Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Peanut Feeds Prince Charming

Whenever I am in the kitchen, Peanut likes to be busy in the kitchen too.  She does really interesting things, like take everything out of the door of the fridge and line it up on the kitchen table.  Sometimes I am so busy that I let her do things that I might not normally let her do, but having her occupied is more important to me at the moment than the mess she is making.  (As long as it's not dangerous, of course!)  So the other day she got out a tub of baby food and decided she was going to feed her baby brother.  I knew it would make a ginormous mess, but I couldn't think of a way to redirect her at the moment and, well, Prince Charming was hungry. 

Yes, it was messy, but it was also adorable. 


I couldn't decide which of these two smiles I liked better, so you get both.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Morning Feast

It's hard to say which was a bigger hit: my cranberry orange pancakes or the Badger's scrambled eggs with potatoes and peppers and cheese.


How incredibly blessed we are to have so much delicious food to eat.  I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love all the myriad flavors and textures there are to enjoy in the world of food. 
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Badger Birthday

The Badger's birthday is the start of the holiday season around here.  I'd say we're off to a festive start this year. 

He seemed really happy with his presents.  I bought him some books he wanted and the movie "Ephraim's Rescue," which is about the Mormon handcart pioneers, including one of the Badger's ancestors.   

And then I made him a huckleberry cheesecake.  The huckleberry flavor came from an extract, but it was a really nice flavor.  I had some trouble when I was baking it and so it didn't look very pretty, but it tasted amazing. 

I think the Badger had a very good birthday.  And now there are only a few more days until Peanut turns three and Prince Charming turns one. 
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I am taking a break from my basement project and I feel like blogging again.

Man, we have a lot of stuff.  I've got about forty plastic tubs of Stuff down there that I have sorted and repacked.  In the process I have generated three huge bags of garbage and six boxes to take to charity.  I have been trying to get rid of everything I possibly can and yet I still have forty tubs of clothes, shoes, seasonal decorations, craft supplies, fabric, etc.  And that's not even counting several boxes of homeschool stuff and several boxes of files and old paperwork that I still need to go through.

This is part of the frugal lifestyle, I guess.  If I didn't save clothes for hand-me-downs and I didn't try to make lots of things ourselves we wouldn't have anywhere near all that.  "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" means we save lots of stuff that we may possibly use again.  It's just funny to me because we have moved so many times and each time I get rid of a mountain and yet I still have so much.  I am grateful that in this house I have space to put it.  And when I'm done with this little project it is going to be all organized so that I can find what I need.  Because everything that will be left will be something that I truly do need.  I do have a lot of wonderful, useful, and fun stuff. 

As I work, I have been listening to Christmas music.  I am so excited for the Holidays.  They are almost here, friends!  I can't wait!

As I sift through all these piles, I must say that the one thing I do not feel any interest in doing this Christmas is buying toys for the kids.  Usually I get really excited about choosing some fun new things for them to play with.  We're never lavish, but it's the one time of year when I like to spoil them as much as I can.

But this year... I just don't want any more stuff!  I don't want one more bin of something different to put away when they clean their rooms.  I don't want one more thing to trip over.  We already have way too much.  Way too much.

I have already gone through everything they have and gotten rid of everything cheap, ratty, and not up to my standards of educational/creative value (I am not afraid to admit that I am a toy snob!)  They still have tons.  I have even gotten rid of several large sets of toys that were wonderful but that we didn't really play with that much (shhhh... I don't want them to know they're gone!)  They still have tons.

Oh, I will still buy them some new stuff this Christmas, but it has to follow this rule: it must go in with a set of something we already have.  The boys can have more Legos.  The girls will probably get a combined gift of a play kitchen because they have a bunch of really fun play food but we had to leave the plastic kitchen in Oklahoma. 

But we don't need a lot.  I am glad I feel this way because we don't have a ton of money for Christmas this year-- we have some, but not as much as perhaps I might like and I might feel bad about that if it weren't for these overwhelming piles of STUFF all over my house that I am working with right now.

But to me, the Holidays aren't about Stuff anyway.  They're about feeling joy and gratitude to God.  They're about singing His praises.  They're about meaningful traditions that teach my children how very much our Savior's birth means to me personally.  And, okay, I will be honest: I am also really into the eating of yummy holiday food.

