Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stay at home mommy/unschooling moment

So today (and I'm going to have to eat humble pie on this one) I uncovered a book I SWORE (and the poor lady went looking for) I had returned to the library...oops....but I'm glad I found it. I had thought up an idea (after looking at loooots of ideas for crafts with letters...with the grand plan of making an ABC book....not quite there yet).

So we read our book:And we talked about the rainbow that God sent at the end of the story. M made a rainbow with her body. (she also made a giraffe and an elephant)

Then we got to the business of making our rainbow. This is my new non-toxic paint that I got from Park + Vine. I love it. It smells a little funny, but works great! Gotta get me some more colors!

So the idea was to cut an "R" out of construction paper and have M glue it down, but she was getting impatient...and this was spur of the Sharpie it is!

Also the idea was to make the rainbow with dots...but again, M had different ideas. I drew lines for S, but let M tackle it on her own.

They had a blast. I had to wipe off fingers from time to time, but all in all, not too bad.

And then we watched a Signing Time video about the colors of the rainbow and M sang along...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


So here are my calzones! I made the dough, let it rise and punched it down (again and again because I wasn't quite ready for it and it kept rising).

I chose to make several small calzones, but I suppose you could do a big one as well. So, roll it out....put a dollop of filling...the one I used was

Use a pizza cutter to cut strips on each side of the filling. This would have been a great time to involve M, but I thought it was Thursday and I was running late for small group...when in fact it's Wednesday and I had a big fat nothing going on I did it myself.

Next, "braid" the dough by overlapping the strips. All you do is alternate sides and then pinch the ends. Super easy and kinda pretty!

Here's a finished one.

Put them on a baking sheet that you sprinkled with corn meal (to help keep them from sticking) and brush with the egg and milk wash per the recipe. You can see that I over-filled a few of them, but it didn't make too much of a mess. The wash makes the dough crisp up and brown up nicely!

Here's a few close-ups.....they almost look fake :)

Kneading the Dough

Ok, so here's M kneading the dough. I'm sorry you missed the beginning of the time I realized she was quoting the You Tube video, she was mostly finished. So I told you a while back that her You Tube video of choice was all about kneading dough. I have no idea why...not veggie tales, not sesame street, not signing time.....kneading the dough. Clearly she was paying attention. Watch the You Tube video and then watch M. It's funny. "Gently stretch that part away from you."

The lady's voice is obnoxious, but it's what M loves to watch and who's she's modeling her technique after.

Wordless Wednesday...Times Three

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bologna....Who Knew?

So I was just having a conversation (well, textversation) with a friend of mine and we ended up talking about bologna. I have a nostalgic relationship with bologna....and as a result I can't buy it now.

When I was little....first grade to be exact....I lived with my parents and baby brother in my grandmother's house....with gramma too! I thought it was the coolest ever. I mean, not everyone got to live with gramma. AND, she had an upside down refrigerator! Not like the fancy ones now where the freezer bottom has a pull-out drawer...just a freezer on the bottom...and you kind of had to get down on your hands and knees to see what was really in there....waaaay in the back. But I thought it was cooler than anything....I'd never seen anything like that.

In addition to being the place where my mother told me I had to eat my jell-o (despite me assuring her that I would throw up if I ate it...she didn't believe me....I showed her!), it was a place where I remember eating bologna. Not every day, but often enough for it to be a memory. Mom would take two pieces of bologna, smear some mayo in the middle, cut them into tiny squares (more or less, because bologna is, after all, round) and I'd go to town. It was one of my favorite lunches.

Who know it was what was for lunch when they're wasn't bread. And who knew it all happened at my gramma's house because my mom had cancer right about the time my dad quit teaching and went into sales and we couldn't afford our own place anymore. Who knew?

I didn't.

I remember going to church with Gramma and my aunt and cousin (Mom and Dad went earlier) and then out to Denny's for breakfast. My aunt always got grits...and I always thought that was weird...and my cousin always got fried chicken....and I also thought that was weird...because it was breakfast!

I remember getting in trouble for peeling the paper-thin bark off the birch tree in the front yard.

I remember walking to school....often being late because I waited for my friend Jamie (she was real, people....not like my imaginary friends, Jamie, Samie, Mamie, Damie, Ramie and Mrs. Woo who lived on my front porch in Oxford...when I was three...not when I was in college). Oh and Jamie could ride a two-wheeler! What could be cooler than that!?

