Sunday, December 31, 2006

As '06 Ends....

Happy Last Day of '06! Tonight we will be having a big family sleepover at my sister-in-law's house & will be celebrating Christmas as well with hubby's side of the family. {As if my house wasn't already overflowing with new stuff.....I feel some major decluttering coming on.} In the spirit of the New Year, I have been doing a lot of planning. Didn't I previously say that I was spending a lot of time planning? For the last few months I have been working on "Goals for My Girls {and Future Children}". I just jot down ideas as they come to me of what an excellent adult should look like. I highly recommend this! I am putting the finished list in my homekeeping journal. I am also breaking that down into smaller goals for each child in '07. My two-year old only has one goal listed for '07 so far: OBEDIENCE *smirk*. Here is what I have come up, although this list is not yet complete & in no particular order:

Goals for my Girls (and future children)

  • Grounded in God’s Word
  • To “count it all joy”
  • Salvation!
  • Well-versed in domesticity
  • Organized
  • Godly relationships
  • Right priorities
  • Prepare for marriage & have a clear vision of roles
  • Recognize, encourage & develop unique gifts
  • Self-disciplined
  • Strong & loving sibling bond
  • Christian worldview
  • Nurtured creativity
  • View children as blessings
  • Know how to be a great friend
  • Compassionate
  • Others’ interests before their own
  • Genuine concern for lost people
  • Awareness of love languages & how to love different types of people
  • Well-educated in academic
I think it is a good idea to think long-term when it comes to parenting and also to write your goals down as a reference. Has anyone else done this? If you don't know precisely what you're aiming for, how will you know if you've hit the target?! Interestingly enough, as I was typing out these goals today, I found myself introspecting as to whether or not I am successful in each of these areas. *eyes glaze over....deep in thought*

The other addition to my homekeeping journal is the recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent:

Liquid Laundry Detergent
3 Pints Water
1/3 Bar Fels Naptha or Ivory Soap, Grated
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
4 Quarts + 1 Pint Boiling/Hot Water
optional: 15 drops Lavender Essential Oil (or whatever EO you prefer)
optional: 10 drops Tea Tree Oil

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Add another 2 quarts boiling hot water and 1 additional quart plus 1 pint hot water and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

The cost savings on making your own detergent is just ridiculous. Several places I have read online estimate the cost to be about $.01 per load or about $.50 to $.75 per gallon. I am almost at the end of my first batch {which didn't completely gel up by the way, but still is completely usable}. I think next time I will add some essential oils for fragrance. This detergent gets your clothes perfectly clean! We recently had a poopy mishap {literally} and it cleaned the inside of the pooped-up footie pajamas wonderfully. Here is a link to some FAQ's of homemade detergent.
A simple google of homemade laundry detergent will also yield you plenty of results.

If you don't already have a homekeeping journal, I highly recommend it. Great place to keep everything together: calendars, bill-paying stuff, recipes to try, goals, etc. Could be your New Year's Resolution!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Crafty People

I *love* crafty people. I am a crafty person & I love other people who get excited about the same crafty things I do. Like starting a new counted cross-stitch project or a bag full of new scrapbook goodies or perfectly lined up rows of holiday cookies. I love opening up my box of cross-stitching floss and seeing the rainbows of colored thread lined up like little soldiers {numerically of course}. I love taking butter & sugar & flour and a few other things, throwing it all into my Kitchenaid, and then poof! Twenty minutes later I have some awesome cookies. I love painting stuff. Seems like I don't know a lot of super-crafty people in real life. Either that or you've been holding out on me. If you're ever feeling a spike of creativity or want to develop your creative side, give me a call so we can get together & make something. Know what I'm going to be doing while I chill over the holidays? {Well besides planning the next 5-6 months of homeschooling, big UGH.} Reading craft blogs! I need some inspiration & really want to do more crafty things. The only problem is that it seems like I have to weed through quite a few crafty blogs until I find one that really fits me. If you have any crafty blogs I should check out, please send 'em along. I've been reading Diary of a Rather Crafty Girl for a short bit now & am crazy about these little onesie cookies. I want to get pregnant & have a baby shower for myself just so I can make these uber-cute cookies. {Well, that's a whole 'nother topic though, eh?} I came across Kiddley & it seems so fresh & cute all at the same time. So many fun great things to do with the kids. I especially like the Christmas idea jar & the gumdrop wreath. I am SO making one of those wreaths next year for Christmastime. Speaking of Christmas, I will be posting soon about my idea for Christmas in July.....

Here is a craft I recently did for a friend's son's school Christmas party. The deal was that I just needed to write each child's name on the ornament {I was thinking like 20 minutes TOPS for this} in the hand-writing style the PTO lady chose {yes, I did submit a writing sample}! PTO lady picked out the ornaments {totally wrong type for this project}, so I ended up having to painstakingly hand-paint each one:

I did a counted cross-stitch last year of a sleigh filled with gifts amidst snow falling & found it in my stash this year {sorry, too lazy to take a picture}. I just finished up some back-stitching on it & it looks so cute! I also started a new counted Christmas cross-stitch. It's a pattern from Mary Englebreit of a really cool embellished reindeer. I'll probably try & do most of it this winter or maybe set it aside to finish up next year. I really like counted cross-stitch {although I can get kinda perfectionistic about it & will take out a WHOLE lot of stitches if I made a tiny mistake}.

Here is a picture of the girls I took for my holiday cards. I ended up altering the picture & added a holiday border and message at the bottom using Photoshop. Wal-mart cut-off the outside border though, which is shame on me since I should've known better. Anyways, I think it makes for a cute photo {although Sienna does have food in her mouth *shocker*}:

And for my final crafty share, here is our finished Birthday Cake for Jesus. We started this holiday tradition about 2 years ago. I did the baking and the frosting, while Tatiana did all the decorating. We take this cake to our extended family celebration on Christmas Eve and the entire family sings Happy Birthday to Jesus with the little ones blowing out the candles:

Hope your Christmas was a merry & bright Birthday celebration!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


In regards to the last post, I would like to apologize to the "teacher" who I may have inadvertently slandered. Although I believed I was being subtle, apparently not enough so. Even though I have the right to say whatever it is I want to say as #1: this is my blog & if you don't agree you can start your own {nice going Erin!} and #2: the first amendment, I am also distinctly aware that I need to operate under God's laws as well. I do not want to be a gossiper {which I struggle a lot with}, but do feel a need to expose/defend the truth. Some people may feel that I was questioning the teacher's intentions, which I didn't mean to do, only to say that I felt misinformed. Actually, I was misinformed whether it was by the teacher or by my own misunderstanding. So, I am sorry if anyone's feelings were hurt/feathers were ruffled/undies were in a grundie. Actually makes me feel kinda important that someone would even care about what I have to say! Also, I am sorry that I broke a rule {you know who you are}!

{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{group hug}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

I still think we should all go hang out over at Erin's blog though. Keep the posts comin' girl!