Our friends the Beaver family are coming for Thanksgiving.  I am so excited!  There will be lots of yummy Holiday food.  But it means I have a deadline: all this Stuff has got to be dealt with before they get here.  So, back to work!

Busy and Thankful

Life is so beautiful.  I honestly cannot think of a time in my life when I have been happier.  I love my house.  I love the area I live in.  I love my husband.  I love my kids.  I am in good health.  I have all kinds of wonderful comforts and luxuries.  I have way more than enough of just about any kind of food I want.  I must be a queen, or something. 

I do not take any of this for granted.  Life is so sweet when you live it in a constant state of thanksgiving.  I encounter things all day long that make me happy-- the blue sky, hot showers, perfectly ripe pears-- and I say a little prayer of thanks in my mind. 

Life is also very busy.  I have never been busier in my life.  I used to think that as a homeschooling mom I was completely swamped, and I was, but homeschooling and public schooling is a new kind of exhausting.  At least before, we could mostly keep our own schedule.  I used to get frustrated about that because I couldn't keep my kids ON a schedule, but my body is still adjusting to the strict schedule we are on now and while it's good, it's also hard at times. 

For example I used to stay up to 11 or so most nights after the kids had gone to bed and catch up on stuff, mostly on the computer.  In my mind I still do that, but most nights lately I fall asleep around 9 when I lay down with the baby to put him to bed.  Then I wake up the next morning and say "maybe I'll get to that late tonight..."  Ha!  I have dropped some balls because of this that I feel bad about.  I hope people will be patient with me. 

I am still figuring out how to balance our time so we have enough downtime.  I am learning how important downtime is.  I forget how easily I get mentally and emotionally tired, not just physically tired.  For all those kinds of tired, I need times to relax, even though my to-do list is never ending (the laundry alone for a family of eight is formidable!)  The kids need downtime too-- I really believe in unstructured play.  So I think of all these ideas of things I want to do with them and I have to learn to be realistic while still accomplishing that which is truly important.  It is a challenge. 

I am trying to leave Friday afternoons and Saturdays as unstructured as possible.   There are many things I just don't ever have the time and energy to do except on Saturday mornings so we need to not be running off to this or that.  Right now I am still working on organizing all that stuff in the basement.  It has looked horrific for several weeks.  I go down there on a Saturday morning and I make some progress-- some things get cleaned up but other things get messed up-- and in the end it looks just as bad as before and then it sits like that for another week.  Good thing is it in the basement and out of the way! 

The Badger has been incredibly busy too.  He is making us some badly-needed furniture (a new dining table with benches!) and trying to work through the list of issues to address with making the house more livable.  Every day brings some wonderful accomplishment-- child latches in the kitchen to keep Prince Charming out of the garbage, coat hooks in the foyer so the kids can actually hang up their stuff-- but the list is still long.  We have some leaky bathroom faucets, a fluorescent light fixture in the laundry room that flickers, trim that still needs to be installed... and on and on.

But I love all of this.  I love having these projects to work on and these tasks to accomplish.  I love the busy activities we do during the week.  I love how school is going for all the kids.  While I don't have as much energy as I would like to have, I love the energy and motivation I DO have.  I love the opportunities and choices I have. 

And now it's time for me to go work on the basement!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It Was Great While It Lasted

The leaves are all off the trees now and we're at that grey and brown waiting place where the sky teases us by spitting flurries.  It's not winter yet, but the glorious part of autumn is over. 

But it was great while it lasted. 


I was grateful to have so many activities to have to drive the kids to every afternoon because it meant I got to see leaves all over town and watch them change each day.  There is more fall color here than in Oklahoma, and it truly was a beautiful show. 

Goodbye, autumn... until next year!
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Beans Grow

The day has come. 

My oldest child is taller than me. 

He has been going through an unbelievable growth spurt lately  I bought him new pants for school in August and by October they didn't fit.  He is constantly coming to me and saying, "mom, this doesn't fit."  So I go buy him the next size bigger and it still doesn't fit.  He's gone from a size 14H to needing men's sizes.  I don't like this.  A little over a year ago I could still buy him clothes at Gymboree, and now I'm shopping in the adult section? 

The prices sure jump when you hit the men's department.  Ugh. 

And let's not talk about the amount of food this kid puts away.

