Why “Keep Busy” is Toxic Deployment Advice

The advice to “keep busy” during a deployment is so common it’s almost ubiquitous. The truth is: it’s bullshit.

Any two second Google search can yield you hundreds of results for military spouses on “how to survive deployments.” Many of them have some really sound advice. But I have noticed one piece of prevailing advice that I’ve come to realize is actually pretty toxic: Just keep busy.

Seems pretty innocuous right? And actually kind of makes sense when taken at face value. If you’re busy, you won’t have time to count the days passing or to even realize how lonely you are.

I am totally guilty of both following this advice and offering it to others. So allow me to tell you why I now think that it’s complete bullshit.

The word “busy” can have a variety of dictionary meanings, but in this context it means that you should be constantly doing something. And that that something should be productive, or meaningful, or necessary, or important.

So, in the interest of busy-ness, at the outset of a deployment, what do we do? We sign the kids up for 163,482 new activities, because, after all, we should keep them busy, too. We volunteer for those FRG events we had previously been dodging. We start taking classes, pick up new hobbies, create intense and demanding new schedules that no one in their right mind could keep up with. We take all of this new busy-ness and pile it right on top of not only our previous responsibilities, but also the ones that have automatically been foisted upon us by the absence of our spouses. We brush our hands off and gaze proudly at our new jam-packed schedules. “Why, this deployment will be done in no time!” we declare proudly.

Yeah. About that.

What happens next?

Cue overwhelm.

At some point we realize that we can’t be in 3 places at once for ballet and football and karate. Homework or schoolwork (for both ourselves and the kids) falls by the wayside because someone has to make dinner and it isn’t going to be the 3 year old. Brand new projects go unfinished because someone had a doctor’s appointment and then the oil needed to be changed and oh yeah can you make the super important FRG meeting that happens tomorrow at 8?

That feeling of drowning is like a wave – crashing over us, capsizing our life rafts, washing away this semblance of control we thought we had. There is no one to help rescue us because the deployment still goes on. Rather than going by in a blink of occupied bliss, the days stretch into Groundhog Days of stress and exhaustion.

Groundhog day movie image
This guy only thought his repeating days were bad…

We just need a break, we think, and we’ll be all set. So we get a babysitter or schedule a playdate and take a 2 hour time-out to get a mani and a pedi or a massage because hey, self care is important, too, right?

But the busy-ness is still there when we get back.

And so is the loneliness. There is no one to the share the burden. If you’re lucky, there’s at least sympathetic voice on the other end of the phone or the screen of the video chat. They try to encourage and remind us that they’ll be back soon, and sometimes it comforts. But sometimes it just rings hollow because it doesn’t make our immediate problems disappear.

Problems we created. Because we were trying to stay busy.

We turn to our friends and peers for advice. “Well, are you keeping busy?” They ask. You prattle on about all the busy things you’re doing as if saying it aloud will remind you how good all your keeping busy is doing.

Cue self doubt.

We’re so busy with this and that it’s like bailing out our life raft with a colander. And yet we take on more. Planning the next playdate. Organizing the unit event for when the deployment ends. Another kid activity. Another household project. Simultaneously, we look around at all the things we’re NOT doing. Going to the gym. Managing our diets. Getting that last load of laundry done. Scrubbing the bathroom.

And God forbid you utter those four little words to anyone within earshot: “I don’t have time.”

“Well, what are you doing?” They ask, preparing their judgments for how you spend your time. “Of course you have time. So many people spend a lot of time doing things that are worthless. You just need to schedule your time so that you can be more productive!”

We wonder if we have been doing this all wrong. Clearly that 15 minutes of scrolling Facebook was a complete waste. I could have cleaned the entire hall bathroom in that amount of time!

So we go back to the schedules and the calendars and try to cram in more things in order to feel more accomplished with how busy we are. We were busy before, but it was the wrong kind of busy!

JUST. STAY. BUSY.

Cue feelings of inadequacy.

If you’re not busy enough doing the right things; things that others perceive as valuable and worthwhile, you’re doing it wrong. That’s the problem. You need to do more things that are productive…

So the answer to having too much on your plate is to do more. Do more better things. Do them faster. Stop wasting time.

Friends, this is bullshit.

The idea that you should be busy just for the sake of being busy is nonsense. Running yourself ragged to the point of mental and physical exhaustion accomplishes nothing. Necessary, important, meaningful, or not, overwhelming yourself is no way to live, especially when you’re on your own. It doesn’t make time pass faster. Time is a constant. It just makes you suffer while the time goes by at the same old pace.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a routine or a schedule or that you should just lay in bed every day feeling sorry for yourself (but if you need to do that one or two days, totally do that, just throw some cereal at the kids, they’ll be fine).

Do things: Things that you need to do to keep your household running. Things that you enjoy doing. Nothing else matters.

Have a routine or a schedule: A schedule that is necessary to keep yourself and your children happy and healthy. Nothing else matters.

For fuck’s sake, just do nothing once in awhile. For an hour. A whole day. A week.

Do things that other people would view as worthless: Read a novel. Lock the bathroom door and take a longer than necessary poop. Take a bath. Spend the entire day bingeing Netflix and eating popcorn. Play video games (my personal favorite). Sit outside and let your kids run around like screaming banshees and shamelessly scroll Facebook while you do it. Take your kids to the zoo for no reason at all on a weekday. Skip the gym and ride your bike or walk the dog. Quit the extra sport or activity that your kid wasn’t really into anyway.

Notice in the above I said “yourself” before “your children.” You are the most important one in that equation. If you are not happy and healthy and confidently paddling along while your partner is gone, who is there to keep the raft afloat?

In closing, I would like to propose some alternative pieces of advice to, “stay busy:”

Stay engaged. Stay engaged with your children. Stay engaged in conversation with friends, even if it’s online. It’s equally important to get offline and be with your kids AND to have that portal to the outside world, so at 9pm when you’re feeling at your most alone in the quiet house, you have friends at your fingertips, even if they’re 1000 miles away.

Little boy riding a bike ahead in the distance
A perfectly engaging bike ride

Stay immersed. Stay immersed in a good book. Stay immersed in learning how to knit. Stay immersed in beating that boss level in the new Zelda. Immersion in something you enjoy and that makes you happy is never worthless.

Stay involved. Stay involved in only the things that are important to YOU. Kick everything else overboard. There’s no room for it on your raft.

Sometimes the answer to surviving deployments isn’t to be busy, but to just BE.

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Ground beef, peppers, onions, and lots of cheese stuffed into a portobello mushroom cap to create a leaner, low carb version of the iconic Philadelphia sandwich.