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Happy Discovery

During a{how shall I put it nicely?}...."discussion" about education with a group of ladies, a Christian public school teacher was sharing all the merits/pros of public schooling, while indicating drawbacks to homeschooling. One of her good points I thought {among many ridiculous ones} was that homeschoolers would not have access to special services, like speech therapy for example, provided in a public school. "What will you do if one of your children has special needs? You will not have access to those services provided in a public school." Several other young moms nodded in agreement. This point actually continued to bother me...... forward to today. I discovered that this public school teacher is WRONG! I am actually so relieved and kind of disappointed that she so adamantly shared her information without bothering to see if it was even true. {Insert frown here.} From HSDLA's article regarding this issue:

"The determination of whether a home education arrangement constitutes private school placement must be made on the basis of state law. Thus, if home education constitutes enrollment in a private school under state law, then the requirements of Regs. 300.403 and 300.452 apply when deciding whether to provide special education or related services to a child with disabilities who is being educated at home."

The above report makes it crystal clear that if the state recognizes a home education program as a private school in that state, then those home-educated students are eligible for the services.

Here is the full article if you are interested. I'm sure this would vary by state on the basis of state law. Here is another blurb from a separate article:
As a parent of a child with special needs, you can receive special services from your school district at no further cost -- you have already paid for them with your taxes. This includes speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiologists' and social workers' services. These are all covered by Public Law 94-142.

Hopefully this information may help someone who had the same concerns I did or who has been MISinformed as I have!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Memories

I have been reading this book, The 25 Days of Christmas: Family Readings, Scriptures, and Activities for the Advent Season, on and off since the beginning of the month. Great stories, songs, and ideas for turning your family's hearts toward Jesus during Christmastime. I think it also makes a great personal devotional and am going to pack it away with my Christmas things & bring it out each year. Today's story was titled "My Most Memorable Christmas", so I've been inspired to share some of my Christmas memories.

I remember really wanting a Cabbage Patch Doll for Christmas. I believe it was around the time when they were first being released, 1980-something. I don't know if I still believed in Santa Claus or not, but after some snooping around the house, I discovered two Cabbage Patch Dolls hidden behind my parents' waterbed {back when waterbeds were all the rage~LOL!} I was crushed. I think because the element of surprise was taken out of the equation. Nothing to look forward to on Christmas morning, other than taking off the wrapping paper & playing with the discovered dolls. I never snooped again. For all the years following, I even knew where my mom hid all the gifts, but I never looked. I wanted to cherish the element of surprise.

The Christmas of 2004 was memorable for all different reasons. Rick had gotten fired from his job of 5 years just twelve days before Christmas. I was 8 months pregnant. I thought this was such a heartless act. We really didn't have a lot of money and to me, that just turned the focus to Jesus all the more. I scraped together some money to buy Tatiana a few gifts and I think when you don't have a lot to give, it makes those presents all the more precious. It's amazing, though, how God has worked that situation for the good. It was actually a blessing that Rick lost his job because through that, God has provided a really wonderful one.

I think that the Christmas of 2005 will be one that I will cherish for a long time. My parents have been divorced for almost 10 years now. My dad's parents have both been deceased for decades & he really hadn't been close to many of his siblings. I know that while they were married he considered my mom's family just as his own. Fast forward to 2005. Every year we celebrate Christmas Eve at my grandma's house with a big fat Polish extended family celebration. I mean, every year for as long as I can remember. Rick & I began alternating holidays with my parents after Tatiana was born though. In 2005, my mom announced that it would be okay if my dad {and step-mom} attended our Christmas Eve celebration, with HER family. This is one of the biggest acts of forgiveness and love I have witnessed in a long time. I pray that this will go a long way towards sharing the Truth. Just that simple act made for a very merry Christmas.

Care to share your most memorable Christmas?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Party of 12, please

So on Saturday evening we went out to dinner with the in-laws {as opposed to the out-laws...LOL}. Dear husband & children had spent the day with them and I just ending up meeting them at the restaurant after a long day of driving around for my part-part-part-time job. {What else would you call a job that you only do once every 3 months??} Anywho, dear *cough* in-laws choose the venue: Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar. Or as my friend Justine says it's affectionately called: B-Dubbs {short for B-uffalo and 2 Ws}. In case you have never been there, this post will serve as an informative review. I took it upon myself to call ahead to see if 1) they accept reservations and 2) if they can accommodate parties of 12. No to #1 and Yes to #2. I get there early to stake claim to a table. In-laws finally arrive and we're seated. It cozy seating arrangement. Here is a run-down of pros & cons:

Pro: Awesome buffalo wings! If you are a buffalo wing lover, this place is a must. They've got about a dozen sauces to choose from ranging from mild to blazing near seizure inducing hot.
Con: If you are not a buffalo wing lover, um, you'll be snot out of luck. They do have some chicken sandwiches, wraps and ribs so maybe you could order one of those. Also, limited selection for "healthy" diners.

Con: Aforementioned limited menu {which I hardly care about since I am a carnivore & love bbw, ribs, and burgers. Also I did not like that the sandwiches did not come with a side. You would think that I could order a boneless wings meal basket, but alas, NO. It's a la carte baby. I guess you can get the basket deal at lunch, but not at dinner. I don't even really like restaurants where a salad doesn't come with my entree *cough, Applebee's, cough, cough*, so to not get a side was ridiculous.

Con: Depends on what you're looking for whether this is a con or not, but atmosphere is more bar-ish. Kinda loud with big screen TVs everywhere~I guess if you're a sports fan you put plunk this down in the "pro" column.
Pro: I doubt the intoxicated patrons will mind rowdy children.

Pro: Service was good. Didn't have to wait for a table {5:15 pm on a Saturday night}. And they seemed accommodating.

Now back to our feature presentation. I ordered the boneless wings with some Asian type sauce & they were freakin' awesome. I mean, delish. Spicy in all the right ways. The other thing I liked is that they had a nice selection of kids meals. Figures that we ended up ordering 4 mac & cheeses. The funny thing about a party of 12 is that when a typical table would maybe need just one or two more things, like extra napkins or a side of some kind of sauce, when you multiply that by about 4 the requests are as long as Santa's "nice" list.
Um, waitress! Could you please bring 2 sides of hot sauce, some tartar sauce, a lemon wedge and some extra silverware? Ok, now that you've returned with that, we need another Corona, a diet coke refill, and one more straw.....
It was actually quite comical. {I began wondering about families who, in and of themselves, are parties of 10 or 12. Do you call ahead everywhere you go? Do you even go out to dinner that often?} They also had these little handheld video trivia game thingys where you compete against other diners answering questions broadcast on a couple of the TV screens. This kept the kids nearly endlessly occupied which was great for the big people. Until that is, dear father-in-law was having a coronary over the kids dropping them, so that put a kabosh on that. All in all, it was a very enjoyable meal. And if I ever in the mood for buffalo wings, which is strangely often, I know where I am headed. Care to join me?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Trimmings

I'm sure it probably looks like an ordinary Christmas tree, not unlike others that are in millions of American homes. For me, it is a BIG deal.
I really love Christmas
. I love the festiveness of everything. I love that it's an entire season in and of itself. You see, every Christmas dear husband and I debate the merits of Christmas decorations, trees, and gift giving. Even the importance
is family gatherings gets put up on the butcher block. I can understand his point. To him, Christmas is about only one thing: celebrating the birth of our Savior. To me, the decorations and gifts and family gatherings are just the trimmings on the main event, the icing on the cake, so to speak. I dragged the tree out on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I even unwrapped all my Christmas decorations. Due to a lingering "bah-humbug" spirit in the house, I decided to put everything away. Yep. I even took the tree down. The whole week I prayed. I prayed for peace. I prayed that I would come to a place where Christmas means only one thing to me. I think we don't realize the importance of something until God asks us to sacrifice it. I think sometimes He likes to see whether or not we are willing to give up what He asks of us. Ya know what? He answered. I did come to place where even if we didn't have a single Christmas decoration in the house, it wouldn't really matter. I came to the place where Christmas is only about Jesus. About meditating on Him and the story of His birth. Everything else was stripped away. And then, this last weekend, dear husband announces that we are putting the tree up. And so we did. And it looks...festive. And it makes me smile when I look at it. And I am glad that I can put my icing back on the cake.

