Friday, February 29, 2008


May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation say evermore,
"God is great!"
But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not delay!
Psalm 70:4-5

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Any minute now, we'll be breaking out the Slip 'N' Slide

When we drove by a reader board today, the temp was 54 degrees.

Never mind the piles of dingy gray snow; winter is nearly over!

This has been such a difficult season for me. Between health issues, ongoing stress regarding dh's work and our finances, and having a new little baby, I was already maxed out. But when dh needed to drive my (all-wheel drive and snow tires) van to work each day, leaving me housebound, I started going just a little nuts.

For most of the months of December, January, and February, the only time I left the house was to go to church on Sundays. And making friends has been a slow process since moving to Utah; I only have two girlfriends I get together with, and they both work. So my days have been long and lonely.

Being cooped up alone for weeks on end in a house with six small children is not so good for one's sanity. I'm just sayin'.

So it was with excitement bordering on giddiness that we went out! Today! To the post office! Having a vehicle once again at my disposal is enough to cause the invention of any number of errands, just to get outside our four walls. The necessity of spending most of our day engaged in school and household tasks keeps me honest, though, and today's errand really was important: posting a birthday card to my brother and seven books for PaperBackSwap.

We've almost forgotten the ordinary pleasure of leaving our home and seeing the world. Even the post office is exciting when we haven't been there for two months, and our outing was an unqualified, if noisy, success.

Now that the snow is melting I am anticipating starting to take a daily walk to one of our nearby parks. And hopefully spring will bring some new friendships, too.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Flop for Dinner

Today is the first day that we got through all the courses in our new homeschooling curriculum. We began yesterday, but I got suddenly sick in the afternoon and we had to put off doing the first math lesson. We did two lessons in math today, to make up for it. I'm wanting to stay as close to on-track as possible, since our goal is to finish first grade with it and move the three bigs into second grade in the fall.

Homeschooling three kids and caring for an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler, plus keeping up on the house and trying to provide such basics as clean clothes and meals for everyone...right now, I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. This new curriculum is a vast improvement over what we were doing before, in that it's not completely teacher (mom) intensive, but it still requires a large time investment on my part. I'm trying to figure out how to fit everything in, still, and so far meals and laundry are suffering. Dh had leftover (homemade, at least) pizza last night, and the kids had cold cereal and toast. They were thrilled, but I can't do that every night.

So, tonight I made a not-so-great casserole with chicken, whole wheat pasta, and broccoli. The kids' weren't too enthused, and honestly I can't blame them. I'm still learning how to make the casseroles dh likes with the whole wheat pasta we're now using, and tonight's pasta was gummy and not very appealing.

Oh, well. Tomorrow we're having one of the lasagnas I made last week, so that's two nights of a good meal that I don't even have to prepare.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Heavy-handed (or should that be footed?) analogy

I love my new Crocs.

When they went on sale at Nordstrom's (thanks to Mir for the heads-up ), I was really excited to finally get a pair--and didn't even mind that there were limited colors in my size. If I'd had the option I would've probably gone with black, and I would have missed out.

These bright pink shoes make me happy.

Which was why I was so sad when the very first time I wore them out in public I came home with a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of my right shoe. Bright green gum, for the colorfully minded.

I spent ten minutes or more cleaning it off, but there's still a sticky residue left that picks up dirt.

They're no longer perfect, but they still make me happy. I learned long ago that perfection is overrated. And when I'm contented with my life and the shoes I'm wearing, despite the inevitable scuffs and ick that come my way, everything else seems to fall into place.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sanity in the freezer

I managed to get all four lasagnas done yesterday, despite the cranky little guy's interruptions. Given the size of these pans, that's eight meals ready to go--a real sanity saver.

I've never done an entire once-a-month cooking session; the process just doesn't work well for me. What does work is making up several meals' worth of the same thing at a time. This goes particularly well when I plan around sales; last fall when boneless skinless chicken thighs went on sale, I put 60 lbs of marinated meat into the freezer. It was great to pull out a bag to defrost and grill with minimal fuss, and since we were given a rotisary for Christmas we've been roasting chicken almost weekly.

The lasagna ingredients weren't on sale this week, but it was a special request from dh.

