Sunday Meal Planning

I started meal planning on Sundays a couple years ago and it’s changed my life! I used to stress throughout the day, everyday, about what I was going to cook for dinner that night. I would also spend a lot of money running to the grocery store almost every night to pick up what I needed to make dinner once I figured it out. Meal planning has helped my stress and my wallet. I just plan out meals for the entire week, make my ingredients list, put in the Walmart order and done!

This week it’s New Years and back to work after a much needed and relaxing break. Boy have I soaked up every minute of our winter break and I’m feeling rested and rejuvenated! It’s a nice ease back into the routine this week with nothing too crazy. After spending lots of money on holiday food I made the second part of the week cheap and easy! Here’s a look at our menu this week! (Mamas if you’re looking for meal ideas please copy whatever sounds right for your family. That’s why I’m starting these posts–to help others meal plan and steal ideas and recipes!)

Sunday: Seasoned pork loin, fried taters (which Joshua calls French fried potatoes! I want to try out my new iron skillet I got for Xmas) and green beans

Monday: New Year’s Eve! We are having some friends over for dinner and cards to make it a family oriented, low-key end to the year! We are grilling tri-tip steaks with a big ol’ green salad! Mimosas and sparkling apple cider. Cheers!

Tuesday: I am trying out my best friend’s new recipe. Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake from Tractors and Glam. I will make some garlic French bread and steamed veggies to go with it!

Wednesday: First day back to school! I will be making mini meatloaf squares and baked steak fries. This is a recipe I will have to share sometime on the blog. It’s a good one!

Thursday: Tacos! (I will make mine into a salad) and rice.

Friday: Pizza Night! We love a Friday pizza night around here.

Hope you all have a great first week of the new year!

Friday Favorites

It was our last full week of Christmas break around here and it was a great week! This weekend we have fishing and friends and I can’t wait! Here’s a look at some favorites from the week…

LCSC Warrior basketball camp is a FAVORITE in this house! The Warriors put on a day camp the day after Christmas and Joshua was so excited, especially after getting a basketball hoop from Santa.

Speaking of which, the basketball hoop and watching the boys play basketball is my FAVORITE!

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Have you tried Skinny Pop? Oh my gosh it’s my FAVORITE and a serving is a full cup for only 39 calories. Plus it’s non GMO. Win! I get this huge bag at Costco.

Another favorite has been making a shake for breakfast. In the past I used Shakeology for my shakes but recently I found a new shake at Costco that is all organic and I love it! It’s called Orgain and it’s delicious. I add some pure cacao powder when I’m feeling like chocolate.

Nathan’s smoked prime rib on Christmas Day was a FAVORITE! Mouthwatering. So good. So good.

This necklace my mom gifted me is also my FAVORITE. It’s the last necklace my dad bought for my mom. He bought it for her during their last trip to Hawaii. Hawaii was one of his favorite places so it’s a great memory of my dad.

The boys are going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house tonight for a sleepover which is their FAVORITE while Nathan and I get husband and wife time which is our FAVORITE.

 

Addiction

I don’t know if this topic will become a regular on the blog or not but it’s something on my heart today so I’m going to share something with you. I was listening to Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church. You can listen to his ministry on YouTube and I love to listen while I’m getting ready for work in the mornings. And I was listening to a sermon the other day on how God blesses a broken heart and Mr. Warren said one statement that just hit me in the core in that moment.

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“Your greatest ministry will come out of your deepest hurt.”

And this has stuck with me since the moment I heard it. The thought of taking my deepest hurt, what haunts me the most, and turning it into something good. Something meaningful. Purposeful. Is powerful.

So I’ve been pondering this. How can I do this? What will this ministry look like? I’m not sure. It may take me months or years to figure that out. But I have to start. It has to start somewhere.

What is my deepest hurt? My father’s addiction to alcohol and losing him to his addiction.

I’m starting with research and gathering as much information as I can. And as I do this I want to share the information I find here in this space. And that’s my starting point. I don’t know where it will take me or what will happen with it.

So to start I’m sharing a Ted Talk that I have listened to 4 or 5 times now. The information shared in this Ted Talk about addiction will give you so much to ponder. Just listen and take a moment to ponder this message.

If you don’t want to listen to the entire Ted Talk (which if you’ve ever listened to TED before you know they are no more than 20 minutes) go to minute 12:44 and start there. This is where the dagger pierces my own heart.