Speaking of things that make me smile, I created this Christmas paper bag album for all my holiday photos. Usually I end up with so many pictures from our {too} numerous family gatherings, that I don't know what to do with them all. If you've been reading for awhile, you'll remember that I created a Summer paper bag album so I wouldn't have to scrapbook as many layouts for the summertime. I am so happy with how this Christmas one came out! There are 12 interior pages as well as 4 hidden tags for more photos/journaling. All based on a paper bag. Who'da thunk it?

I also like to use my scrapbooking/embellishing skills when wrapping gifts. I never really thought to do it before, but I was feeling creative when wrapping this gift. I used my tag punch and Making Memories stamps to initial the tag, added some ribbon & a jingle bell, and viola! One tres chic gift ;-)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

a.k.a. June Cleaver

So I always wanted to be the mom who had warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for the kids after a long day at school. Fresh from the oven. With a cold glass of milk. But alas, the school bus has gone by the wayside. If you are one of those June Cleaver wannabes like I am, then here's an idea. Make a BIG batch of cookies on the weekend or after the kids are sleeping or whenever you have some free time. Then, line a cookie sheet {or two} with wax paper and using a cookie/ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the cookie sheets & freeze. When frozen, put the dough balls {this sounded really funny to me} in a freezer bag and mark with date & baking instructions. Then, you can have freshly baked cookies for the kiddies any day of the week just by turning on your oven. As one of my favorite food network celebs says, "Now how easy was THAT?!"

Here is the recipe I use:

2 sticks of softened butter
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda
3/4 t. baking powder
1 bag of chocolate chips

Blend butter and both sugars on medium high speed until light and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Portion onto lightly greased cookie sheet {or onto your Silpat if you're a Silpat-girl like me}. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes (depends on the size of your cookies). Add 1-2 minutes to the baking time if using frozen dough.

You can also substitute any type of flavored baking chips or pieces in place of the chocolate chips. Like butterscotch, mini m&m's, or whatever else you have on had. How about 1/2 chocolate 1/2 peanut butter? YUM-O!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to wish everyone who reads A Stirring Life a happy thanksgiving! I hope that the turkey was delish, your time with family was blessed, and most of all, that your hearts are filled with gratitude for all that God has given us! Thanks to some encouragement from an ASL reader, I have felt motivated to make a couple of changes to make this blog a little more pleasing to the eye. I've added/removed some more links in the sidebar & also enabled the feature for posts to be emailed to someone by clicking on the little envelope below the post.

We celebrated yesterday at Rick's sister's house which was nice, but um...very tiring. I was so exhausted I fell asleep in the car on the way home. We are also having a meal here on Saturday with family and some friends as well. {Why is it that we only usually spend holidays with our family and not our friends too?} This last week has been so productive and enjoyable for me as I've prepared for the Thanksgiving holiday. Not only have I made 2 cheesecakes, 2 pumpkin pies, some spiced cranberry sauce, and baked macaroni & cheese (so far) but I also managed to sew the girls matching outfits. I think this productivity can be directly attributed to three factors 1) a detailed plan for the week 2) having morning quiet times 3) I don't watch TV during the day anymore. I can hardly believe all the things I have time for now that I'm not watching TV. Stuff I REALLY enjoy so much more than TV, like knitting and scrapbooking and sewing and cooking and blogging. Like going outside with the kiddies and playing playdough together and reading more books.

I am thankful for so many things, which if named, would probably fill up an entire page. To many of you, though, who are my friends outside of the blogosphere, I am thankful for you. I am thankful to the support you have given me when times have been difficult. I am thankful that we are able to enjoy life together and increase each other's faith. I am thankful for the laughs we have shared. I am thankful that you make my life better just by being in it.

I hope {to use a term from dear friend A} that wasn't too....cheesy!

Monday, November 20, 2006

"the Lump" and goosebumps too

Whenever I hear this song, which has only been a few times, I get "the Lump" and goosebumps too. You know "the Lump"? That tightening in your throat when something takes the express lane directly to your heart. Take a looky:

Third Day - Cry Out To Jesus
From the album Wherever You Are

To everyone who's lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on
They’ve lost all of their faith in love
They've done all they can to make it right again
Still it's not enough

For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains
You try to give up but you come back again
Just remember that you're not alone in your shame
And your suffering


When your lonely
And it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight


The way the words are written are just so powerful and truthful. I remember trying to explain to Tatiana a few months ago about a friend who had taken his own life. I almost said that it was just God's timing for him to go, but then it struck me that I wasn't so sure that was even true. I felt exactly like the first verse: "lost someone they love long before it was their time". It seems I know at least one person struggling with all the heartache mentioned here, from a marriage struggling just to hang on to addictions and chains to the widow wiping her tears away. And I can't even think about children not having homes or being in ones where they are neglected or beaten. Can't even think about it. When I think of my own pain and struggles and occasional feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, it's a comfort to remember that He'll meet me wherever I am...and wherever you are too. If only we'll cry out to Him.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I just finished reading the book Chasing God and the Kids Too by Cheryl Carter, which I mentioned in a previous post. I can't say enough what a blessing it has been. Here are two things I read today that stood out to me:

We talk a great deal about God's awesome power and our trust in him. The greater question becomes, can God trust us? Can he trust us to have a good attitude no matter how dark things become? Can he trust us to keep our eyes on him and to walk on water to the other side despite what everyone in the boat is saying
Q:What is one mistake mom's make?
A: The real reason we do not take time for ourselves is because we don't feel we are worth it. We are worth it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So blessed!