Lasagna for the freezer, as I made it yesterday:
2 lbs ground beef
7-8 small onions (4 large)
2 green peppers
1 lb mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 28 oz. diced organic tomatoes
2 jars organic prepared pasta sauce
4.5 boxes whole wheat lasagna noodles
3 lb carton lowfat cottage cheese
5 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 5 lb bag shredded mozzerella cheese
4 cans sliced black olives
1 cup Italian seasoning

1. Brown the ground beef in the oil. Finely chop the onions and green peppers in food processor, and add to the browned beef. Dice the mushrooms, and add. Cook thoroughly. Puree tomatoes in food processor and add to pot. Stir in prepared sauce and Italian seasoning and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

2. Beat eggs and add cottage cheese, parmesan, and approximately half the shredded mozzerella and mix well.

3.Layer sauce, pasta, and cheese mixture in four aluminum pans. When the cheese mixture is gone, use mozzerella for last layer. Top with sliced olives. Cover with foil and freeze.

4. Defrost for 24 hours before cooking. 350* for 45 minutes, covered, and then anothr 15-20 minutes uncovered.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


The little guy had a tooth break through last night. In the three and a half months since his birth he's proven to be an easy-going, mellow type of baby, so his current fussiness is very out of character. He may have a slight fever, but if it is a fever it's so mild that I haven't yet brought out the thermometer to verify his temp.

If it weren't for my slings, I would be completely stuck with a armful of baby. As it is, I've been able to keep him closely snuggled while still making lunch for the rest of the gang, get some work done on the computer, and even straighten up the fridge a bit. I've had to set aside some of my other plans for the day (assembling four lasagnas and two other casseroles, bagging up frozen veggies into individual meal sized portions, and folding several baskets worth of laundry.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Post-holiday find

Finished the grocery shopping today, and picked up a little Valentine's gift pack of Starbucks goodies at 50% off regular price. Since their prices are normally grossly inflated, I figure the $7.50 I spent on a mug, five tea bags, a cocoa packet, some ground coffee, and a little storage box was just about right.

I'm not a diehard Starbucks patron. My favorite coffee place is probably Coffee People, a Portland area store that makes great coffee and includes a chocolate covered esspresso bean with every order, a nice touch.

I do love Starbucks' version of chai, though, probably better than anywhere else I've tried. When fall rolls around, the sweet, almost pumpkin-pie scent of chai is what signals that it's once again my favorite time of year. And through this long, grey, snowed-in year, chai tea has been a real comfort.

Of course, I can't afford Starbuck's exhorbitant prices more than once or twice a month, at most. And since my days are usually spent at home, I've had to come up with my own version of chai, to get me through the long house-bound days. On a dark February day, I can drink an entire teapot myself.

My Chai

Brew three bags of Tazo Chai tea in a full eight cup teapot. Pour into teacup or mug, about 3/4 of the cup's worth. Add two packets of Splenda and top off the mug with 2% milk. When you've been house-bound for three days or longer, use half and half. If it's been five days or more, break out the cream.

Enjoy. Best drunk while the kids are happily occupied elsewhere in the house, but is good even in the midst of chaos.

Monday, February 18, 2008

That Big Fluffy Guy

Dh and the three bigs are watching Star Wars, Episode Four.

8yodd just called Chewbacca "that big fluffy guy."

I love the hum of the lightsaber battles.

All three of the three bigs are enthralled. We've shown them Star Wars before, but it's been at least a year.

When they were younger, they called Darth Vader "Hoopaw", because of the sound he makes while breathing. They still call him that, but more for the laugh now.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Joys of Chuck E. Cheese

Moving to Utah in November of 2004 was a huge change for our family. We left behind in our home state of Oregon both sides of our extended family. It was a difficult transition, and we missed our families terribly, especially over that first Christmas. When the first birthday after our move came, our youngest's (at the time) first birthday, I was at a loss for how to properly celebrate without having his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins joining us.

Fortunately, my resourceful dh had a plan: Chuck E. Cheese!

At first I thought it was silly. We didn't have any good alternatives, though, so we went ahead with dh's plan. And we had a great, great time! The noise level was loud but not unbearable, the food was suprisingly decent, and our kids had an absolute blast playing games and going on rides.

Since that first birthday away from all our friends and family our options have grown: we have good friends here now, and we've even had family visiting over a few birthdays. But our kids still love going to Chuck E. Cheese, and we go at least every other birthday. Last night we spent Valentine's evening in a delayed celebration of dd's 8th birthday, and once again our children had an amazing amount of fun. I have to admit that I love it just a little bit, too, because of the good memories I now have of family celebrations we've made our own.