I remember the moment I realized just why we lived with Gramma for a year when I was in first grade. It was several years later...I was in high school and I overheard my mother (in the living room of the house we owned. Come to find out it was the first house my parents had ever owned...we moved there when I was in 6th grade) talking with another mom about not having enough money back then. She knew I was in the room (I was, after all, sitting on the other end of the couch from her), but it was one of those moments where you hear what's really going on because I think she kind of forgot I was there. She was sharing some vulnerable thoughts and feelings with a woman going through a rough patch.

I'm so glad I heard that....and not until I was that age. It made me appreciate how hard my parents worked....and how far they'd come.

People make a lot of assumptions about me when they see my life and my parents' life now. The trips we've taken, they house they live in, the gifts they lavish on us and the girls. They assume I've been a spoiled brat my whole life....when really, that's only been recently! (just kidding).

Honestly, *my* life now is a lot like my parents' life was growing up. Somewhat. We own our house...for now. But things are tight and there are a lot of months we come up short.

But it gives me hope...that maybe things won't always be like this. And when we come out on the other side and the girls are bigger....they'll remember hot dogs (because remember, I can't yet bring myself to buy bologna) on tooth picks and not realize it's a week when we couldn't buy bread.

They'll remember the good things....and then they'll grow up and appreciate the struggle and feel the love.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And Then Monday Happened......

So, Saturday night was my 15-year high school reunion. I had a great time. See how nicely we clean up? Well, Ben was "fresh" from the golf course, but I still think he looks pretty cute :)

I was all geared up to blog about how really, not much had changed...not much weight was gained or lost, very few people looked drastically different, mostly, people talked to the same people they talked to 15 years ago. Not much had changed except my desire for company upon going to the bathroom. Fifteen years ago, going alone was a sign of social outcast...ment. Now, it's a luxury and I was oh so happy for the opportunity to go all on my own like three times!!
So I was all ready to write about my night.....and then Monday happened.
Normally, Mondays aren't that big of a deal for me....the only difference between Sunday and
Monday for me is church...and sometimes we go to church on Monday too :) It's me and the and the and the girls. Ben's around, but usually working on one of a million projects....all I'm saying is, normally Mondays aren't a huge shock to my system.
So Monday rolls around...we get up, get dressed, brush teeth...I'm thinking we're doing pretty well. Head to the chiro. Find out M has an ear infection, but she's not been complaining, so we're just going to deal with it as usual. Got some ideas and we went on our way.
Regularly, since it's on the way and we're out anyway, I run to the grocery store on my way home. I'm feeling lots of $1 off coupons, spotted some good deals....savvy shopper here.
Go to check out. Only spent $100 ($106 to be exact)...feeling pretty good.
And then I go to pay.
And I don't have my debit card.
Well, I have the debit card for my Willow House account, but I don't keep much money in there.
I know there's some, so we give it a try....denied. Shame!
I have some cash! So, I give her the $48 I have (which is remarkable...clearly I didn't yard sale this weekend!) and try again with the debit card....denied. Double shame!
So I have to suspend the order....all the while thinking about my Almond Dream bites (ice "cream") that is surely just soup in the bottom of the container by now....and head home to locate my card (think back to reunion....I put my card in my pants pocket so I didn't have to carry my whole wallet....I didn't have my driver's license either). Thankfully they were willing to put my whole card in the produce cooler so it wouldn't all be a loss. Hopefully.
So there goes the poor bagger with my cart filled to the brim with melting groceries (but packed nicely in my reusable bags.....I forget my card, but of course, have an abundance of reusable shopping bags! Of course!) back to the cooler. And I walk out...head hanging low (but sporting my new there's always a silver lining).
And then I see it.....there's a PNC bank in the parking lot of the Kings Mills Krogers. Will they let me withdraw money from my account? I can't go through the ATM because I don't have the right card. Maybe, just maybe! Oh crap....I don't have my license either. Hmmmm. But I DO have my military ID!!! Horray for the military!
The lady inside was super nice and super pregnant (with henna on her hands....thinking of Tara, I asked if she had done a blessingway....she said it was a ceremony before the wedding....awkward!) and she gave me the money! I'm thinking $100 should cover it, because it was just short like $60 the last time I ran the card (FYI, there was like $30 in my WH account).
So I'm feeling good about solving my problem without having to go all the way home. Head held high (and kids in the car....shhhh don't tell), I march back into Krogers with my crisp $100 bill to retrieve my nicely bagged groceries and get home before anything else happens. The lady scans my suspended receipt....and says....."That's $106.21." NOOOOOOOO!
Back out to the car for SIX DOLLARS (why did I need to bring in my wallet? I had my $100!). I AM SUCH A SPAZ!!!!
At least I gave them something to talk about on their lunch break right? Can you believe some people go grocery shopping without any money?!?!
So after grocery shopping trip from Spaz Hell, I head to Landen to hit up this awesome Smokehouse (Landen Smokehouse to be exact) that Dr. Matt (the most awesomest chiropractor in the world!) has recommended (he saw the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce that Christina had brought me (because I left it in her car) and during my adjustment, we planned a whole meal...I was super stoked to surprise Ben and had gotten all the fixins, except pulled pork, at Krogers).
I'm pretty frustrated by the grocery experience, but still happy to surprise Ben with an awesome we plow through.
We get to Landen Smokehouse....which has a totally empty parking lot. I'm thinking, it's noon! Surely they're open....ah yes, the sign says they open at 11. And the paper taped to the door says they've had a family emergency, are closed and will open again as soon as possible! Drat!!!
No pulled pork.
Grrr.....I'm taking my melty groceries and going home!
Never fear....the day did pick up....eventually. It was a long afternoon...and evening...but then Daddy got home....and I got to leave. I thought about staying and seeing if everyone wanted to go on a family walk....especially since Daddy has something going on several nights this week....and then I thought better of it.
So off to Norwood I go. Went for a nice visit with Jesus. I mostly just cried. And apologized for being the worst housewife ever. He of course forgave me and loved me. I felt better. And was so curious about the sisters in habits behind me, but thought it rude (and terrible inappropriate) to turn my back on Christ to gawk at the sisters :)
On my way home, I had an impromptu (BY MYSELF!) stop and Trader Joe's. Still didn't have my debit card, of course, but I did have some cash and knew I wasn't going to spend too much.
Found out that TJ's chocolate chips do not have milk in them....nor does saltwater taffy. Got some suckers for the girls, more mango sorbet and some sweet potato chips. Good, fun trip.
Then home. Girls asleep, chatted with hubby, played a game (put S back to sleep) and went to bed!
This morning when I got up....I put my card back in my wallet :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's Done?