I am feeling so blessed lately by other women. SO blessed. I just love the blog GirlTalk & their conversations on biblical womanhood and other fun stuff. I was totally encouraged by some posts there to wake up before my children so I can have some quiet time before the chaos of the day begins. I have found myself really more open to God's leading & better able to hear His voice since I started my "7:00 am club". Please, if you are a "sister", keep me accountable! Ask me what I read today. Rick has started asking me what I've been reading & it's really encouraging.
I also have been so encouraged/challenged/stretched by the book Chasing God and the Kids Too: balancing a mom's most important pursuits. I can honestly say it is unlike any other "parenting" book I have ever read, if you can even call it that. If you want to be challenged to take your thoughts captive, learn purposeful thinking, be provoked to meditate & be a Christ-like example for your children, then I highly recommend reading it. I have been so BLESSED by it, I almost want to do a study about it here on my blog. You can check out the author's blog here. Oh, and {A} , if you read this, she has a book on organizing & seems to really love organizing! (I think you know who you are ;-) She even has a website started by her kids on organizing for kids. I am *loving* organizing too. Makes my life {and that of my household} run so much more smoothly.
I also have been so blessed by Christian radio messages lately. Seems like they sink in a lot more than they used to and I am really taking more to heart than I used to.
More blessings have come in the way of my new email buddy, {B}, who is also a "sister". I think we have learned so much about one another through our writings. Kinda like old-fashioned penpals! I am really valuing relationships so much lately & am working harder than ever to build the ones that are important to me & develop new ones as God so leads. But ya know, not just the "hi, how are ya? how are the kids?" kind of friends. I am trying to build my friendships into the, "what burdens can i bear for you? how is your relationship with God? how can i be an encouragement to you?" type of friendships. I think, even in Christian circles, these types of friendships aren't as common as you might think. It requires a level of personal-ness (is that even a word?) that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. And vulnerability too. Scary, huh? I think our fast paced, virtual, high-tech world doesn't help much either.
Let me know what you've been blessed by lately! I guess this would be a good time to prepare our hearts for a season of thankfulness as Thanksgiving approaches.
Bless you gals today! (Oh and guys too, in case there are any of you out there....)

Monday, October 30, 2006

God feels the same way

I've been struggling lately with encouraging a positive attitude in my dear daughter when it comes to cleaning. Occasionally, when I ask her to pick up some toys or her room, she is cheerful and just says, "Ok, mom!" Occasionally. Most of the time there is sighing, sometimes crying, and always some comment about her legs cracking/breaking/crumbling or her being "too tired". She does end up doing what I ask, but not with a joyful spirit. Tonight, after Rick put her to bed, he said, "I just don't know what to do with THAT one. I mean, that BEHAVIOR. It's almost driving me nuts!" And I replied by saying, "I bet sometimes God feels the same way about us." (If you reread his words from God's perspective, you'll see what I mean.) Good to remember when dealing with our little blessings!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Saugatuck & Lemonade

I've been meaning to post for a few days now, but just have been enjoying the family, keeping the home in order, and yesterday I think the blogger server was down. So I'm finally getting a chance to do it now!

Our anniversary trip to Saugatuck, MI turned out to be enjoyable. After dropping the kids off in Chicago to stay with my dad & step-mom, we fought several hours of traffic to leave the city. It didn't help that many streets were closed due to set-up for the Chicago Marathon. Plus side was I did nap a bit on the way up. Kudos to my wunderbar hubby for driving there (& back)! So we get to our "cottage" & that is when the lemonade making begins. The proverbial kind. Our cottage was NOT like the other ones pictured on their business website. I'm beginning to think they don't have photos posted of this particular unit for a reason. I would NOT have made a reservation for this unit if I would've seen what it looked like. I just assumed it would look similar to the other ones pictured. I was so disappointed. Of course being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted the weekend to be...well...perfect. Our cottage had carpet, the others had hardwood. Ours had a 70's kitchen & furniture, the others did not. Our bedrooms had floral "grandma-like" bedspreads (no offense meant to my grandma readers), the others did not. Hey, at least the bathrooms had been updated. And it did have a fireplace like I was promised. So, I made lemonade out of my lemons. Not easy for a type-A personality to do.

The town was great! We walked around the entire town on Saturday morning & drove north to Holland and walked around their awesome downtown as well! Lots of little quirky shops & restaurants. I came across two (2!) spice shops & several specialty food shops. If you're local to me, it was kinda like Lake Geneva, only bigger & better. We hit several coffee shops throughout the weekend & spent lots of time relaxing in front of our cottage fireplace. It was very refreshing & great to escape the mundane household tasks & get a change of scenery. Photos from our trip:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

8 years and counting

On Sunday night, I could not fall asleep. I tossed and turned for awhile & then stayed up using the internet til 2 am. It reminded me of exactly 8 years ago on October 15, 1998. I couldn't sleep that night but for a very different reason. It was the night before my wedding and my mom, brother and I all slept in the same room together for my last night at home. I tossed & turned and actually thought I might have to send my mom to the store for sleeping pills...

Fast forward to today. I am still telling Rick that I'm so glad he picked me. I didn't know then that he would be such a good fit for me. There were people who thought we probably wouldn't stay married this long. Guess we proved them wrong. There is still no one who I would rather discuss things with, laugh with, raise kids with, love. We are going away this weekend to Saugatuck, MI to celebrate. I am so looking forward to time away with my dear hubby, no kids, no housework, nothing pulling me in a million different directions. Just me & the one I love!

Here's to you, babe! Can't wait to see what is in store for the next 8!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Planning Overload!

Anyone else out there tired of planning like I am? I have been planning new cleaning lists for better household management, planning my cooking sessions, homeschool planning (although I *do* have a new PLAN for my planning *rolls eyes*), planning the family's social calendar, AND now, holiday planning. Who's house we'll go to for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas day, who to shop for, how much $$ to spend on gifts, planning how many Christmas cards I'll need, oh, and MENUS! This is one thing that I never tire of PLANNING! All this planning has me wondering: do I ever really enjoy the events or I am just busy planning the next item on my list? The dear husband requested that I not do any *planning* on Sundays so I can better enjoy our family time, so now I have to plan when to do my PLANNING. All this planning is driving me nuts! {Have you ever said a word over and over and over again, until it sounds weird & you're not even sure that's really how the word is supposed to sound? After this post, the word planning is sounding totally unnatural.} I do realize that the planning does help, A LOT. The more things I can write down or have in lists, the less things I have to remember. Tatiana seems like a real planner to me. I have never known another child this young to have picked a birthday theme (in August '05) and not changed her mind and had said birthday theme in July 2006. She has been telling me all day about the different themes of birthdays she is considering, all the way up until she turns twelve. Although, I'm not sure when she is 11 she will still want a Toy Story 2 birthday (complete with Jesse, Woody, the Prospector & all the "toys"). Maybe planning is genetic. I guess only my mom & dad can confirm that one for sure.....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Raising a reader

I wasn't planning on teaching Tatiana to read at the tender age of 5. I thought that children learned to read when they were a bit older, like 8. Isn't she still supposed to be learning her ABC's? When did all this growing up happen? We went to Lowe's one day about 4 months ago. She asked me what a word on a sign read. I told her "authentic", then she proceeded to read, "Authentic colors for today's lifestyle." I mean, without help. Just matter of factly. Um, ok. I figured it was time for "formal" reading instruction. Several people have recently inquired/questioned/marveled at her reading ability and asked me what my magic reading formula is. No magic here! After some thought, however, I realized that there may be some things that I have done to set her up for success, which I thought I would share. Whether you are schooling at home or not, your child may greatly benefit from some of these suggestions.

1. Reading out loud. A LOT.
We have always had books available since Tatiana was born, even before that, actually. {Rick read The Chronicles of Narnia to Tatiana while she was still in the womb.} Cloth books, board books, lift-the-flap books, textured books. Store signs, menus, sales flyers. Anything! I will pretty much stop whatever it is I'm doing if one of my children wants to read. I value reading that highly. We have made reading stories part of our bedtime routine since T was a toddler. And we still read them today. Anytime of day. Over and over if necessary. And although this is sometimes irritating to the parent, having the books memorized comes in handy for those seasons of sleep deprivation...