 

“For a hundred years now we’ve been singing war songs about addicts. I think all along we should have been singing love songs to them. Because the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” –Johann Hari

Christmas 2018

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This was the strangest feeling Christmas yet and in the spirit of being really REAL (because I’ve said this time and time again my blog is real life not the highlight reel of the social media world) I am so glad it’s over. The first Christmas without my dad is done and I am so thankful for that. Building up to it I didn’t feel this way. I was excited for Christmas and even found myself in the Christmas spirit. But as the holiday got closer and closer I found myself less and less excited about it. I tried really hard to make the best of it for my family but my heart had a significant hole in it. But the boys loved Christmas nonetheless in ways only children can.

Christmas Eve we went to Nathan’s parent’s house. We had French dips for dinner and they were delicious. Then we opened gifts. When we got home the boys got to open their Xmas Eve gift from me. I always buy them Christmas pajamas every year that they open on Xmas Eve. Normally I have a DVD with them but this year they got shark pocket blankets with their PJ’s and they were so excited!

We set out cookies and milk for Santa and the boys went to bed with anxious hearts. Nathan and I went downstairs and finished wrapping their stocking stuffers. Then we went out into the garage and wrapped their basketball hoop from Santa. It made such a giant present and we were so excited for the boys to wake up to it in the morning. Santa also got them basketballs and nerf footballs.

Joshua was up at 5am but I made him go back to bed for a bit. By 6:10am we were all up and in front of the tree opening presents. The bows from their daddy was on of their favorite gifts. And they were JACKED about their new basketball hoop from Santa!

Around Noon my mom came over to the spend Christmas Day with us. My Grandma also came over and we opened gifts with them. My mom gifted me the last necklace my dad ever bought her. He got it for her on their last vacation to Hawaii (they went almost every January) and this gift is so so special. Not only is this necklace beautiful but it represents my dad and I will think of him and Hawaii ever time I look at it.

Nathan’s parents also came over around 3pm and Nathan smoked a prime rib for the family. It was AMAZING! He did good. So good.

We sat around the table and enjoyed a few beers and good talk. Around 5:30pm everyone went home and I was wiped out. Just completely wiped. We all put on our PJ’s and Joshua was more than happy to wear his new Minecraft pajamas. We all were in bed by 7:30pm.

It was a very nice Christmas. I have so much to be grateful for. The health of my babies. My sweet husband. My mom who is getting stronger by the day who has been blessed in so many ways the last couple of months. My in-laws who mean the world to me. My grandma. We were fortunate to fill the house with gifts and were financially comfortable in doing so. My heart was grateful but it was also sad. I missed Grandma Linda and Papa Gene and Papa Jim and my Dad more than my little heart could handle this year. So I’m glad it’s over.

Weekend Recap • All the Christmas

Wow this weekend was packed full and so fun! Friday night after Nathan got home from work we had Papa Murphy’s for our pizza night and then we went and saw The Grinch! What a cute movie and we all loved it!

Saturday morning we headed up to Moscow, ID for the Sprenger Family Christmas (my mom’s side of the family.) Everyone could make it this year making it a full house. It was fun for the adult cousins to watch our children all play together as mini second cousins. We got together every summer and every Christmas when we were little and always all played so well together. So it was fun to watch all our kids together.

Saturday night the boys had a sleepover with my mom so Nathan and I got a date night! We went to Zany’s for dinner then came home and watched a movie.

Sunday morning my mom dropped the boys off and then we headed to Costco for our final holiday prep. We had one more gift to buy and a few little things for our Christmas dinner. When we got home Nathan headed out for his final stocking stuffers and I helped the boys organize their toys and clean out their playroom. By 2pm I could tell the boys were feeling it after a busy weekend. And well Christmas buildup can be a lot on little guys so I put each boy in their own room with a movie for some quiet time. My boys don’t nap anymore so this quiet time was so welcomed by Mom too!

I made chicken and dumplins for dinner and we are in the living room.

Then we all headed to bed. And today is Christmas Eve. Let the holiday begin!!

Merry Christmas!

If Pictures Could Talk

We post all these great pictures. Instagram and Facebook are loaded with pictures keeping our friends and family in the loop and staying connected. But the pictures themselves only tell part of the story. There is so much more that happened around that photo. I always thought it would be interesting if pictures could talk and tell EVERYTHING!