The other night while scrolling my Facebook feed, I saw one of those recipe videos that a friend shared. You know the ones I mean, by Tasty or Yummly or whoever, that are sped-up, top-down, and design to make the viewer drool?

This one was for Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joe’s. It looked amazing. I knew instantly that I could create a leaner version of it. I also knew that bread wasn’t really worth my carbs right now, so my good friend the portobello mushroom would be the perfect substitute. Besides, who doesn’t like mushrooms on their cheese steaks as well?

People who don’t like good things, that’s who.

Ingredient line up for Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Mushrooms

I rounded up some ingredients according to the original recipe, and some on my own. I chose lean 93/7 ground beef instead of ground chuck, but you could go higher fat, or even use OG thin sliced ribeye chopped up sandwich style if fat isn’t a concern for you.

Browned ground beef and chopped peppers and onions

The other most important ingredient is cheese, of course. For melting into the beef mixture, I used my favorite Velveeta Queso Blanco. I just love the mild taste and creamy, melty texture of this. You can use whatever you want, but choose something that melts well.

Shredded cheese added after a bit of baking

For the topping, I originally planned on sliced Provolone as you can see in the first picture… only I opened the package and discovered that it had gone moldy.

Womp womp.

So I went with whatever shredded cheese was in my fridge, some cheddar blend I think, but next time I’ll use Provolone.

The instructions for the recipe are pretty darn simple: Brown ground beef, mix in veggies, season with sauces, add in queso cheese until melted, stuff inside mushroom caps, bake, top with cheese, bake again. If you need more detail, you can find it in the recipe card below.

Stuffed mushrooms ready to eat!

This dish is filling and cheesy and delicious and sure to please even the most discerning “meat and potatoes” types, while being low enough in carbs to allow for more volume in your meal. I liked to have mine with a side of cooked greens!

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Philly Cheese Steak Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Ground beef combined with cheese, peppers, and onions, stuffed into juicy portobello mushroom caps creates a delicious low-carb version of the iconic Philadelphia sandwich. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 6 whole portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
  • 1.25 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 whole green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 whole medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp steak sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 oz Velveeta queso blanco or queso cheese of choice Cut into 1 inch blocks or slices for easier melting
  • to taste Salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400º.

Prepare the Philly Cheese Steak Mix

  1. Brown and drain the ground beef. While the beef is cooking, finely chop the bell pepper and onion if you haven't already.

    Browned ground beef and chopped peppers and onions
  2. Remove the browned ground beef from the pan and set aside. Add chopped bell pepper and onion to hot pan. Cook until onion is soft and pepper is tender, but neither are completely cooked.

  3. Return beef to pan with pepper and onion. Add broth, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, and salt & pepper, stirring to combine. Allow to simmer 4-5 minutes to incorporate flavor and finish cooking pepper and onion. 

  4. Add queso in blocks or slices, stirring continuously to melt cheese and combine. Turn down heat to low while preparing the mushroom caps. 

Prepare the Portobello Mushroom Caps

  1. Wipe or rinse and pat dry, remove stems and gills from mushrooms. 

  2. Coat a casserole dish with nonstick spray or cooking oil of choice. 

  3. Lightly spray or coat each mushroom cap, inside and out, with nonstick spray or cooking oil of choice. Season each cap, inside and out, with salt and pepper to taste. 

    Portobello mushroom caps, oiled and seasoned
  4. Place mushroom caps in dish upside-down, so that they are little bowls. 

  5. Fill each cap with evenly with beef mixture. You may have some leftover depending on the size of your caps and how much you fill them. 

  6. Bake at 400º for 20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. 

  7. Remove from oven and top with Provolone cheese slices or sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese. 

    Shredded cheese added after a bit of baking
  8. Return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. 

    Stuffed mushrooms ready to eat!

One Month of Homeschooling: 6 Things I’ve Learned So Far

One month into our new homeschooling adventure. Here are 6 tips that I’ve learned so far!

Just over a month ago, I officially pulled my five-year-old, Little Dude, from public school and began this crazy homeschooling adventure. I never thought I would be the type. I mean, how on EARTH was I going to juggle homeschooling on top of working, fitness, household duties, and Babe’s crazy schedule on top of everything??

Turns out… it’s not so bad. We’re still in the process of getting into a groove and figuring things out together, but letting go of preconceived notions of what school “should” look like has helped a lot. Dude’s behavior has gotten much better already and he’s showing his natural excitement to learn again.

Dude playing Hook 'Em for the first time
Games are an awesome part of homeschooling!

Since starting this, I’ve talked to a few other parents who are on the fence about homeschooling, so I thought I would do a quick list of things we’ve learned so far. I hope these might be useful to other families who are thinking about getting started.

Let it go

As I mentioned above, I had to let go of the idea of what a school day is or should be. The fact is, that looks different for every single individual family. Even two families using the exact same curriculum may have very different school days. What works for me and Dude may not work for anyone else, and that’s okay.

I haven’t purchased any formal curriculums yet, instead opting to “unschool” a bit more, letting Dude drive what we learn about and how he learns, so long as we keep working on the basics of reading, writing, and math. I pull free or low cost printables from sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers and Simply Kinder. Pinterest and YouTube are great for ideas on specific units as well as free educational resources.

Dude loves technology. He loves his apps and ABC Mouse and MobyMax. He’s pretty handy with a computer mouse and he’s learning how to type. The gamified aspects of ABC Mouse and MobyMax really keep him engaged. He likes earning his tickets and his game time by completing his assignments.

He also loves workbooks. We have a whole basket full of them and he gets to choose one (or several) to work from each day. I let him dictate how long we work from work books, though I choose the pages we work on (he would choose the easiest ones every single time, of course). Usually we only do concentrated one-on-one work from workbooks for about an hour a day.

While I do limit his tablet time to 2 hours per day – which teaches time management, because he’s not allowed to watch Netflix on it until the end of the day, so he has to choose between games early in the day or TV later – he gets lots of time to just play. He builds with blocks, Legos, and Tinker Toys. He spends A LOT of time drawing. One day he spent 2 hours writing little cards and notes to me and Babe, completely on his own, sounding out words and asking for help when needed.

child preparing lunch
He also learns practical skills – like completing chores and making his own lunch

So, he doesn’t spend 6 hours per day sitting at a desk or table. No time is wasted transitioning from class to class or teacher to teacher. He doesn’t have to continuously repeat material that he understands already. He doesn’t have to sit and wait “quietly” when he’s finished an assignment. When he’s done with his work, he moves on. And when he gets antsy and can no longer concentrate, we take a break or move on to something else.