Thank you, Mariah! I LOVE the idea (apparently, Matt's, but awesome regardless of who thought it up!) of a "What's Done" list.

So several of us have been stressing about the mountains of things to get done and the few tasks we can actually cross off our lists having completed them fully. I know I I'm sitting here with my sewing machine in the back ground and the Jenga tower of dishes in my sink. It's a fun game's time for dinner...which dish can I pull out and wash without the entire stack crashing into a gajillion pieces?

What if we all took Matt's advice: For a few days (the number depending on just how behind and overwhelmed you are), don't make a to do list. Instead, make a "What's Done?" list. What have you accomplished? Even if it's "Everyone's still alive". That's my crowning moment for today for sure. At the end of the day, you'll have a long long list. So what if it's still Jenga in the kitchen or a natural disaster in the toy've got a lot to smile about.

“My smile is a great mantle which covers a multitude of sufferings.” (Blessed Mother Teresa)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Radical Homemaker....Failure?

Ok, so I came across this picture today and the title at the top was "Are You A Radical Homemaker Failure?"

Did that mean was I a failure as a radical homemaker or a radical failure as a homemaker? Man, sometimes I feel like a radical failure as a homemaker. I'm a good cook....I have my downs, but they are few and far between. Most of what I make isn't gourmet, but there's variety and I'm not afraid to try something new. I cook with mostly fresh ingredients these days, and out of necessity, I can make something gluten free, dairy free or vegetarian (at least pescatarian) without stressing too much over it. I think presentation is important. My mother always said, "Pretty food tastes better." She rarely (and never when my dad was home) served dinner out of the pots and pans it was cooked in.

For a long time, I thought that "pretty food" just meant moving it from a pot to a serving dish. If the serving dish was decorated, BONUS POINTS! And, don't get me wrong, that DOES count! Really, I think it "counts" anytime you make dinner, no matter what it looks or tastes like.

But lately, I've thought more about the actual presentation of the food on the plate (think Iron Chef America, where judges can award points based on taste, appearance and creative use of today's secret ingredient). When it looks interesting or different...when you pair flavors together on the makes dining more interesting....more enjoyable. Most of all, it makes the other adults (namely my husby) feel like I cared enough to spend the extra time on plating.

I would say I am *not* a failure as a cook.