Fish is not far behind him.  I recently had a maddening shopping trip with Fish, who had trashed his shoes and needed new ones.  His size 6s were a little tight, so we were looking for a 6 1/2.  The problem was that size 6 was the biggest size they carried in children's for boys and then size 7 was the smallest for the men's sizes.  We never did find a 6 1/2. 

I am just not ready for my little boys to be in MEN'S sizes. 

But I am grateful they are growing, that they are healthy and strong and that they are growing into such awesome men.
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Beans Are Fun!

The other day I found Peanut and Prince Charming having a blast in the pantry.  Peanut had found a bag of dried pinto beans and dumped about two cups of them on the floor. 

I just had to laugh.  I hope that is an indication of how far I have come as a mother.  Ten years ago I might have freaked out.  Now I just grabbed the broom and thought how grateful I was that it wasn't honey. 
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Monday, November 11, 2013

The Fate of the Jack O' Lanterns

Didn't the Badger do a great job carving our jack o' lanterns this year? 

I never got a picture of them on our porch, and about 8 pm on Halloween we moved them into the garage to protect them from pumpkin smashers, and that's where I took that picture. 

Pumpkin smashers make me so mad.  Not only is it mean to smash some little kid's pumpkin, these pumpkins are meant to be food for my family.  I look at them and I see pumpkin pie and pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin cookies and those yummy pumpkin cheesecake rolls.   I am pretty protective of my pumpkins. 

And as soon as Halloween is over, I start cooking.

It's pretty easy to process a pumpkin.  The uncarved ones I bake whole at 375 or so until they're soft (pierce several times with a fork so they don't explode and put a cookie sheet under them in case they're really juicy.)   The carved ones I cut in pieces and put in a casserole pan.  I put a little water on the bottom and cover them over with foil, then bake them until they're soft.  Or you can put pieces in the crock pot. 

Once they're baked until they're soft and then cooled to where you can handle them, you simply scrape the flesh off the skin with a spoon (and scrape out the seeds and strings of whole ones) and put the chunks in the food processor or Vitamix.  Then you process them until you have this lovely orange goo (I have discovered I really like doing it in the Vitamix--I just use the tamper and work quickly.) 

I put three or four cups into quart-sized plastic freezer bags.  It freezes beautifully. 

I am going to have a lot of this stuff this year, with all those pumpkins!  I am so excited! 

Pumpkin waffles!

Pumpkin chocolate chip bars!

Pumpkin spice cake!

Pumpkin cranberry bread!

What's your favorite pumpkin recipe?
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A Sight Not Seen in Many a Year

Look at this, people!

My car is IN THE GARAGE!!!!!

That has not happened since we lived in Kansas (that was 2008-2009).  I never minded that in Oklahoma our garage was a storage room, but moving here to this much colder climate I really wanted to be able to load and unload the kids from the car without going outside.  Oh, and not having to scrape the windshield is a plus too.  I importuned the Badger and he has been working hammer and tongs for days now getting the garage organized (it's been totally filled with boxes for the last 2 1/2 months).  Please notice his admirable organizational tactics visible behind the car.  He really deserves a big gold star. 

Thank you, Badger!  It makes me so happy to park my car in the garage!
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Fifty Days

The kids have been in school for fifty days now.  It has gone by fast. 

The Kindergarten had a 50's day to celebrate.  I'm new to the public school thing so I hadn't encountered this before, but I see from friends on Facebook that this is fairly common these days in many parts of the country.  And what a great idea it is! 

They asked for the kids to dress up, if they wanted to.  Well, to me it sounded like a lot of fun to make a poodle skirt.  So I did. 

After all, I just recently unearthed my sewing machine again (oh, how I missed it!) and I was itching for a project.  Something fast and easy since I'm up to my eyeballs in life.  A poodle skirt was just the thing.  I read some online tutorials (oh, Internet, you wonderful source of never-ending delight!) and went out to buy supplies. 

One disadvantage of living in a small town is that it's hard to buy fabric and craft supplies.  The only thing I could find was black felt.  Many poodle skirts are made of felt, but I'd been hoping for something that would drape a little better. 

But even in this small town the Walmart sells a ready-made poodle applique, so that made my job super easy.  I just carefully measured and cut a big donut and then cut an opening in it.  I sewed on the pink rickrack and then glued on the poodle and the leash made of silver sequins.  Then I used Velcro to fasten it shut.  I even used the sticky-backed Velcro, so I didn't even have to sew that down.  It was so fast and easy and fun.  And yes, the felt doesn't drape well, but it's awesome when you twirl. 