Even some weekends he chooses to work on workbooks or with MobyMax. How many kids in regular school situations willingly do more schoolwork on weekends?!

Our school day probably doesn’t look like anyone else’s school day, but that’s okay, because it works for us.

Establish a routine

Our day starts out pretty chaotic. I’m working on that. My kids are early risers and I try to get up before them so I can start caffeinating and answer work emails before I have to parent. So that has me getting up at 5:30am (ugh) in order to head them off. Most days I’m drinking coffee and yelling at them to get back in their rooms until their wake-up clocks light up at 7:00.

After the waking/teeth brushing/dressing chaos, the rest of the day is pretty routine. We eat breakfast, the three-year-old goes to preschool (preschool homeschooling is definitely not for me), and Dude and I go to the gym, or run errands, or head to any morning appointments, unless we have specific fields trips planned for the day. On Mondays we head straight to the park for a play meet up and then to the library before lunch. On Wednesdays we head home, do a little book or worksheet work, and then pack up lunch for another park play meetup and picnic. Sometimes we stay at the park and do more work or read spread out on a blanket, and sometimes not. Tuesdays and Thursdays Dude has Taewkondo in the afternoons, so we skip the park and head home. We usually do an hour or two of workbooks or worksheets and then have lunch. Every day after lunch, he has free play time while I work. Fridays are a bit more up-in-the air as we try to go on field trips, even if it’s just the two of us, or sometimes they may look like any other day.

This schedule may sound kind of whacky and all over the place, but it’s basically the natural rhythm we fell into. I took care during the first couple of weeks not to try to plan too much. I didn’t want us to have a firm, unyielding schedule that would cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Which leads me to my next tip…

Stay flexible

As much as you should find your routine, you should also make sure that routine stays flexible. There’s no point in chiseling your schedule out on a stone tablet and never veering from it. If that works for your family, great, but I suspect like every other family, LIFE HAPPENS, and it will not.

Having this loose sort of routine allows us to mix in things like extra group field trips, doctor appointments, errands, and days where we just don’t want to do school work. Some days we play outside for 2 hours instead of doing any workbooks. Dude is learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. He’s learning traffic safety. He socializes with kids of all ages he’s never met before at the park. He’s still learning, even if he isn’t sitting behind a workbook or a screen.

Hook 'Em board game
“Gameschooling” has quickly become a fun way to us to change things up when worksheets just aren’t happening that day

For me, this is important due to the nature of my work. Doing contract-based projects, I may have very little work going on, or I may have A LOT. Keeping flexibility in our routine lets me move stuff around so that I can get in the hours that I need to get my work done as well.

Get out of the house

A big fear of new or would-be homeschoolers is lack of socialization. I can confidently say that is not an issue. We spend a lot of time at the park and at the library. We do field trips with our local homeschool group. We go to the gym nearly every morning where Dude gets to socialize and play and I get my workout on. He has Taekwondo 3 days a week and is starting football through the Navy MWR at the end of the month. One of the local libraries has Lego Club once a month that Dude just LOVES.

Dude at Lego Club
Hard at work during Lego Club!

Facebook has been an invaluable resource in finding both local and worldwide homeschool groups. Local groups are great for meet ups, field trips, local activity ideas and resources. Worldwide groups are great for resources, tips and tricks, support, and many have buy/sell/trade pages to get supplies, books, or curriculums more cheaply. You can find groups to fit just about any type of homeschool family: from religious, to secular, to gifted, to special needs, to gameschooling, to specific curriculums, and everything in between. If you’re having trouble finding a type of group that you’re interested in, trying joining a large, general homeschool group and asking, as many groups are listed as “secret” in Facebook to protect user privacy.

children playing in the sand at a park
Fun with new friends at the Sand Park

I will add onto this that, as new homeschoolers, we are still trying to find our tribe. I noticed that there wasn’t a local playgroup for homeschoolers Dude’s age, so I went ahead and started one. I know Dude is missing having regular friends, and I know I am too, so we’ll just keep getting out there, meeting people, having fun, and I know we’ll find our place before too long.

Learn with your child

This one has really had the biggest impact on me, I think. In letting Dude steer what we learn, he often chooses things that I never would have thought of. Through homeschooling, I have the opportunity to go on field trips that I wouldn’t have experienced without him. He forces me to slow down, observe the world with him and through his eyes, in order to answer his questions or to find out the information that he desires.

Many of our learning “units” start out incredibly simple. For example, we started reading the Young Adult novelization of Captain America. Before we even got through the first two chapters, Dude was FULL of questions about the Nazis and World War 2. I tried to answer as many as I could but quickly realized I was not very knowledgeable on the subject. So, during our past few library visits, Dude has checked out a number of World War 2 books, on everything from what it was like to hide from the Nazis as a Jewish child, to the weapons used on Allied and Axis sides, to the bombing of Pearl Harbor (which will lead to a great field trip considering we’re a stone’s throw from Pearl Harbor), to female pilots of the war.

Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have learned about these things, as they just weren’t on my list of priorities. But, here we are, learning together. His curiosity is contagious and I love that we’re learning new things together. Nothing makes him more excited than telling me a new fact that I didn’t know before.

Have fun

“Living is learning and when kids are living fully and energetically and happily they are learning a lot, even if we don’t always know what it is.”

-John Holt

If you take nothing else away from this, take this advice: Have fun with your child(ren). Chances are, you chose to homeschool for positive reasons and, like me, were not having a good experience with another schooling environment. Keep those reasons in mind. Enjoy each other. Bond. It’s ok to take a day “off” from school and go to the movies, or the beach, or spend 3 hours at the park just playing. This time for you to learn together and have fun is more valuable than what any test score can measure.

Crazy, happy kid.
Dude visits the horses
Visiting with a horse before our hike

If you’re on the fence about homeschooling or just getting started, hopefully these tips can help guide you, or at least provide some reassurance. Have some tips or resources to share? How is your homeschool journey going? Jump in the comments and let us know!

Recipe: Creamy Sausage & Mushroom Stuffed Chicken

Last week I became obsessed with the idea of making stuffed mushrooms. I really have no idea why. I was mostly trying to figure out something to do with the pile of cremini mushrooms in my fridge, other than just eating them on a salad like I had been. Normally cooking something, stuffing it inside another thing, and then cooking again is way too much work for me.

I looked up a few stuffed mushroom recipes and decided there wasn’t enough protein in the meals, so they would be a side dish. Ain’t nobody got that kinda time for a side dish. But now I was onto an idea of “sausage stuffed” something.

