Monthly Archives: August 2011

Self doubt is the worst and it can keep a person from saying or doing a lot of awesome things.

For example you might want to call a person you haven’t spoken to in a while to see how he/she is doing, maybe even grab a cup of coffee together. Instead you think “I don’t want to bug them, I’m sure she is busy with other things. Maybe another day.” That’s a bummer! I bet your old friend did want to hear from you & she would have loved to have met you for coffee! Doubting that she wanted to see you just got in the way of a super fun afternoon and a possibly rekindled friendship. Booo.

A really great position might have just opened up at work. You’ve been dying to move up and you know that you would be absolutely perfect for it. You should march into your boss’s office and tell her that she should look no further, the job should be yours and she wont regret choosing you! But you don’t say anything because you figure your boss has somebody else in mind. Maybe it will be your turn next time. No way! That position should have been yours and now because you doubted yourself you have to watch someone else bumble through a job that would have only made you shine.

Not believing in yourself is the pits and I have experienced this myself. Self doubt has kept me from sharing this taco casserole with you for months. I thought “Who wants to hear about a casserole? It’s not very fancy or pretty and again it’s a casserole!” But you know what? This humble little dish has been in our monthly rotation of meals for years. My family gobbles it up every time I make it and it has made a lovely “welcome home baby” meal for my friends. Best of all it’s a snap to put together!

So here is my taco casserole in all of it’s casserole glory! I hope your family enjoys it just as much as mine has.

The new school year has begun and things are in full swing at the Vanni house! Paper, pencils, binders, crayons, boxes of kleenex for the classroom, I feel like I went to Staples and bought three of everything in the place!

With this new school year comes a few new changes. For starters our two older boys are not yet in high school, but I have noticed they have developed all of the sass and opinons of teenage dudes over the summer. For example I felt like picking out their school shoes carried the same weight as picking out a college to attend in the fall. Vans, Converse, Nikes, lets pick out a pair and move on with life! I’m not even going to tell you how many stores we had to go to until everybody was happy with their choice. Seems a bit unfair that they will only end up growing out of them within three months time anyway.

The biggest change for me is our youngest has officially begun his school career and you already know what I’m going to say, where did the time go? Seriously though where did the time go?! I can still remember the exact moment when Ryan and I decided to have a fourth baby like it was yesterday. Now he’s off to pre-school, backpack and all and so proud to finally be like his big brothers, in school and learning.

Last but not least we are all about soccer this fall! All three older boys are on a team, three separate teams of course (oy vey) and their crazy kid appetite has hit a new level of scary. Sometimes it looks like I am grocery shopping for an army of 20! Bannas,apples, peanuts, string cheese, and our favorite snack granola bars. We go through them quicker than I can keep up and just like their shoes they are super picky about which ones they like. “This granola bar is too crunchy”, “This one is too soft”, “Ewwww this one has peanut butter on it!”, and my personal fav “Mmmm this one is good but it’s kinda small. Can I eat two more?”

I decided to factor in all of their request and concoct the perfect granola bar for my boys. I can cut them into the size they like, and along with the crushed up cookie I can sneak in all kinds of healthy stuff. The guys loved them and thought they were cookies for a moment! They went through more than half of them in a day, but I am totally ok with that. They were super easy to make, I knew exactly what was in them, and for a moment they were full.

Aug 15

RV Trip 2011

To say that this RV trip was a stretch for us is a major understatement. As I have mentioned before we are not a”rough it” kind of family. Our vacations in the past have been more about lunch by a pool and white sandy beaches, but for whatever reason a more adventurous kind of getaway grabbed Ryan’s attention and I am so glad it did. We discovered that although we are still not a camping family, we only need about 200 square feet to sleep comfortably. Also to Ryan’s surprise he found that he was strangely comfortable behind the wheel of an RV, and unlike me really enjoyed driving that thing. Maybe his scary driving skills only apply to sedans? At any rate I am so thankful for those seven days of close quarters, campfires and with the long drive from California to Washington (and back again) I had a ton of time to think and write. Here are a few of my journal entries that wrap this trip up perfectly.