What about being the primary educator of my children? Well, having been a teacher for 8 1/2 years gave me a bit of a leg up, but even so, I think I'm doing ok. (Insert laundry list of things my "unschooled" (learning more and more about what that means...basically it's what most people do with their children before they hit "school age"...there's just some people now who do it a bit more deliberately and for longer) preschooler can do that many kindergarteners cannot). Without going on a prideful binge, let's just say I think M and S are doing just fine.

So, no, not a failure as the primary educator of my children.

Let's move on to house work. Um....maybe let's skip talking about house work.

This is the point that if I could be, I'd SOOOOOO be fired as a homemaker. This place is a disaster. There's just stuff everywhere. In fact, there are times I'm feeling good about how the place looks.....and then I step back and realize there's still a light fixture in the corner in the living room, a box of dominoes, sewing scissors and some mis-matched candles on the window sill and a stack of mail taller than the children (not really) on top of the microwave.

I have ideas....and excuses. I have physical limitations (my back can only handle so much, my thyroid is WAY out of whack right now and I have this crazy knee thing that's getting better, but still prevents me from kneeling), but they don't stop me from doing other things....

My Confessions of an Organized Housewife talks about doing things "better". It doesn't mean doing it all....just doing one thing better. Her theory is that when you're good at something, you're happy to do it. I just don't know, no matter how good I am at it, that I'll ever be happy to clean a toilet. Perhaps happy the job is finished. Perhaps happy the bathroom looks and smells clean...but happy to do the job? I'm not holding my breath (well, sometimes I do when I'm preparing to clean the bathroom, but you get the idea).

So, 2 outta 3 ain't bad right? Though last time I checked, 65% was still a failing grade....even in college it was a D. Not my idea of excelling at my job.

But why do I have to do it all? If I'm a good cook and a good teacher, why can't I do those jobs for three or four families and someone in those families who's not a great teacher or who thinks a microwave is the greatest invention since sliced bread....why can't those people come clean my house? Kind of like a mommy co op, right? (ok, just fyi....I love my microwave, since we don't do dairy anymore, we've realllllly cut out most processed foods and other than leftovers, I really don't use it anymore.) All I'm saying is why are we expected to be good at all of it?

After having all of these thoughts, I followed a link to the article and realized that it was more about "going green" and all of that. Not quite the article I thought it would be, but still interesting. If you're interested in following it, here's the link.

As for today, the washing machine is running, the dishwasher just finished and I'm hoping to tackle the pile of laundry on the couch and clear the kitchen table before the kiddos come down from rest time. Not sure I'm gonna make it, but I'll try.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Holy Mary, Mother of God

…Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.” Luke 1:41-49 emphasis mine

Mary is important. Without her, our faith is incomplete. Who is the path to salvation? Jesus. Who is the Son of God? Jesus. Who is the Redeemer? Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. But that doesn't mean Mary isn't important.

I didn't make up the above passage. It's from Sacred Scripture, people. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3: 16-17

So, like it or not, what Elizabeth says is important. We believe all scripture is God-breathed, yet Luke still says Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit before she spoke. She gives due homage to God and to the fruit of Mary's womb (Jesus), but that's not all.....

Elizabeth doesn't say, "Why was it granted to me that the LORD would come to me"....she says "the MOTHER of my Lord come to me." Is Mary MORE important than Christ? Never....but Elizabeth was blessed by a visit from the MOTHER of the Lord. Mary is important.

To be called "Blessed" or "full of grace" (the greeting by the angel at the Annunciation. Luke 1:28. Some versions say "favored one" or "one given special grace", it seems at times that there are as many translations as there are people) was not a common greeting. In fact, look at Mary's reaction in the following verse: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this might be.

Why was she troubled by the greeting? Because full of grace was not a common thing to be called. This was a greeting for someone special.

Back to the original passage. Elizabeth recognized and addressed Mary as one set apart. In fact, it was the voice of Mary in greeting that caused the child in Elizabeth's womb to leap. I always assumed it was the presence of Jesus....but that's not what Elizabeth says.

And then look at Mary's response to what Elizabeth has to say. From this day forth all generations will call me blessed? We know Mary was not fact, the opposite. She was a lowly servant of God. She always pointed people to her Son. She still does. Everything about Mary, every devotion to Mary, is allll about growing closer to Christ. She was determined to fulfill the will of God and He set her apart, filled her with grace, removed the stain of original sin from her life so she could be the Ark of the Covenant and the God-bearer.