Enter, the chicken breast. Nature’s perfect meat pouch.

Everyone knows that pork and chicken go together like peanut butter and jelly. With a combination of sausage, chicken, mushrooms, and cheese, I knew I could have a winner winner chicken dinner. Literally.

I assembled some ingredients partially just based on what I had in my fridge. I chose my go-to low fat cream cheese because there really isn’t anything that isn’t improved by cream cheese. But for an extra creamy, cheesy kick, I also added some shredded KerryGold Skellig sweet cheddar (not pictured). The other base ingredients are the chicken breasts, the sausage (I love Jimmy Dean’s reduced fat pork sausage, but any sausage will do), the aforementioned cremini mushrooms, minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.

I also added some of this delicious hot sauce I found in the commissary, because I’m obsessed with it. You can leave that out if you like.

First, you’ll need to prepare the stuffing by browning the sausage and giving the mushrooms a good chopping. If you’re not using pre-shredded cheese, you’ll need to shred some cheese as well.

In a separate bowl, combine your cooked sausage, cream cheese, shredded cheese, chopped mushrooms, hot sauce (optional), garlic, and some salt and pepper. I mostly squished it together with a combination of a fork and my hands, but it’s a bit easier to mix if the sausage is still warm.

Begin by trimming the chicken breasts of any excess skin and chewy bits, and then carefully cut them into meat pockets.

I’m fully aware of their resemblance to female genitalia.

Ahem.

Then, liberally salt-and-pepper the outside of the pocket, and maybe the inside a little too. It’s easier to do this now than after they’re stuffed with deliciousness.

Once seasoned, you can stuff the chicken pockets with your desired amount of stuffing. The first night I made these, I stuffed waayyyy too much into them, and they became some sort of frightening chicken popover thing. Still delicious, but a bit over the top (heh).  The next night I halved the amount so I could pin the pocket closed with a couple of toothpicks so it would roast all nice and evenly.

Scary overstuffed chicken
Frightening overstuffed chicken popover thingie.

It ended up being about a quarter cup of stuffing per normal-sized chicken breast. You may need more or less depending on the size of your breasts. Um…your chicken breasts, not your actual breasts, if you have breasts, though I suppose even men technically have breasts…

Anyway.

Whether you have actual large or small breasts, you will need to stuff your meat pockets with as a much sausage as they can accommodate……

Giggity.

….

This is escalating quickly.

Pin them closed with some toothpicks and quickly throw them in a baking dish and into a preheated 400° oven before they continue making jokes about meat pockets and sausage.

You want to bake them until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165. This took about 30 minutes for mine, but that time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the chicken breasts and the thickness of the pockets. Anywhere from 25 – 40 minutes is probably a safe assumption. Pro tip: Remove the chicken when it reaches about 160 and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. During the rest period, it will continue cooking internally and the juices will pull back into the meat. Everyone likes a juicy chicken breast.

Following the resting period, remove the toothpicks, and serve with your favorite sides. I enjoy it paired with some roasted broccoli because the broccoli is great for soaking up escaped cheese sauce.

Yum! Much creamy. Much meaty. Much cheesy.

You’ll notice the recipe that follows is a bit odd. It’s a serving for one. This recipe is intended to be modified to suit you and your needs/tastes. You can very easily increase the amounts to make a whole family dinner. I found that once the sausage was cooked and mushrooms chopped, it was very easy to make this again on subsequent nights and adjust the amounts of stuffing ingredients as needed. Measure, manage, and enjoy!   

Creamy Sausage Stuffed Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts stuffed with a delicious mixture of sausage, cream cheese, and mushrooms. Single serving recipe!

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1 person

Ingredients

Stuffing

  • 40 g Jimmy Dean reduced fat sausage, browned and crumbled Sub with your favorite sausage if desired!
  • 20 g Cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 20 g Reduced fat cream cheese Sub with full fat cream cheese if desired
  • 14 g Kerry Gold Skellig sweet cheddar cheese, shredded Sub with any shredded cheese
  • 0.5 tsp Minced garlic or 1 clove fresh garlic
  • to taste hot sauce
  • to taste salt and pepper

Chicken

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • to taste salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Prepare the Stuffing

  1. Begin by browning the sausage and setting aside. 

    Browned sausage in a pan
  2. Chop the mushrooms into roughly 1/4 inch sized pieces. 

  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine the sausage, mushrooms, cream cheese, garlic, shredded cheese, hot sauce (optional), and salt and pepper to taste. 

    Mixed sausage stuffing ingredients

Prepare the Chicken Breasts

  1. Carefully cut the chicken breasts down the long sides, but not all the way through, to form a "pocket." 

    Chicken cut into meat pocket
  2. Salt & pepper the outside of the pocket to taste. 

  3. Stuff the sausage and mushroom mixture into the chicken breast, pressing firmly to keep it in. Pin the pocket closed with a couple of toothpicks. 

    Assembled stuffed chicken breast
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165. Tip: Remove chicken around 155/160 and allow it to rest until 165 for maximum juiciness!

    Finished stuffed chicken breast meal

Family Outing: Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center

Review of the not-so-hidden gem of a Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center. A great place to beat the heat if you need a break from the sun, or go to play when it’s rainy out. Perfect for a homeschool field trip!

When I first started writing this post, I called the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center a “hidden gem” in Honolulu.

Then I realized it’s not really hidden. Lots of people know about it and where to find it. After all, the building is pretty obvious once you see and it’s conveniently located by Kaka’ako waterfront park. I’m just oblivious and we lived here over a year before I knew about it. And it took two trips for me to realize the place had a third floor of exhibits.

Yeah…

So, while not exactly a hidden gem, the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center is a gem. It’s the perfect change of pace from outdoor activities when you need a break from the sun or bad weather (hey, sometimes it does rain). Moreover, it’s geared towards the younger crowd, which is awesome because many of the “cool” Hawaii activities are best with older children. Though we haven’t used it as such yet, it would also be really great for capping any number of homeschool curriculums.

Like many of these centers, it’s not a museum in any sense of the word. There are “exhibits,” but nothing comes with a “Do Not Touch” sign on display. Everything is meant to be interacted with. While some exhibits also include some educational information, such as information about rainforest plants in the Rainforest Adventures exhibit, many of them are purely for imaginative play and exploration.

We usually begin our visits with the aforementioned Rainforest Adventures area, which is essentially a giant water table that models the Amazon river. It features all the cycles of water, from vapor to pond, with magnetic fish and fishing poles for little explorers to try their skill at landing a big catch. My kids could seriously spend an hour just here.