2. Talking about letters/words/sounds
We discuss letters and sounds often, at home, out shopping, riding in the car. When she was first learning the letters, we would look for specific letters wherever we were. "Let's look for the letter A!" You could start with helping your child recognize the letters in his name. Then we progressed to discussing words that start with the same sound, like "b". Now we talk about rhyming words, opposites, etc.

3. Tactile letters
Having your child feel the letters reinforces their shape. The famous letter magnets are perfect for this. How about wooden letter puzzles? We also used to have foam letters for the bathtub. Other ideas include having your child trace letters in a pan filled with cornmeal, sand, or pudding (if you're really daring). I also came across this idea recently: write a large upper/lowercase letter on an index card, then laminate the card. Using playdough, have your child roll the dough into a rope then lay it out on top of the card in the shape of the letter. I can't wait til Sienna is old enough for this one. Sounds like fun!

4. LeapFrog Products
I really think LeapFrog products are wonderful! I have personally seen the DVDs, The Talking Letter Factory & The Talking Words Factory, make letters and the sounds they make come to life for Tatiana. I recommended The Talking Letter Factory to another mother and her daughter learned all to recognize all the letters of the alphabet quickly as well. These educational videos really make learning fun & use lots of "word pictures" to make letters and their sounds easy to remember. We have since moved on to the Storybook Factory....

5. Remember that reading is not natural and builds concept upon concept.
Reading is not like talking. You can't just hear someone do it over and over and then pick it up yourself. It takes work. To some children it comes easily, to others it proves to be more difficult. Also, it happens in steps (at least from what I have seen). First your child must be comfortable with recognizing the letters themselves before they can move on to what sounds the letters make. Once familiar with the sounds, they'll be able to start putting one or more sounds together.

6. Computer games
Sometimes animation and games makes learning all the more fun! Two websites I especially like are this one and this one. The second one has activities for all levels of readers.

Remember to relax and be patient. Children will learn to read when they are ready. Don't make them feel bad if they are not as fast to read as their peers or as fast as YOU would like them to be. Give them plenty of opportunities to learn, however, and most of all, make it fun! ;-)

Friday, October 06, 2006


We have a new pet. Tatiana named him Dot. He is the perfect pet for our family.

He does not shed.

He does not make any loud noises.

He does not require any special food or vaccinations.

He does not take up much room or require much upkeep.

Here he is:

I'm amazed that the picture came out as well as it did through the magnification of the top glass.
Overnight he did spin a bunch of web in the jar. We unexpectedly stopped by a garage sale on our morning walk & found a book with this exact spider on the cover, titled "Amazing Spiders", for a quarter. What a find! I don't think, however, that we will keep him for very long because, quite frankly, he creeps me out. Rick even more so than I!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Coming Soon to a School District Near You...

I'm sure some of you don't believe me when I mention things that are going on in today's government school arena. Here is an article I came across this morning that I thought you may find interesting. It details how the Philadelphia school district is including Gay & Lesbian History Month slated for celebration this October of the 2006-2007 school year. I'm sure the contributions of homosexuals will be portrayed in a positive light and I'm willing to bet the negative effects of this lifestyle will be excluded. Despite strong reactions from upset parents, the school district will press on. Another good reason to protect our little ones' hearts and minds!

Friday, September 29, 2006

{Knowing You}

I realized just recently that sometimes we learn the most about people when we really aren't expecting it. Like the meeting I attended not too long ago, which was designed for "fun", ended up revealing so much about peoples' thoughts and inner-workings. With that said, here is my first batch, in a series, of questions, designed to get to know you. Not like Coke vs. Pepsi question I mentioned previously (but we all know anyways that Pepsi is much better~LOL)! I will just post them as they come to me. I look forward to your responses.

1. The Bible exhorts us to, "..speak the truth in love..". Do you tend to be more on the truth-side, the love-side, or are you a nice blend of both?

2. Are there friends you go to for certain things depending on what you need or are most of your friends the all-purpose type? For example, would you call one friend if you wanted to go out & have fun, another if you needed great (spiritual or otherwise) advice, or another if you needed to cry on her shoulder.

I will also respond to these questions in the comments section. Hope ya'll have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Still Breathing

Yes, I am still alive. Taking it one day at a time. I have been so BUSY lately. Just trying to juggle too many balls in the air at one time. Plus with homeschooling now, I feel like that added a watermelon to my other smallish juggling balls. I am trying to finish a HUGE scrapbook-for-hire project and only have 1 page left to go, plus some touch up work. I started knitting a sweater for Sienna that is near completion. I started knitting a super fun looking hat for Tatiana. This last weekend I went to Jacob's homecoming football game and then to Buffalo Wild Wings, since it was my 10th high school reunion. So much fun! I realized I think I am too old to be staying up til 2:30 am. Then again, in a way, I'm too young not too. Here is a picture of my best buddy Michelle & I (can you believe we have actually been friends for UM....12 years??!!):

These are the pictures of the kiddos that I brought with me to show my friends:

This coming weekend my dear old friend Justine is driving up from North Carolina to visit for a couple days, as she has 3 weeks of army leave. I am so excited I am just beside myself. I haven't seen her since Tatiana was about 1 year old. That means I am planning weekend food/activities & trying to clean house (well, haven't started that part yet, but I will). In the midst of all this, I have been working on my part-part-part-time job of surveying housing developments, which needs to be completed by Friday (when I will have to drive out to Schaumburg~YUK!~to return my materials). Sometimes I feel like I am streeeeeeeeeeeetching so thin with so many things on my plate. Which leads my to a parenting related thought: does anyone out there use a family schedule? You know, like a Supernanny-type routine where the whole day is planned out? If you do, please tell me how you like/dislike it. Maybe it would work for me. Maybe I would feel like there was a definite time for things like cleaning, playing & working. Otherwise just let me know that you are still alive too OR what you do to keep yourself from going insane when your plate is ready to spill over. God Bless!

P.S. I just have to share this picture that I took today. Sienna got to join us for some school time, since she was being so well-behaved before her nap time. I *so* love the girls and I living life TOGETHER ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Survey Says....

I used to love watching Family Feud (and lots of other game shows for that matter). I think the part I liked the most was seeing whether or not I seemed smarter than the contestants. Of course from the comfort of my own living room without thousands of dollars at stake, I probably had an advantage. I distinctly remember the way Ray Combs would say, "We surveyed 100 people with the top 5 answers on the board....." I guess surveys were popular even back then. It seems like the 21st century version would be internet surveys. They are everywhere: myspace, forums, and most of inbox. I sometimes wonder what the point of them all are. Mostly they are useless information. Do I ever remember which of my friends like vanilla and which ones like chocolate? Or the jobs they have had? Or whether they drink coke or pepsi? Does it really matter what they were wearing when they took the survey? I wish someone would come with a survey and title it, "The Only Survey You'll Ever Need" filled with the most crucial of questions. Then I can send it to all my friends and keep a copy of all their responses. I doubt many would answer (maybe save for my really, really close friends) because the reason most people participate in surveys is for FUN. It would have questions like the date of their birthday (so I don't forget), their love language (so when I want to do something nice I know what type of "thing" to do), their favorite meal and dessert (so when they come over I know what to cook), maybe things like their greatest strength/weakness, what they tend to cry about (why does everyone cry so much anyways?? I can't even remember the last time I cried...), maybe things that they find aggravating (so I can try not to do it), and probably the things they find most important in life & what they have the strongest convictions about. I think that REALLY tells the most about people, don't ya think? Anyways, the reasons I usually participate in surveys is either because a) I am in the mood or b) my "friend" wants me to send one back to her with my responses. So hear is a freebie for ya'll (reason "a"):

3 Weird Things/Habits about Me

1. I like to eat raw flavored oatmeal. Only Quaker Cinnamon 'n Spice. I usually eat about 2 bags at a time. I started out just using less and less water because I really like the spicy flavored powder. Eventually I got to the point where I wasn't using any water at all.