I mean, right? Our photo captions don’t always tell the whole truth.

Like, “This is the 8th selfie she’s taken before finally posting it to her Instastory.”

So if pictures could talk this one would tell you…

…that Grady was having a huge meltdown right before this photo was taken and mom was super bummed.

For the first day of Christmas Break I thought it would be fun to take the kids to see Santa Claus in the mall. They were so excited to get all dressed up in their handsome clothes and Grady said, “We are like twins!” But then when it was time to take their pictures and go Grady wasn’t having it. He started being a turd and refused to stand with his brother in front of the tree for a picture. I got frustrated with him and he started crying. All of our sudden our fun Santa day wasn’t fun at all. So I told the kids we weren’t going anymore and then Joshua started crying.

Finally everyone calmed down and we agreed to go and Grady stood in front of the tree for a picture. Of course when we got to the mall he refused to go anywhere near Santa. Little turd.

The funny thing is I posted this picture to Instagram and I’m sure people thought we were doing something fun that day or something holiday related and all was happy. But the truth behind the lens is it was tears and fighting and frustration.

And that’s what you’d learn if pictures could talk.

Weekend Recap • All the MEAT

This weekend Nathan was on call so he had to stay close to home. I’ve been battling an awful cold so I wasn’t up for leaving the house. So we decided it was a great weekend to process the elk meat that was given to us by our very good friends. Nathan didn’t kill an elk this year and our friends, Ryan & Tina, both killed one so since they had more meat than they could eat between the two of them they donated a bunch to us! For that we are so thankful.

Backing up a little Friday was our last day of school before break in the Lewiston School District and I had lost my voice! This cold is a butt kicker and after pushing through it all week for my students by Friday I was done. I could barely talk and my students were SO SWEET to me. They filled my cup right up with their empathy. Friday night we went to our dear friends, Adam and Brittnie, home for dinner. They cooked us quail and it was delicious.

Saturday we started grounding and packaging our elk burger. Nathan mixes it with pork shoulder for a little fat. It’s a lot of work but I love processing our own meat.

We spent a good deal of the day doing this. I popped a Costco chicken Alfredo in the oven for dinner. I walked out of the kitchen and found Grady cashed out after being up late the night before.

We ended the day watching a Christmas movie cuddled up in the living room.

Sunday we finished wrapping up the elk burger. We ended up with 140lbs of burger! We gave some to Nathan’s parents and saved a couple of pounds that Nathan is going to make into summer sausage. Nathan also spent all day making a bunch of elk jerky.

I cooked up some of the burger for dinner Sunday night and we had tacos. DELICIOUS! Nathan and I are so happy with how the burger turned out. And of course we ended the weekend cuddled up on the couch for more movies!

Love our weekends homed up together!

Now the boys and I are officially on Christmas Break. I will be documenting it all in a 10 Days of Christmas Break post so watch for that!

Without You

I feel like I just have to get it all out.

I feel like it keeps spilling out onto everything lately and people are going to start screaming at me “Get over it already!” Or “You have to focus on what you do have!” Or “You aren’t the only person who’s ever lost someone.”

Maybe that’s because it’s what I’m yelling at myself on the inside. And I feel like if I just let it all out then it will stop spilling into every post.

During the time of year that celebrates togetherness and family I can’t help but feel an emptiness. Because in the last 5 years I have lost 4 very significant people in my life. Starting in 2013 with…

Grandma Linda

This one hurt hard. Losing Grandma made death very real for the first time in my naive life. She had lung cancer and the chemo had her body so weak she caught pneumonia. It was a long and brutal two weeks. I remember the phone call a little after 10pm from my mom. I hate when the phone rings in the middle of the night. It’s never good.

“Tara! Grandma died.”

I drove to Royal Plaza minutes later to say goodbye. I remember Papa holding me and quietly whispering “You’re okay. You’re okay” over and over again like he was saying it as much to himself as he was to me.

And life hasn’t been the same since. She was one of the staples in my dad’s side of the family. When she left us our family slowly began to unravel. It’s when dad’s drinking became a coping mechanism. It’s when family gatherings no longer felt the same so we just…stopped. It’s when Papa’s health went downhill…

Papa Gene

Papa left us in 2015. He was living at the Royal Plaza. It wasn’t even 2 years without Grandma. He wasn’t doing well. His memory was fading fast and he hated people telling him what to do. An assisted living situation was hard on him.