It’s also worth noting that in the same room as the Rainforest Adventures exhibit is the Little Explorers play area for children under 3. It’s a little closed off space to let toddlers roam at will! In my opinion though, older two year olds would probably be bored in there after too long, but it’s perfect for younger toddlers and older infants.

Next, we head around the corner into a large, open area which has the Fantastic You and Your Town exhibits.

Fantastic You features several exhibits all about the human body: from the heart and stomach to teeth as well as a wheelchair obstacle course so that kids can experience what it would be like to be physical disabled. My kids love rolling around in the “stomach” and sliding down the “intestine” slide.

Your Town is a bunch of mini-exhibits where kids can experience what it’s like to be a grown up, except better. There’s a diner, a doctor’s office, a bus, a theatre, a news channel studio, a bank, a grocery store, a fire station, an auto shop, a police station, a post office, a vet’s office…. And more that I’m sure I forgot. The theatre, featuring music and lighting that the kids can operate for their “shows” and tons of dress up costumes, is probably the most entertaining for me. My kids are both total hams and love to put on shows for me to record.

Past the Your Town exhibits is the Imaginarium and the reading area. The reading area features story times every Tuesday from 10:30-11, or you can go in on your own for a snuggle and a book. The Imaginarium is a classroom used for, I assume, the center’s regular classes such as Kids in the Kitchen, though we haven’t yet attended any of those events to know for sure.

During our first two visits to the center, we thought this was it. And it was still amazing! Little did I know, there’s actually ANOTHER floor with awesome stuff, and it’s probably better than the first floor. So don’t be like me and miss the third floor! (The second floor is roped off and not open to the public).

The third floor has the Hawaiian Rainbows and Your Rainbow World exhibits. Hawaiian Rainbows is all about everything that makes Hawaii awesome, from some of the history and native culture, to tropical reefs, to an exhibit by Hawaiian Airlines with a kid-friendly flight simulator in a real airplane cockpit that you can imagine the kids just LOVE.

Your Rainbow World is probably my personal favorite area, but so far my kids have only had a passing interest in a rush to play in the airplane. It features tiny houses from several different cultures around the world (particularly cultures that are commonly found in Hawaii), complete with traditional decorations, dress up clothing, furniture, and play food. You can pick up a telephone at the house and hear a message in that culture’s language. I think it’s such a neat, creative way to show kids about cultures they might not know much about. Note: according to their website, Rainbow World will be under renovations from March 26 – May 5, but I’m not sure if that message is up to date or not…

Now for the nitty gritty of what you really want to know: the cost.  

I like this place, but it isn’t a place we visit often enough for an annual pass. We’ve gone about 4 times in 2.5 years living here. We go, my kids have a blast, and then they’re good with it for 6 months. Their memberships are also strangely organized, where a base membership is “2 people,” presumably 1 adult and 1 child, for $150. But then the next level up is 2 adults and 1 child for $225. Seriously, who has 2 adults and 1 child going to these places? The next level allows for 2 adults and 2 children for $300. But with military/kama’aina discount a day pass is $10 per person. That’s $30 per visit for the 3 of us. We would have to go 10 times in a year for that to work… so in my opinion the annual pass is not worth it. However, the $30 is well worth the price to go once and spend a few hours.

The location is decent enough being in Kaka’ako. At times there can be several homeless encampments in the park, but I’ve not had any negative experiences related to that. The parking is part of the park parking, so it’s a large, free lot. Parking has never been an issue when visiting.

The hours are a bit strange, and that’s where I’ve seen the most complaints on their Facebook. They are only open Tuesday – Thursday from 9am – 1pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am – 3pm. Now, it doesn’t bother me because my kids are morning people, but it does leave out any after school visits if you keep a regular school day. Also, I will warn you now that it gets SUPER crowded on rainy days and if school is out (doubly so if both occur), so get there early if the weather is bad.

Overall, the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center is a great place to visit when you and the kids are in the mood for something different. It’s great for just a fun day of play or as a homeschool field trip. Plan a visit soon, and then come back and tell me what you thought!

Websitehttp://www.discoverycenterhawaii.org/

Admission: $10 military/kama’aina, children under 1 are free

Hours: Tues – Fri, 9 am – 1pm; Sat & Sun, 10 am – 3pm

Parking: Dedicated free parking lot next to the center.

Low Carb Spaghetti Squash Pizza Crust: The Recipe That Isn’t

My attempts and failures to create a super low carb spaghetti squash pizza. Not a recipe, yet. A non-recipe. Tasty, but not pizza.

So there I was, Pizza Friday just around the corner (in my house, every Friday is Pizza Friday), and I had just started a temporary low-carb cut.

I really wanted pizza.

But I really wanted to hit my numbers 100% so I could make my goals (and go back to eating carbs).

But I really wanted pizza.

I knew about cauliflower pizza crust, but having no cauliflower and no motivation to go the store, I needed to look at other options. I had a whole container of already-roasted spaghetti squash in my fridge. Spaghetti squash, if you haven’t guessed or don’t know, is somewhat starchy hard squash. When cooked, the flesh comes out in long strands like spaghetti. It’s practically flavorless and so readily accepts whatever flavors you want to add to it. I knew I wasn’t going to get an exact replica for “real” pizza crust, but I figured the starchy nature would at least let me make something passable.

And so my quest to create spaghetti squash pizza crust had begun.

Attempt 1

close up of cooked spaghetti squash

To begin, I took my pre-measured amount of spaghetti squash and put it in a food processor with some reduced-fat cream cheese, a good amount of salt and pepper, a half teaspoon of minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of oregano and basil. I didn’t want the long strands of squash to linger in my crust, so the processor helped chop it up a bit. Note: if you’re making this from freshly roasted squash, you’ll need to squeeze the moisture out of the squash between two paper towels. Mine had been in the fridge so was already pretty dry.

Squash and ingredients in a food processor

 

Next, I spread the mixture out on a piece of parchment paper and pressed it into the shape of a circle, roughly the size of a personal pan pizza. It ended up about ¼ inch thick or just under. I was hoping for crispy crust!

Squash mixture pressed into crust form

Then, since this was prep for dinner hours later, into the fridge it went.

A few hours, a daycare pick-up, and a taekwondo class later, it was pizza time!

I pulled the crust from the fridge and transferred it, parchment paper and all, to a baking sheet. Then I topped it with all my favorite pizza accoutrement: Turkey pepperonis, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and more oregano sprinkled on top. Then I popped it into a pre-heated 450º oven along with my kids’ Totinos Party Pizza (trying not to be jealous of their dinner) for about 10 minutes.