2. I was born with one crossed eye. It couldn't move at all, it was just always pointing in. I had surgery for that, but now it tends to overcorrect itself so it may not look like I am looking at you, when I really am. I am kinda sensitive about it and it is so frustrating to hear store clerks/strangers/people-who-don't-know-about-it asking, "Are you talking to me?" It happens especially when I am tired too. This also means that I DON'T have BInocular vision. Most people's eyes work together, mine work separately from each other. Like when you go to the DMV and you look in their little vision test machine and they ask you if the dot is inside or outside of the box, I can't tell. One eye sees the dot, one eye sees the box. So far, I've guessed correctly.

3. I like to crack my back. Maybe this is not so weird, but some people might think so. It just relieves a lot stress and I feel looser after I do it. When I was pregnant with T., I used to lean backwards over a chair so that the chair back would push on my vertebrae.

I was planning on listing 6 things, but I guess I'm not as weird as I thought. I'm sure these are things that you wouldn't readily forget, not like whether I prefer Coke or Pepsi.....

P.S. In case you were wondering, I'm a Pepsi girl. Coke just tastes too sweet to me. I usually drink Caffeine-free Diet. It has a nice crisp refreshing flavor.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Things I've Been Reading Lately

I came across this blog recently and loved her blog's purpose and the idea of dreaming a really BIG dream. That with the fact that she has six kids makes me all the more interested. I think from there I linked over to the blog at S.H.M.I.L.Y . This is the purpose as posted on the blog:

"S.H.M.I.L.Y. Time" (See How Much I Love You) focuses on our priority after God as wives, which is to bring glory to Him through being a wife. It doesn't matter what stage (or state) your marriage is in right now. Pray to the Lord to give you the strength, forgiveness, and love you need to be the wife He intends for you to be.

Seems like a really great place to get some new ideas for keeping the spark alive in your marriage.

This is another blog I've been checking into which I believe can be linked from the SHMILY blog.
Here is just a small snippit of what the blog is about:

A CLEAN HEART will not tell you that you deserve a break or that you deserve some praise for everything that you do. The reason is simply: we have been called to, and have the privilege of, being wives and homeschool moms... along with everything that entails. A CLEAN HEART will encourage and uplift, never belittle or begrudge the God-given task we have as women, wives, and mothers. (Please note: I am a wife and homeschool mother, so to those of you who are single or not homeschool moms, please take the information given here and use what you can to bless you as well! I'm glad that you're here!)

A CLEAN HEART Blog will also offer FREE printable schedules, organizers, and many other helpful forms to help you get control of and maintain your home and homeschool. More importantly, your HEART will not be forgotten along the way by offering devotions and printable prayer pages as well.

I am so excited to have found this site and can't wait to start checking it out a little more thoroughly. I think the printables will be useful for my home journal. They also have a group challenge which I think would be neat to do with some friends. (*hint*hint*)

I've also been lovin' this forum over at recipezaar. They also have other great cooking forums to check out if you're not into budget/freezer cooking.

I've been reading the book Saving Dinner: the Menus, Recips, and Shopping Lists to Bring Your Family Back to the Table, which I had checked out from the library. I'm going to purchase it from amazon though, since so many of the recipes are things my family would really use. She gives you a recipe a day for every week of the year. One recipe a week is a crock-pot meal. Many of these recipes could easily be frozen. *I already have Asian Honey Chicken in the freezer.*

I've been trying to focus more lately on my purpose in the home and making it a sanctuary for all who enter. I guess I've been on a cooking kick lately too. Let me know what you've been reading or if you've found any of my links to be interesting ;-)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What would you do....

...if you witnessed a mother back-hand her child across the face in a public place?? I was in Target yesterday and came across a family in the toy department. The three kids were in the 8-11 year old range and were arguing with the mother over purchasing a toy. Mom was yelling that she doesn't have $20 per child to spend and the family seemed to be agitated. I felt sorry for the mom at that particular moment. Later on in my trip, as I was approaching the checkout area, I could hear screaming and crying. The 10-ish year old daughter was extremely upset and was trying to explain to mom that mom didn't keep her word about something. At the exact moment I was walking by, mom back-hands daughter across the face. It wasn't with all her might or anything, but it probably stung. I was just bothered by that display. It seemed inappropriate. Period. I just kept on walking. Rick said I should've just hit the mom and ask her how it felt! LOL! I really don't know what I could've done. What would you do??

I also wonder when the law steps in. Hollie, if you read this, I wonder if Jeremy could shed some light on this. Do they ever get calls about a parent hitting a child in public? Would they even respond? Just wondering....

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let's play...

....a little game. I snagged this from Carrie's blog over at Handle Life with Care (she snagged it from her DH's blog). Anywho,

The idea is this: You express how much you prefer one thing to another (using the greater than sign >>>), and then add “it’s not even close.”

IBC Rootbeer>>>>>>>Dr. Pepper

a crisp fall day>>>>>>a sweltering hot & humid summer day

a clean house with well-behaved children>>>>>>>>>a messy house with children bouncing off the walls

a close-knit family>>>>>>>>a distant family

being comfortable in my own skin>>>>>>>>trying to "fit in" to what other people think I should be

leaving for vacation>>>>>>>coming home

being near the water>>>>>>being land-locked

a blissful uncomplicated pregnancy>>>>>>>>>unrelenting morning sickness

uplifting "real" people>>>>>>>>>>pessimistic hypocritical people

a few close friendships>>>>>>>>bunches of acquaintances

creating something with my hands>>>>>>>doing dishes with my hands (YUK!)

It's not even close!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Storm

It sounded like breaking glass. I awoke from a deep sleep to hear the noise of rain falling. As I looked toward the window, the flashes of lightening flickered through like a strobe light. OH, maybe something from this storm broke a window. I hopped out of bed and went to the living room. The lamp would not turn on. The power must be out. I peeked through the blinds into the backyard. I could make out the form of the fence through the lightening flashes. NOOOOO! I couldn't tell how much of the fence had been demolished, but I could see it laying in the grass. To my right I could see the patio umbrella laying in the glass as well. I checked the windows. None broken. I ran to wake up Rick. He was not in bed where I expected him to be. I fumbled in the dark for my phone and looked at the time. 4:45 am. I called Rick. He had left for work 20 minutes earlier. He told me where to find a flashlight and I went and checked the girls' windows. They were both sound asleep. I went back to bed, but lay there in fear. Through my prayers I could feel my heart thumping, the wind battering the house, the thunder and lightening crackling. I was making plans on how to get the girls and where we would hide in the basement should the tornado sirens sound. I finally fell in and out of a fitful rest. This is what I woke up to the following morning:

The wind snapped the pole that holds up the patio umbrella. Oh well. Maybe I can find one on clearance after summer's end.