8-8-11                                                                 Day two of our trip and we are up bright and early to hit the road again. After 11 hours of driving yesterday I personally wouldn’t  mind a day of rest but my husband and boys have their eyes on the prize, the Sol Duc Hot Springs in Washington. Maybe it’s just a me thing but between Ryan and I he is much better at completing missions. You know setting a goal and barreling towards it with the force and determination of a speeding freight train. I also like getting things done just in my own time, after I’ve brushed my teeth and washed my face. Speaking of personal hygiene I have never felt so much like a girl as I do on this vacation. Being in a RV with 5 boys a girl really starts to feel like… well… A GIRL! Hot showers, combing their hair, changing their underwear it’s all very optional to my boys. Sometimes I feel like I am the most ill equipped woman to mother four little boys but then there are those days I feel God knew exactly what he was doing when he placed his trust in me to be the first woman in their lives. Completely off the subject the Oregon coast is amazing! The little towns, the diary farms, it’s all so picturesque and heartwarmingly charming. We dipped our feet in the ocean before dinner last night and the sand was so soft it made us think of our past vacations in Hawaii. Ryan took a poll “Who likes RVing more than Hawaii?” he asked.  ”Me, me, me!” screamed the boys. As much as I am loving the scenic drive along highway 101 I don’t know if I can vote “yes” to such an important family decision yet. We’ll see how the rest of this week pans out and if Washington is all it’s cracked up to be.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     8-12-11                                                              The only word that comes to mind to describe the last two days of this adventure is “blessed”. Ryan surprised us with a night in a condo by the beach and after five nights in the RV a long hot shower, a real bed, and a movie felt nothing short of pure decadence. Our drive back to California has been much more laid back than our drive to Washington. We’ve allowed ourselves more fun pitstops and Ryan has found that driving for seven hours at a time is his limit. After we settled into our campsite last night (the very last one the campground had to offer) the boys realized that it was going to be the last time we all sleep in such a tight space for a while. Part of me is excited to get back to all the comforts of home, but another part of me knows what will also be waiting there for us. Work, school, chores, video games and all of the other things that keep us busy during the day. I’m not saying these things are bad, they all have their place but it has been nice focusing on simpler things for a moment. A place to park the RV for the night, what to make for lunch, water and electrical hook ups so we can make coffee in the morning. The boys have declared this to be the best trip we have ever taken and while I am a bit more partial to a house by a beach, we have enjoyed more moments of closeness on this vacation than on any other. I am glad they recognized this at such a young age and have not been spoiled by wherever we have taken them in the past. All in all this adventure will carry absolutely zero ill memories and we are taking home something much more important than tans and shark tooth necklaces. We shared so many silly jokes, games of Farkle, and have enough awesome memories to fill an RV and last a lifetime.

Sadly my boys summer vacation is coming to an end in less than three weeks. I feel like someone has been pressing the fast forward button on our time together and our days with them is slipping through my fingers like sand. What makes this particular school season especially hard for me is that my baby will be starting preschool and leaving me completely alone for the first time in 11 years. Granted it’s only for a few short hours in the morning, still I can’t help but morn the loss of my youngest son’s babyhood.

Even my husband took the news that our boys will be back in school soon hard so he decided to end their vacation with a bang. He took a week off of work, rented the biggest RV he could, and planned a trip up the California, Oregon, and Washington coast. True to my husbands sporadic nature he mentioned in passing to me that he thought an RV trip sounded like fun. “Sure!” I replied. “That would be an interesting thing to do one of these days.” Two days later the RV was booked and he was getting camp ground suggestions from friends who have camped along the Oregon and Washington coast.

Like usual I didn’t have time to argue why this might not be the best idea. For starters my husband has never driven an RV, but the website does a very good job convincing a person it is just like driving a truck, totally not a problem! I’ll let you know how it goes. Also the last time we went camping was about 7 years ago and it wasn’t exactly the greatest experience. In our defense it was our first time camping with small children (1 in diapers) and we were still kind of kids ourselves! I never realized how much my mom worked on our family camping trips when my sister and I were small until that weekend. I’m pretty sure I called her to say thank you for all the years of flawless camping trips we enjoyed.

Other than those two small factors I think we’ll do pretty good on this adventure, and I am glad Ryan didn’t give me a chance to talk him out of planning it. As far as I’m concerned waiting for “one of these days” to roll around just doesn’t cut it anymore. Before we know it our boys will be men with families of their own and these privileged days of the six of us sleeping under one roof will be just a very fond memory. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy their boyhood than to all cram into an RV for a week, play board games, sing silly songs, hike, and eat s’mores until our hearts content.

Speaking of s’mores I’ve had a good time coming up with our RV menu. Popcorn, peanuts, M&M’s, chips, Easy Cheese, (don’t judge the Easy Cheese. I ate it on my childhood camping trips and it was great!) Red Vines, you name it we have it as far as snacks go! As for dinners we’ll throw the usual camping classics on the grill, hamburgers, hot dogs, and my personal favorite, a couple of soy and garlic marinated steaks. I even thought a few steps ahead and pre-made a couple of  dinners just in case we take a few wrong turns on a hike and end up back at our camp site later than we would like and starving. Lasagna, black bean and ham hock burritos, (I’ll share those with you soon!) and I even threw in a side dish of BBQ baked beans. I figured the best person to  go to for the perfect BBQ baked bean recipe was http://thepioneerwoman.com. Turns out she got her recipe from another food blogger  http://threemanycooks.com/! I love that food bloggers are more than happy to share their tips and techniques with everyone and that just furthers my belief that cooking is a gift that is ment to be shared.

These beans are easy to prepare, full of flavor and (oh my goodness!) they have bacon on top! They will be the perfect side to hot dogs, a campfire, and a moment seized by a family whose time together already feels too short.