Squash "crust" with pizza toppings

The result was…. Not pizza. The crust browned but didn’t crisp. And it didn’t hold together. What I had was a baked spaghetti squash pizza casserole patty… thing.

Yet, it tasted amazing. I had a chicken breast on the side of my dinner for additional protein, and the two of them went perfectly together. So it wasn’t a total loss.

Finished spaghetti squash "pizza"

But I still really wanted pizza.

Attempt 2

The next night, now having a vendetta against this pizza crust, and still having all of the ingredients on hand, I decided to try it again.  

This time I used the blender instead of the food processor, hoping to blend the squash down to smaller bits. I also reserved the olive oil for later. I repeated the rest of the process of pressing the mixture down onto parchment paper into a crust-like form.

Next, I added that drizzle of olive oil to my trusty carbon steel pan and heated it up nice and hot.

Then through some weird feat of juggling acrobatics, I attempted to flip the crust into the pan and off the parchment.

Fail.

It mostly stuck to the parchment and came off into the pan in chunks.

Ok, no worries. Nobody panic. I just smooshed the pieces together in the pan and hoped for the best. It started frying nicely and smelling awesome. I waited until it was a nice golden brown shade on the bottom before I checked the integrity of the “crust” and found it a bit wanting. Yet I was hopeful. I added my pizza toppings. Rather than attempt the disaster of a transfer again, knowing my crust structure was not yet there, I stuck the whole pan in the oven, again at 450, for 15 minutes.

Spaghetti squash crust in pan - still not holding together

Fifteen minutes was far too long. My bad.

The crust browned, but so did the cheese. <cry>

Burned spaghetti squash "pizza"

And it also fell apart, again. It was just a more well-done version of the previous night. It was still delicious on chicken and I still ate every bit, but admittedly the less toasty version was a bit better.

And it still wasn’t pizza.

So here we stand and I’m back to the drawing board.

I would try again tonight except it’s Princess Peanut’s birthday and I promised her spaghetti with meatballs, as has been our tradition for the last 2 of her 3 years.

I’ll try again for round 3 for the next Pizza Friday and report back, but here are my ideas so far.

  • Add an egg to the mixture to help bind it or
  • Add mozzarella to the mixture to bind it
  • Refrigerate, then brown in pan, then bake
  • Bake without toppings and then bake a few more minutes with toppings
  • Say “fuck it” and just stick it in a casserole pan and call it deep dish pizza

Do you have any ideas for me to try? Remember I’m trying to keep this as low carb as possible, so I would like to avoid adding any flour. Drop your thoughts in the comments!

Date Night: The Opal Thai “Experience”

I’ll admit, we are pretty lazy when it comes to driving all over the island, so we’ve only been to Haliewa on the North Shore a handful of times in the 2 years we’ve been here. Unless we’re spending the day there, it just isn’t worth it for a meal. Thus, we had never been to Opal Thai despite hearing good things about it from several friends.

So, when Opal Thai moved to Chinatown and our neighbor/friend (and longtime fan of Opal’s) chose there for her birthday dinner, we had to finally see what the fuss was about.

On the drive there, I was super excited, and began prattling on about all the dishes I had looked up on their menu ahead of time. My friend just laughed at me.

“You don’t get to order at Opal’s,” he said. “Opal Thai is not meal – it’s more of an experience.”

As a pretty adventurous person when it comes to food, I was stoked. I’ll try just about anything once, and Asian cuisine is a favorite of mine.

Once we got into the restaurant, seated, and drinks ordered (note: as of right now Opal is BYOB for booze, but they are working on obtaining their liquor license), Opal came to greet the table, immediately seizing the menus and removing them. Opal (which, from what I understand, is actually his real name) is the owner, head chef, and only waiter. He immediately recognized our friends and had handshakes and fist bumps to go around. Upon learning we were celebrating a birthday, he promised “something special” for the birthday girl, and that her husband, the other Opal veteran, could order whatever he wanted since he’d had everything before. He still insisted on Opal taking care of his order.

After that Opal turned to us newbies. First, he asked into name five Thai dishes, excluding Pad Thai and fried rice. Between the 4 of us (Babe and I and another couple), we came up with satisfactory answers. Next, he asked how spicy each of us preferred our food and if we had any allergies or dietary restrictions. Confirming all of this information, he swept off to the kitchen.

A short time later, Opal’s son, a teenager full of wit and a hilarious self-deprecating sense of humor, who is the food runner and busser, arrived with our first course: Spicy garlic glazed chicken wings with fried basil.

You guys. These were probably the best chicken wings I’ve ever had. They were hot and crispy with very little breading. The glaze was a little sweet and spicy (but not overwhelmingly so). The fried basil leaves were little treats all on their own. They were accompanied by a plate of sauteed eggplant and string beans which were quite tasty as well. I could have eaten about 3 more plates of just the wings, but I was wisely cautioned, “This is just the beginning.”

Next came the “lettuce cup salad” which is precisely that: A mixture of meat and pickled veggies with carrots and purple cabbage that you scoop into a “cup” made from a lettuce leaf. It was indescribably good. I honestly can’t even say which one we had. The menu has choices of larb, chicken, pork, or tofu. It could have been any of those and I would have devoured it all the same. We had two choices, a “mild” version and a spicy. Needless to say the mild version was spicy enough for this white girl.

The third course was, of course, the soup. I have no idea what, exactly, it was, but judging by the shrimp I believe it was Tom Kha Soup. This was my first experience with Tom Kha but I’d been told in the past that Tom Yum and Tom Kha soup were both excellent treatments for the common cold. Now I know why. The amount of spice in this soup was enough to clear out sinus crud from 3 years ago. But the flavor was amazing – sour and citrusy but also very savory.

Spicy shrimp soup

Here’s where things get tricky. Not having ordered our food, and being too busy stuffing our faces to ask questions, I’m not entirely sure what our main courses comprised of. I’ve deduced what I can using the menu, but your guess is as good as mine.

The first dish, I believe, was Chow Fun, which is beef and large, sort of squishy, flat noodles. It was delightful. Who doesn’t love big fat squishy noodles? Next we had a pad thai with shrimp. It was tasty and not overly greasy like some pad thai can be. Lastly we had two types of curry, one was the red and the birthday girl, I think, had the roasted tomato pineapple, but only Opal knows for sure. All was served with a nice pile of fried rice to help soak up those spices.

We were served all of the dishes at once and shared plates family style, which I always think makes for such a fun dinner experience. Everyone gets so excited to try each dish and to share their thoughts. It almost makes you forget you’re in a restaurant and transports you straight home, where you’re being fed by a loved one and sharing a meal with family (or framily, in this case).