This is the part of the fence closest to the house. The concrete is actually coming out of the ground due to the weight of the fence falling. You can see the top runner is almost snapped in half as well.

The middle of the fence. You can see what is left of each post sticking out of the ground.

The end of the left side of the fence where it meets the back section.

This is the A-frame portion of my several-hundred-pound wooden playset that was lifted up and moved over about 14". The hole on the right is where it used to sit.

I guess I can be thankful that it was only the left side of the fence and not the whole thing! I am also thankful that the kids and I were safe from harm. DH looks at the kids and I being safe as "something good" happening, whereas I saw it as something bad being avoided. Depends on your perspective I suppose. I realize now that the sound I thought of as glass breaking was mostly likely the sound of each post cracking off. I sickens me every time I look out the window to think of all the hours Rick spent out there in the sweltering heat to make a nice place for his family to enjoy and to have it all be undone in just a matter of minutes. I told God that I am aware of His power and did not need to be reminded. Why couldn't He "speak" to someone else? I guess somehow this is all part of his plan. I was without internet as well for 2 days because our tower was down. So I am back now!

A Special Note to all my Public Schooling Friends: I know many of your children will be starting their first year of kindergarten and this may be stirring up all kinds of emotions for you, as their mother. I am, and will continue, to be praying for your families and the changes that this will bring. Please drop me a line and let me know how you are handling this and if there is anything I can do. Love you girls!

P.S. The violent storm and its ensuing aftermath reminded me and gave me one small miniscule glimpse into what Hurricane Katrina survivors must have and continue to feel. As the one year anniversary of Katrina is in a few short days, please keep all those affected in your prayers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

{A word on.....}

...the Weekend:

I guess any day when you have to call 911 probably could be filed under the "exciting" category. Rick and I were on our way to a family wedding and I was on the phone with {M} when a car accident occurred in front of us. Of course, I was shaken & called 911. Never called 911 from a cell phone before & now feel reassured that it actually "works". No one was seriously injured but there were children one of the vehicles who were crying and very scared, which to me was upsetting. I have been having some trouble with migraine headaches and suffered another one on Saturday. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to this wedding (only made it in time for the reception) and kept changing my mind almost the whole way there. I am thinking I may need to get some medication for this or research some other sort of remedies. If you have ever had one, you know how debilitating they can be! (If you have any suggestions, could you please let me know?)


I posted (jokingly) several posts ago wondering how to get 23 comments on cooking or knitting or household tips. Apparently I hit a culinary nerve. Can't we all just get along?? *grin* Moving on...I made this recipe today to go along with our dinner & was so easy and delicious. The crust wasn't as "crispy" as I thought it would be, but maybe it's not supposed to be. I also made a surf & turf stir-fry on Friday for a private dinner for Rick & I and it turned out to be quite tasty. Lots of ginger, fresh garlic, and green onions. YUM! My mom spent the night on Saturday to watch the girls (bless her heart!) and on Sunday morning was SO excited to tell me about this book she started reading that she found laying around my house. Yep, Frozen Assets. She said she copied down a bunch of recipes and can't wait to freeze some meals and went on and on about what a great idea she thinks this is. Oh, mom. If only my blog readers could hear you now, we would all laugh together.

...Backyard projects:

Our fence is almost complete! I realized today (while I was mowing the grass) how I really enjoy a little privacy. I am, for the most part, an extrovert. I, do, however need my own space and *love* being fenced in. The landscaping still needs much work, like digging out unwanted plants and moving others that are now misplaced due to the fence. Also, my "weed" garden along the back needs to be killed and the play area and raised garden beds built. Oh, I can't forget our much anticipated fire pit. Looking forward to that! And {A} will definitely be getting an invite for some bonfires and s'mores (you know who you are girlie!) Take a peek:
View from the deck

my flowerbed and a closer view of the pickets

I'm actually really proud of my flowers. I'm shocked I could actually manage to keep something alive. Not only that, but the flowers all the way at the bottom I planted as seeds. Amazing the beauty that God designed for us to enjoy. I never tire of looking at them. I *love* how they spill over onto the brick patio too.


Our "official" start date is Monday, August 28th. I am excited and nervous. Aargh!

I've enjoyed hearing from so many of you recently. I am looking forward to more of our dialogues. God Bless!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My OAMC Attempt

For those of you who've never heard the term (I hadn't until just recently), OAMC stands for once-a-month-cooking. I'd read about the concept somewhere in the blogosphere and so decided to check out this book from the library. Hmmm. I read the first few sections and was convinced to give it a try. Don't get me wrong, I *love* cooking, really. {Wasn't my last post about cooking too??} But sometimes I get bored/tired/confused regarding our daily dinner meal. We pretty much eat dinner together as a family every evening, unless one of us has a prior committment or we are out for a special event. I was super skeptical that this method would actually be cheaper (so was DH). I had tried shopping at Sam's Club a few months back and it did NOT help my grocery budget. Using the Frozen Assets book as my guide, I picked about 10 recipes and included one of my personal recipes to make and freeze. I shopped mostly at Aldi and went to Woodman's for the rest (or for the items I knew to be cheaper). Here was the menu I planned:
  • Chicken & Broccoli (4)
  • Baked Ziti (4)
  • Lazy Lasagna (2)
  • Beef Bourgignon (3)
  • Chicken Cacciatore (4)
  • All-Purpose Ground Meat Mix for Taco Salads (3) and Sloppy Joes (3)
  • Pizza Blanks (2) ~ I also made (4) medium sized ones for the kids & I for lunches
  • Egg McMuffin Sandwiches (18) ~ for DH's breakfast
  • Calzones (12) ~ for the kids & I for lunch, quick dinner, or DH snack
This adds up to 25 dinners, plus 18 breakfast sandwiches and 12-16 lunches. The total grocery bill was...{are you ready for this?}....$114. I still can't really believe it myself. I'm thinking I might be able to cut $60-$100 off of my already small grocery bill!! I will have to see how the rest of the month goes. All I will need to add to these meals is some side dishes, a fresh garden salad or noodles to go with it. Maybe even dessert! I spent about 3 days cooking on & off since I didn't have a babysitter for the kids. I definitely think I may do some mini-sessions throughout the month instead of one HUGE session. DH & I had the Lazy Lasagna over the weekend and he couldn't stop saying how good it was. He kept asking if there was any left. I am so happy that DH will be able to have a hot breakfast too, whenever he wants one. I'm caring for him every morning even while I'm still sleeping by having these in the freezer! I love it!

Calzones fresh from the oven. Can you smell 'em?? YUM!