Mary is important.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Busy Bees

So I had five girls under 4 (yes, UNDER 4....the oldest will be 4 in a few weeks, the next one 4 in Jan, the next one 3 in Oct, then 2 in Feb, and 1 in Sept...did I get that right, Mariah?). We had a great day! I thought we should let Momma know what we'd done today in a fun way. I got this idea from an ABC activity. This was the craft she did for B week. I thought it would be fun to put the bees at the top and write what was fun underneath. Thanks to Amy for the paper!

Sorry there are no shots during the process....I was doing paint on the feet of four little girls (the baby was asleep). In hind sight, I should have done both feet...I was only going to do one bee...but it was super easy to stamp the same foot twice. Also, if I did it again, I'd only paint the big toe and turn that into the stinger or something.

So, it's an upside down foot in yellow. I did three stripes as an example on one and each girl did the stripes on the other one. The eyes are a finger tip dipped in white. Once it dried, I drew the rest of the eyes, the antennae, the mouth and wings with a sharpie.

Then, I asked each girl (except S, I just did hers) what they liked about the day and wrote it below on the lines.

She's showing off her work.

She stood there and read them over and over! It was really sweet.

She wanted one more picture :)


Stick Puzzles

This is a photo calendar (from 2005) of pictures my father-in-law took. I'm such a pack rat. It's nice to repurpose things, but it doesn't help me purge the abundance of clutter :)

So, you have to choose a photo that's smaller or can be cropped to be smaller than a popsicle stick (or get longer sticks, I suppose). In honor of Marlin and Nemo, we went with the clown fish. I wanted it to be a challenge, but not impossible. We're animal and nature lovers, so this was perfect.

So here's my cropped photo. I wanted a bit of the popsicle stick to stick'll see why in a minute.

So Mod Podge. I love this stuff! There's two kinds: gloss and matte. I don't think it would matter which you use for this one....gloss might have made the front too shiny. It works best with foam brushes...which you can get for like $1 a pack...don't buy anything fancy because sometimes they don't wash out well and you have to pitch them when the craft is through.

So mod podge the back of the photo and line the sticks on the MP.

Here's what it looks like with all the sticks glued on.

Next, (this was the brilliant idea of the person whose blog I got the idea from) number the sticks. M can work on number order as well as visual relationship....and she can "check" herself.
Then, cover the front with a layer of MP....word to the wise: Be sure you make even brush strokes! You will be able to see the strokes when you're finished. It just looks better.

This one is of a bonobo ape. The orientation is vertical vs horizontal. And again, fun.

Once it dries (and I don't have a photo of this because I just did the craft tonight), use a straight edge razor blade (or a knife I guess, but be careful!) to cut apart the pieces.
This is sooooo not a kid-friendly prep craft. It did not take long to do....but really it's a homemade toy, not a craft to do with your kid. I suppose you could have your child pick out the photo and put on the MP and sticks....but it's super anti-climactic to have to wait for it all to dry and you're going to have to do the cutting yourself.
My plan is to store them in plastic baggies for her to use when she chooses.

Corn Starch Painting

Here's the recipe:
1/4 C corn starch
1/4 C water
6-8 drops food coloring (it all depends on how dark you want the color)

I made blue, green and pink. You have to give it some good've got to work it a bit to get the corn starch to dissolve. The blog where I found the recipe (and I need to start noting these things so I can give people credit....I'm really not trying to steal! I just don't always mark where the idea comes from and I don't always do it the same way) said to do 1/2 C each of starch and water....that would just make more. My amount was perfect for about 15-20 mins of painting for two girls.

It went on pretty thin and drippy and dried quickly. When it was dry it looked chalk-ish.

This would be great for a "messy party". It can be pretty doggone messy, but cleans up easily and is way fun! We used real paint brushes as well as foam brushes.

My little corn starch family :) This worked well on cement and black top.

Ok, so it did get a bit messy when S just sat down in it....but it cleaned up so easily.

This one bailed first....but she had fun while it lasted. I think she just likes getting messy.

Dried designs.


Shape Sorter

Ok, so I got the idea for the shape sorting from one of the blogs I've run across lately. It really didn't take long to set up. I started simple: circle, square, triangle and rectangle. M really already knows these shapes inside and out, but she had a great time working on grouping, sorting and gluing.
I put the glue in a little cup and she used a q-tip to spread it.

The best part of this was that she could do it all herself. Again, it didn't take long to set up, so I got some time to work on something else and she was happy (and not watching TV).

I decided to hang it as a mobile...M is really into sand words (that's what the title is) and then we could hang it in the hall so Daddy could see it.

It doesn't have to be difficult or a lot of work in order to be good.