Family style dining at Opal Thai

As we finished, Opal’s son cleared away the plates with more jokes around and Opal returned with a celebratory birthday shot to share with our guest of honor. There’s no better way to become family than to share food and spirits with someone.

In the end, we left stuffed, happy, and newly minted fans of Opal Thai. If you’re interested in some really delicious Thai food and you’re pretty adventurous when it comes to food, give them a visit. Leave your preconceived notions of how restaurant service should be, and just enjoy the experience!

Family Outing: Honolulu Zoo

Living in Hawaii doesn’t always have to be about warm, sunny beaches and waterfall hikes (though, those are all pretty awesome). Sometimes, you and the kids might want to spend a few hours doing something a little more low key. Luckily, Honolulu is a vibrant, active major city with all of the amenities that major cities have to offer – including a zoo.

The Honolulu Zoo isn’t the biggest or the fanciest zoo I’ve ever visited. Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever visited the San Diego Zoo, all other zoos will pale in comparison. But we’re not here to compare. It is, however, a nice, quiet zoo right in the heart of Waikiki. There are some areas where its age is showing, but as of this writing several of the exhibits are undergoing renovations – notably the hippos and the reptile house, so effort is being made towards improvements. The rest of the zoo does seem well-cared for and has been quite clean on all of our visits.

As this zoo is a little on the small side, but does offer a pretty great jungle gym and keiki petting zoo, the ideal age range for kids is probably young toddlers through age 8-9, maybe a bit older if you have passionate animal lovers in the family. Older kids who are not as into wildlife may breeze through the exhibits rather quickly and get bored. The good news is, Waikiki beach is just across the street, so there’s always time for surfing!

I love how wide and open the paths are and how much green space they have preserved. Rather than jam the animals together, for the most part the enclosures are fairly large and spaced apart. My youngest loves to run from exhibit to exhibit. We’ve visited so frequently she knows exactly where her favorite animals are.

There is a dedicated Keiki Zoo with lots of educational displays for little ones to explore. This includes a massive fish tank with a tunnel that they can crawl through.

My keiki, being the hands-on types, love petting the goats, of course!

As of this writing, the zoo does allow you to bring in outside food. We almost always bring a picnic lunch and finish up the visit with lunch and some play time on the jungle gym. That is always sure to leave us with tired kids who nap all the way home, leaving me free to listen to my podcasts. #winning

While the admission for military families is pretty inexpensive at $8 for adults and $4 for children 3-12, I really recommend getting an annual pass. For $55 you get a pass for 2 adults and up to 4 children, which includes admission to the zoo for the full year, a members-only entrance line, and discounts on food, the gift shop, and educational programs. You’ll also receive their email newsletter about upcoming zoo events, such as the summer concert series and Twilight Tours.

Despite its location, parking is actually really easy. I tend to visit right as the zoo is opening (9am) to avoid the crowds. So, there is usually ample parking in the zoo’s lot, which is right outside the entrance and costs $1 per hour – which is super cheap for Waikiki. This lot is not exclusively for the zoo, so feel free to leave your car and head into Waikiki if you plan to spend a longer day. The cool part is, the parking meter takes credit cards and has the option of texting you if your time is running low so you can add more time right from your phone!

Another pro of visiting the zoo in the morning is that the lions are usually out and about! Check out this handsome fella.

If you’re unable to get into the zoo’s lot, there is a lot of metered street parking all around Kapioloani Park. Also, there is a free parking lot by the Waikiki Shell on Montsarrat Avenue.

Overall, the Honolulu Zoo is a great way to spend as little as a couple of hours, or as much as a whole day if you spend some time in Waikiki as well.

Our favorite animals are the gibbons and howler monkeys. After you visit, come back and share your favorites with us!

Websitehttp://honoluluzoo.org/

Admission: $8 military/kama’aina, $4 children 3-12, children 2 and under are free. Free admission with membership!

Hours: 9 am – 4:30 pm daily

Parking: $1 per hour lot right out front if you get there early, metered parking all around Kapiolani Park, or free parking by the Waikiki Shell on Montsarrat Ave.  

Recipe: Lazy AF Chicken “Pot Pie”

Chicken pot pie is probably one of my top 5 favorite comfort foods. I mean, all foods are pretty “comforting” in my world, but big pans of hot, rib-sticking, carb-o-licious homestyle comfort foods really have my heart. Chicken pot pie is one of the best of the best. Tender, juicy chicken. Scrumptious vegetables. Creamy sauce. Flaky, buttery crust. What’s not to love?

Here’s what: The prep time. You have to precook all the ingredients. You have to make the roux and make the gravy. You have to make the crust. Fill the crusts, and bake it. For most days, that’s just way too much work. Usually when I want pot pie, I want it NOW, not in 4 hours.

So, I’ve come up with the laziest fucking substitute chicken pot pie – that still satisfies my pot pie standards. The prep time on this bad boy is about 10-15 minutes (a bit more if you’re blanching fresh veggies) and the bake time is about 45. Plenty of time for most of an episode of Shameless while you pre-game with a glass of wine.

The key to this recipe is that most of the ingredients are pre-made. Don’t judge. There is no shame in letting the store do some of the work for you. The point here is convenience and not showing off your fancy crust-making abilities. Of which I have none.

First, the chicken. I’m a big fan of grocery store rotisserie chickens, as I’m sure many of you are. I’m not sure what makes them so good. It could be lots of salt. It could be crack. Who knows? Anyway, grab one of those monsters and try not to eat it all as soon as you get it home (guilty). If you don’t want to go that route, leftover cooked chicken (light or dark, depending on your preferences) or even canned chicken will both suffice.

Next, vegetables. I mean, you don’t have to add them if you don’t want to, but I like the added volume that fills my belly without taking up all of my precious carbs. I like the frozen mixed vegetable blends. We buy them in giant “family size” bags. You can use whatever veggies you like; frozen, fresh, or canned. For fresh, you may want to blanch them before adding to the “pie” to ensure thorough cooking.

Third, gravy. You have a couple of options here. You could use a jar or two of chicken gravy, depending on how soupy you like it. I prefer a creamier sauce, so I use Cream of ___ Soup. Any flavor works here, but my favorites are Cream of Chicken or Cream of Mushroom. I also add a few tablespoons of sour cream for a little extra creamy something-something.