The Rabbit was so happy!  She had a great 50's party where they hula-hooped and danced 50's dances.  Then she wanted to come home and call Grandma and Grandpa and talk to them all about the 50's. 

My Rabbit is really thriving in Kindergarten.  Her first quarter reports were excellent and her teacher loves her.  It has been a really good experience. 
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Friday, November 8, 2013

The Return of the Waffle Irons

It's amazing how much you can miss a waffle iron.  I thought I could live without mine for six months, but six months stretched into nine months and I was missing them bad after about two months. 

We really enjoy waffles at our house and we eat them frequently.  Our two favorite recipes are pumpkin waffles and buttermilk waffles. 

This particular batch was pumpkin waffles.  Everyone was so excited to eat waffles again, especially the little girls who couldn't wait to have their favorite Hello Kitty waffles. 

Everyone really ought to have a Hello Kitty waffle iron. 

This was Prince Charming's first time eating waffles.  He thought they were grand. 

When you keep saying "waffle" over and over again it starts to sound really funny.  Maybe that's really why I like waffles so much.  Because just talking about them makes me laugh.
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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Halloween Snapshots

Last year, we pretty much skipped Halloween.  I bought a bunch of candy so the kids wouldn't feel too deprived and we sat home and watched a movie and snacked.  This worked because we homeschooled and we lived in the country where we got zero trick-or-treaters.  I think the kids missed dressing up in costumes though.

I wouldn't mind if Halloween just disappeared for good.  I am not crazy about a "holiday" where there are sights to see that give my little kids nightmares and where my kids eat so much sugar that we inevitably end up dealing with some nasty virus for the next couple weeks, not to mention the artificial colorings and flavorings that make them cranky and hyper. 

This year I knew we couldn't easily avoid Halloween.  The kids were going to go to school with their costumes on and have class parties.  And then we happen to live on a prime street for trick-or-treating.  I did think about taking them out of school for the day and driving off to some remote cabin in the middle of nowhere until it was all over, but then I thought about what I do like about Halloween.  I like the costumes and how the kids get their imaginations all fired up about dressing up and being someone else for a day.  I like the sense of community that is fostered as neighbors who normally don't interact much are knocking on each other's doors or attending community gatherings where everyone is freely giving to others with no expectation of anything in return. 

So I decided to do my best to have a fun, safe experience for my kids.  And I decided to just relax about the sugar overload and take it in stride. 

We carved pumpkins, which was a blast... Bean did his all by himself in the morning before he went to school.

We put Prince Charming in the beloved lion costume. 

And Peanut wore a cow costume. 

I took the babies over to the school to watch the costume parade.  It was mostly quite delightful. 

Here is the Rabbit dressed as a frog:

And here is Roo dressed as a princess. 

I never did get a good picture of the boys.  Fish was a ninja and Bean was a ranger-- think like fantasy book ranger with a tunic and cloak. 

I stopped in on the Rabbit's class party. 

Then in the evening we went to a local church that does a huge totally non-creepy party, a "fall festival."  We had a blast.  The kids particularly loved the giant inflatables and I took a bunch of pictures of them bouncing and sliding but for the most part said pictures didn't turn out very well. 

We got home after the initial rush of trick or treaters but we still had a steady stream.  I put a movie on for the kids and Bean and Rabbit took turns answering the door.  The younger ones were hitting complete meltdown, but we were expecting that and so we made a concious effort not to get rattled, which mostly worked.  I really noticed throughout the day that when the Badger and I made a deliberate effort to be happy and positive there was a really festive, fun tone in our home even if the kids were behaving badly.  I know that sounds really obvious, but we are all a very high-strung bunch and in the past there have been lots of holidays where the kids were so excited and sugared up that they were completely awful and out-of-control and us parents got a little grumpy and then no one had much fun.  So it was a big step for us to stay happy and postive even when the kids were being dreadful.

 Life is not perfect, and children are not perfect, and holidays never turn out perfectly.  And it's okay.  Since last Thursday we have had a yucky virus running through our ranks.  I could blame it on all the candy, but honestly we've been sick at least three times already this fall so we probably would have gotten it anyway, even if we had run away to that cabin in the middle of nowhere. 
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