Pizza crust for family meals

Egg McMuffin sandwiches for Rick

Taco Salad I made with for lunch with the All-Purpose Ground Meat Mix

The other advantage to this method was my grocery experience today. Since I already have all these "assets" in my freezer I was able to be in & out of the grocery store in only 30 minutes since I didn't need that many groceries. I spent half of what I usually would, so combined with what I bought in addition to my OAMC groceries last week, I'm about even for the month. I also have the energy to try several new recipes, since dinner is already "made". I recently pre-ordered this book from Amazon and can't wait til it arrives. More recipes!! If you have tried this method or want to know more, please comment. Oh, and I added an email me! link to the sidebar so now you can contact me privately too ;-)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kitchen Mishap & Thoughts on Cooking

I had a kitchen mishap today. Actually, it wasn't quite an "accident" as I should've been paying more attention to the task at hand. I was in the early stages of making Beef Bourgignon and was ready to fry my stew meat in bacon grease (YUM! Sorry if you're a vegetarian!) & had even made a special trip to the grocery store this morning to get the bacon. It adds so much more depth of flavor! Anyway, as I was attempting to gingerly slide the stew meat from the package into the smoking hot bacon fat, the meat just decided to belly-flop head first into the pan showering my hand and a spatter on my face with grease. I haven't felt that much pain since Sienna was born! YOW! I decided I better go to the doctor (not before I finished aforementioned frying process with two more meat packages) and get my hand looked at. Thankfully I squinted my eye closed when it happened so I only got a small red mark above my eyebrow; my right hand, though, was not as lucky. I am all bandaged up now, so will have a slight disadvantage while trying to complete my household duties (oh, and trying to assemble everything for my big Cousin/Cousin garage sale on Friday & Saturday). I started thinking that although I've had several kitchen "accidents", mostly burns, I am likely to have more mishaps since I spend soooo much time in the kitchen. {I also think the reason I haven't had any really serious knife incidents is because my knives are such an extension of my body. Like a longer arm really. It would be like seriously scratching yourself ~ how often do you do that??} I really wonder how much the average person spends cooking/baking in a typical month & I'm also so curious as to how much time I spend compared to the masses?? Maybe for fun I will keep track of this at some point!

Lately I have grown really weary of cooking. I have been just sooo tired of having to cook dinner every single night (which is why I am trying the Once a Month Cooking method). Which makes me wonder....what if I really did not have a passion for cooking to begin with?? What do people cook who really DISLIKE cooking?? How awful it would be to have to do something on a daily basis (quite necessary for living) that you so disliked!! Maybe they order out a lot or make a lot of boxed items like hamburger helper or macaroni & cheese. Maybe I am tired of cooking because I hardly use any prepared/processed ingredients. I really do wonder how the proverbial "other half" cooks.....

Friday, August 04, 2006

{Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum}

There's been a lot of talk about what everyone will be using for their curriculum this fall, so I thought I'd chime in! I am thankful for Cathy Duffy's "100 Top Picks for Homeschooling" as it really aided in my decision making. Here goes:

Daily Devotional: We have about 3 different child devotionals, including the Little Girls' Bible for Fathers & Daughters, the Little Girls' Bible for Mothers & Daughters, and My Utmost for His Highest for Kids. I will just be picking one of those to read each day.

Copywork: One short sentence from our daily devotional or a verse based around our science curriculum.

Literature: We will be doing Five in a Row! I have heard many great things about this curriculum. Since we are all book worms, I think it will be a good fit for our family. I have already begun reading some of the books just to see what this experience will be like. I will pick one or two activities to do per day.

Phonics: Phonics Pathways ~ I actually was considering holding off on the phonics as I thought this might be too much for dear daughter, but she seems desperate to read. Her favorite materials are store or public building signs, LOL! So, we are going forward with PP. She already can recognize all the upper/lower case letters and their sounds, can pronounce short vowel sounds, and read three/four letter words. I am going to start at the beginning of the book & reevaluate after a week or two to perhaps move on to Tati's level.

Science/Art: We will doing each of these 2 days per week. Our art activity will mostly come from FIAR with some thematic crafts as well. I love crafts!! For science, I found a curriculum called Made by God. They are faith-based books with between 13-18 lessons each. They seem great. I love their incorporation of Scripture & use of Bible stories.

Math: Singapore. Tatiana has already done a couple of pages so far since she is so excited to begin.

Of course there's also some other fun activites I purchased, such as puzzles, pattern blocks, tangrams, & lots of craft stuff. I am only planning on "formally" schooling, with the 5th day being Tatiana's choice of books & activities. If you have used any of these curricula or have any caveats or are interested in finding out more, please let me know! Happy hsing!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

10 Party Tips I Couldn't Do Without

In light of our DD's 5th birthday bash over the weekend, I thought I'd share some of tips most crucial to my partying. These really are mostly meant for the large gatherings, not for, let's say, a small dinner party.

#1: Make lists.

I think this significantly contributes to a well put together party and ultimately reduces the stress of forgetting anything. I make lists for everything, starting with theme ideas/date/time/place, to list of invitees, to the menu, grocery lists, and to-do lists for the days leading up to the big event.

#2: Choose time of day carefully.

Depending on your budget, you may or may not wish to serve an entire meal. If you will not be serving lunch or dinner, be sure to plan your event with this in mind. Also, when planning my daughter's party, I knew the backyard would be the main scene for the childrens' activities which is why I chose a later time of day (4 pm). This way the shade would be beginning to cover the back and it would not be during the hottest part of the day.

#3: Serve a make-ahead menu.

When planning what to serve, I try to keep in mind how many dishes will need last minute preparations. (I keep this in mind for small dinner parties & holiday gatherings as well.) Serve as many dishes that can be made ahead as possible to reduce the stress level of your entertaining. (Crockpots & prepping/reheating are good options as well!)

#4: Ask others for contributions.

Not only would these items be one less thing to worry about, but one less thing to purchase as well (great for the tight budget!). For this most recent bash, not only did my dear mother purchase plates, but also cases of pop & water. Not only that, but she brought a tub of water balloons and a large fresh fruit salad. Bless her heart! My mother-in-law provided the CareBear pinata filled with candies and my grandma brought folding chairs and bags of chips.

#5: Have someone watch the little ones before the party.

My mom (there's that wonderful word again) watch my little one overnight the evening before the party & then brought her to the party. This was wonderful! I cleaned, cleaned, decorated, and spent some one-on-one time with the birthday girl without my toddler underfoot. This is a highly recommended strategy for BIG parties where a lot of work is involved.

#6: Make sure the bathrooms have extra toilet paper.

This is one small, but important detail that I think many people tend to overlook.

#7: Set the mood. Nothing like arriving at a party to find a quiet house.

This happened to me once. I wondered if I had the day or time wrong. Play some music, add some festive decorations & be prepared to greet your guests as they arrive.

#8: Eat before the guests arrive.

I have my husband to thank for this suggestion. It seems like the role of hostess is often a tireless one & I frequently find myself with little time to fix a plate and enjoy the meal.

#9: Save what you can.

In an effort to be frugal I try to reuse whatever I can, including party decorations. I've had the same girly "Happy Birthday" banner since Tatiana had her first birthday party & I just used it as she turned 5. I also save confetti for sprinkling around the tables, gift bags & tablecloths (even the plastic ones can be wiped off & refolded).

#10: Try to relax & enjoy.

After all, it is a party. Sure everything won't be perfect (hard for this first-born, type A, perfectionist to accept at times), but really, who will notice?