Last, and most important, the “crust.” Refrigerator crescent rolls FTW. One time I found that Pillsbury makes these “sheets” of roll dough that are insanely convenient for this, but no such luck at this last grocery trip. As someone who measures and manages everything I eat, these reduced-fat crescent rolls intrigued me. They were pretty darn tasty. I couldn’t tell the difference between them and the “regular” ones. Now if only made the full sheet in reduced fat…

Assembly is pretty easy, provided you know how to dismantle a rotisserie chicken. That part is straightforward. Step 1: Pull off the meat. Step 2: Chop meat into bite-sized tasty morsels.

Add all the chicken to a large mixing bowl. You can use just the light meat or just the dark meat or both. I use both because yum.

Next, add the can of Cream of ___ Soup and the sour cream on top. You might want to add some milk or water to bring it all together. I used a ½ cup of milk here. At this point you can also add your favorite seasonings. This time I did salt, fresh ground pepper, and some dried parsley.

Mix it all together into a delicious blob of creamy chickeny goodness. One time I tried to do all the mixing in my baking pan. The result wasn’t pretty. Trust me on this.

Finally, add your vegetables. Eyeball as much or as little as you want. This was 400g for those keeping track of my measuring and managing. Mix that all into your blob.

Spray nonstick spray into a 9×13 baking pan. I like the butter flavor. Mmmmmm…. Butter….

Anyway, after ensuring non-stick-ness, spread your blob of creamy, chickeny, veggie goodness into the pan.

I see you eyeballing those crescent rolls now. BUT, STOP. Wait. Leave those off for now.

Throw the pan, sans crescent rolls, into a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly.

After the time is up, carefully remove the pan from the oven and spread the crescent rolls on top into something resembling a top crust. Sometimes you get lucky and you can unroll the whole thing into one sheet. Obviously don’t roll them into their signature crescent shape. See how that sheet of dough would have been so much more convenient? Sigh. I digress…

So, you’ve covered your “pie” with the “crust.” Now crank up the oven to 375 (or whatever your dough package’s instructions say) and throw it back in for 10 minutes (or however long your dough package says). You just want it to bake until you get that beautiful, golden brown color to the dough.

Beautiful!

The last step is just to dig in! It may not be quite as decadent as a true chicken pot pie, but it tastes damn good and saves a ton of time and effort. Plus, it is remarkably low calorie for the volume, so I get to enjoy a huge helping and have it fit my dietary parameters. 

Lazy AF Chicken Pot Pie

A crustless chicken "pot pie" made with pre-made rotisserie chicken, refrigerator biscuits, vegetables, and canned soup. 

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 1600 grams
Calories 270 kcal
Author Que Sarah, the Okayest

Ingredients

  • 580 g Rotisserie chicken, chopped into bite size pieces Approx one whole small chicken
  • 4 tbsp Light sour cream
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup or your choice cream soup
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • 0.5 cup Low or fat free milk
  • to taste Salt & Pepper
  • 400 g frozen mixed vegetables or sub for canned or fresh vegetables
  • 1 can Crescent Reduced Fat crescent rolls

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 

  2. In large bowl, mix chicken, soup, sour cream, milk, salt & pepper, and parsley. 

  3. Add vegetables and mix until incorporated. 

  4. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with nonstick spray. Spread mixture evenly into pan. 

  5. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 min or until hot and bubbly. 

  6. Unroll crescent roll dough from can, do not separate into individual pieces. Place on top of heated mixture to form a top "crust." 

  7. Turn oven up to  375° and continue baking for another 10 minutes or as instructed by dough package directions. 

Recipe Notes

Number of servings shown in grams for ultra-precise measuring and managing. Caloric content is based on a serving of 200 grams. Macro values as prepared are: 22 carbs, 12 fat, 17 protein. Actual calories and macros will vary depending on ingredient amounts and substitutions.

Homeschooling: The Adventure I Didn’t Know I Wanted

When I first started writing content for this blog, I didn’t intend for it to have posts about homeschooling. Hell, I didn’t even intend on homeschooling. At the time I thought it would just be about food and living the #luckywelivehi military life in Hawaii, with some travel tips thrown in. In fact, the working title for the blog was Waffles & Wanderlust. Fitting, right?

A couple of weeks ago, it became clear that the behavioral issues my five-year-old was having at his public school were escalating. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. We were doing the same things over and over with his behavior and expecting him to change. It wasn’t working. It was insanity. So it was time to try something new.

Private schools were out due to high tuition costs and inconvenient locations. Not to mention most of them are full by mid-year, anyway.

I started investigating homeschooling. I had always written it off before as totally not for me. As a work-at-home-mom, having daily childcare is a MUST in order for me to work and maintain my sanity. Shit, I started sending Little Dude to preschool at 18 months because I just couldn’t parent and work.

But I felt like I was out of options.

I read a couple of articles and blog posts about working and homeschooling. Like this one. And this one.  And this one which I will confidently call the bible for working homeschoolers.

I began to feel more confident. Lots of people are doing this. At 5, Little Dude is much more independent than he was at 1 or even 3 or 4. So maybe I couldn’t homeschool a toddler or a preschooler, but maybe I COULD homeschool an elementary schooler.

I spoke to a friend who successfully homeschools. She added me to some Facebook groups. I joined a few more groups local to my area. Through those groups, I learned about the blended-learning charter schools on Oahu. Blended-learning means that the schools use a combination of face-to-face, virtual, and independent (home) education. Students meet in class anywhere from one hour, two times per week, to 4 or more hours, 3 or more times per week depending on the school, student age, and individual needs and interest level. Being charter schools, they are entirely funded by the state so that means FREE for us, minus an annual small supply fee (like less than $100 small).

What started as a tiny idea was quickly becoming a very possible reality. My husband and I began discussing the logistics in earnest. Thanks to that Army life, it would be a lot more on my plate, but he had his trust and support to offer, and agreed that the charter schools, with smaller class sizes and more individualized learning, sounded like a great solution. Little Dude would be able to “attend” school at his pace, continue his taekwondo classes, and have even more time for burning off energy at the park and signing up for a team sport like he had been asking to do.

As of right now (though all that may change if the State has any say), it’s very simple to begin homeschooling. You just fill out a single form, turn it or mail it in to the school’s office, and you’re good to go. There’s no annual testing or reporting except for in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10. The Hawaii DOE website is surprisingly helpful with laying out all the information.

I turned in the paperwork this past Monday. We start next Monday.

Little Dude is excited to have “class” outdoors, spend time at the park, and making new homeschool friends. He wants to have “cooking class” and “bike riding class” so he can finally lose his training wheels.

I’m simultaneously stoked and wondering if I’m completely crazy. Only time will tell.