes with two more little ones. :) We are also planning to join/attend a small group this month, Lord-willing. :)

What is one goal you set for this new month? 

free worksheet  ::: download it here

{^= Amazon affiliate link- thank you for supporting the blog!}

our Christmas 2015 + an unexpected gift

Oh my goodness, Christmas 2015 was the best Christmas I can remember in ages. I will treasure it as long as I can still remember. :) Maybe I'm feeling a bit sentimental, but I'm sad to see this holiday season go. 

To kick off our holiday break, we hosted a "school party" like we used to have at real school. :) Each kid was assigned a snack or dessert to bring, we bought gifts for a secret exchange, and we had snacks while we listened to Christmas music and made sugar cookies. :)

The next week we celebrated Christmas Eve with my in-laws. Every single year I appreciate someone else hosting more and more. :) Rob's mom and dad do all the hard work and provide most of the food for this ever-growing crew, and we get to sit back, relax, and enjoy the day. They're awesome. :D

We were hosting Christmas at our house this year, so ever since Thanksgiving we were working furiously on our house to get more done before we had company. Unfortunately we never even finished our list {naturally right? :P} so we didn't have time to put too much effort into decorating or anything. :) The kids decorated the tree and {gladly} wrapped most of the presents! :)

Food was a big part of the merriment of course. :) On Christmas morning I made cinnamon rolls:

And I decided to cook something new altogether since so many people were coming for dinner this year. I made a 15 lb. brisket, mashed potatoes, green beans, and veggies instead of our traditional taco soup. Even though it took a bit more effort, I think it was a good change. Maybe my nursing self is craving protein, but the brisket tasted heavenly if you ask me! :D

It was this guy's first Christmas to enjoy opening presents, and he loved it:

And though she didn't quite understand what was happening, Ivy had fun opening gifts too. :D

I was excited my mom {below} and Granny got to come this year:

And my brother Josh and my sister-in-law Cayse traveled 7 hours to come see us as well. They brought all the kids these adorable winter hats we'll get to use when we come visit them up north. ;)

And their talented Aunt Cayse always makes something special like this sign for the girls' room:

Then Rob surprised me with some very exciting kitchen goods this year. I think he was afraid to give me all kitchenware but I was delighted- I got a new little dutch oven and he surprised me completely with a blender! Kitchen goods are tools I use everyday so I was in love . :P

Honestly though, as good as they were- I'm not sure I'll remember the gifts given and received, but I know I will remember the gift of sweet moments with our families this year- sharing food and laughter with everyone I love in one room. I realized as we were all sitting together, some of us for the first time in years {!} that we may never have this chance again. We never know what tomorrow will bring.

And armed with that knowledge, I'm going into 2016 with a whole new appreciation for how quickly seasons change... and a little lump in my throat reminding me to consider it all joy.