I went to see him a couple days before he left just to sit with him. Actually, I had shown up the day prior but he had fallen in the bathroom. When I walked into his room he was laying on the floor. He said, “Hi Sis” and laughed a little. I think he was embarrassed. Since the nurses were helping him I promised to return the next day and left. I kept my promise and went to sit with him the next day. He didn’t have much to say. Such a quiet man. So we just sat. I had no idea it would be the last time I’d get to sit with him. I am so so grateful for that moment. I said “I love you Papa” and he said “I love you too hon” and I left.

Two days later at 1:00 in the afternoon my mom called.

“Tara! Papa died.”

He had fallen out of bed the night before and hit his head on the night stand. That day he went to sleep in his chair and never woke up.

It was deja vu driving to the Royal Plaza. But I got to go see him and say goodbye. I’ll never hear “Hi Sis” again and often that pricks my eye with a tear.

Losing his father was very hard on my dad. And not but 2 years later my mom would lose hers…

Papa Jim

They don’t all hurt the same. Each is as unique as the different relationships. Each intimate in their own way. I wasn’t ready to not have our cowboy on Earth, but I was ready for God to take his pain.

Papa Jim struggled with a weak heart for years. It was hard for him to breath and got to the point that he couldn’t take care of himself anymore. He hated assisted living! He hurt. Life wasn’t enjoyable anymore. God graced him with Heaven. It was May 2017.

Papa was taken to Gritman Medical Center in Moscow. Papa helped build Gritman and it’s where my Uncle Mike is treated many times during his life with ALS. So Papa felt comfortable there. He was also made to feel comfortable as his poor heart did all it could to beat. My mom called with updates all the time. 30 minutes after her last update I got the final call from her…

“Tara. Papa just died.”

(I am being 100% real my moms words were the exact same every phone call! With Papa Jim’s her voice wasn’t as urgent. It was a lot softer.)

Everything about Papa Jim’s funeral was traditional. He had an open casket with a viewing. His 8 grandchildren carried his casket to the grave site for the burial. It was beautiful.

Life felt so different. It’s hard to lose that many important people in just 3 years. My dad lost both his parents and my mom lost her dad. I lost 3 of the 4 very special grandparents in my life.

My dad struggled to cope. Addiction had grabbed hold of him.

Loved ones of an addict walk a very fine line between supporting and enabling. It’s also very confusing mixed with pounds of guilt. How to support them yet protect yourself from their disease? I don’t have the answer.

This one is still raw.

My Dad

He had fallen at home. My family will never know what he hit his head on or how he fell. We will never know the details. That’s between God and my dad. What we do know is that he had a nasty black eye and two days later we discovered he had massive brain bleeding. The bleeding had formed an enormous clot on the side of his brain. Emergency surgery discovered brain damage and resulted in some brain tissue being removed. He never left the ICU. My mom and I had to make the decision to lift his life support. We were with him when he took his last breath. My hand was on his heart when it stopped beating…

And this is our first Christmas without him. My first couple of months without him. August 1, 2018. Life will never be the same.

I didn’t write this post for sympathy. I just had to let it out. This post has been stewing inside of me. Sometimes I feel like I need somebody, anybody, just to acknowledge that I’ve experienced a great deal of loss in a short amount of time and that that’s hard.

I preach gratitude all of the time. I dive into personal development daily. I’m constantly surrounded with living in the moment and being grateful for what I have. And I live it. So at times I make myself feel like I am wrong for all my grieving.

There is no time limit on grief.

It’s possible to feel sadness and joy at the exact same time. It’s possible for a heart to hold a whole lotta gratitude even though there’s a hole in it. It’s possible to love God and trust God and wish things were different.

If you are missing someone this holiday season I want to hear about them. And I want to pray for your heart. Because Christmas time is hard without our people.

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Motherhood is…Being Goofy.

My boys absolutely love being goofy! They adore silliness and love when Mom and Dad get silly with them. I make their world a little better every time I act like a goofball with them. We dance silly in the kitchen. We joke and laugh at the dinner table. We make funny faces and funny noises. And they laugh and laugh and laugh. And I know they will outgrow this, but not completely. My teenage boys will act so embarrassed by mom the goofball but they will be smiling inside. 😉