Oh, and our then-youngest is now #4 out of 6, and is a very happy four year old. He's pictured above on the little carousel, having a ball at "Shucky Cheeeeeeese"!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Buying in bulk

A couple weeks ago marked a momentous occasion in the life of my young, large family: the first time we purchased a five gallon bucket of food. Oatmeal, to be precise.

Growing up in a large family as I did, with a mom who is frugal by necessity, our kitchen and storage area were filled with buckets of all manner of dry goods: rice, pastas, cereals, wheat berries (to grind into flour), and the inevitable beans. When Y2K and the accompanying stockpiling began, my parents' basement family room had an entire wall of buckets. It was a sight to see!

When dh and I first married, cooking what I considered a normal-sized meal would yield us at least three meals: one for that night, and two for the freezer. In the years since I have adjusted that expectation as our children came along and started eating real amounts of food. This last year in particular, the three oldest have begun eating about as much as myself and their daddy. And they are still quite young--I can only imagine the sheer volume of food we will need when we have six teenagers in the house!

So a couple of weeks ago, when there was a special food storage sale at a local grocery store, I bought our first seriously large bulk food item: a five gallon bucket of rolled oats. Ever since my brother visited from NYC and made a truly memorable pot of oatmeal the kids have loved the stuff. They always request it made "like Uncle Josh made it," and scrape the bottom of the pot clean. Over the year since his visit my memory of exactly how he made the oatmeal has grown a bit hazy, so my apologies to my brother if it's not quite right:

Uncle Josh's Oatmeal

10 cups water
1 cup raisins
1-2 apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
5 cups rolled oats
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
generous shake of cinnamon

Bring the water, raisins, and apples to a boil. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer and reduce heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for about 5-8 minutes, until most of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Serve with milk or half-and-half if you're feeling particularly decadent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blogging inspiration

Turning eight

Turning eight required some flexibility on her part, but the substantial pile of gifts eased 8yo dd's pain in having to delay our traditional outing to Chuck E. Cheese. Dh's sick day extended into the evening and tonight we're expecting a snow storm, so it looks like we'll be spending Valentine's Day evening spending hundreds of tokens in the blinking, blaring kiddie arcade.

Because I was planning on us having pizza out, dd and I had to run out for some last minute birthday dinner supplies. She requested hamburgers, tater tots, and sweet pickles, and picked out a chocolate heart-shaped cake and Neopolitan and Root Beer Float ice creams. I pretended to be healthy by serving dinner with lots of veggie sticks and dip.

We watched Magic in the Water during dinner and after presents, and my poor Bug cried when the monster died. Much rejoicing when it was resurrected, though, and even more rejoicing over the Hello, Kitty diary from her auntie.

All in all, a very good birthday for the girl.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Birthday breakfast

Today's birthday girl requested waffles for breakfast, a treat usually reserved for Saturday mornings when dh mans the waffle iron while I fend off the ravenous crowd. With today being a normal weekday (despite dh needing to take a sick day and sleeping on the couch), I had planned on our usual cold or hot cereal. But who could turn down this girl for anything, especially on the morning she turned eight?

Whole Wheat Waffles
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1.5 tsp salt
3 cups milk
4 eggs, beaten
1.5 sticks butter, melted (12 Tbsp)
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids, stirring together quickly until mixed well. Bake in waffle iron, taking care not to overcook.
Tip: Kitchen scissors are great for cutting up waffles for short people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hope realized, with meatballs

This weekend marked my first visit ever to Ikea. I've spent years drooling over the catalog, and then counted down the months until the new local store's construction would be complete last year. After waiting so long, I was almost afraid that the actual experience would be a let down. But it was even better than I had anticipated: inexpensive, practical, colorful, and stylish--the perfect store.

Since my 7yo daughter becomes my 8yo daughter tomorrow, many of my purchases were for her birthday: a colorful hearts comforter cover, a piggy bank, assorted small toys, and a pink and purple assortment of small storage boxes for her treasures. I picked up some white curtains for her at another store, along with some purple ribbon to stitch along the bottom. It doesn't look like we're going to get her room painted, as we had planned, but we can at least make it pretty for her.

My other Ikea purchases were all problem-solvers: an apple cutter, to replace the one that vanished; a tea ball for my solitary morning cuppa; a magazine rack to corral the growing pile of PC Magazines dh brings into the bathroom.

Oh, and the green plants at the top of this post, bought despite my proven black thumb. Winter has been particularly difficult this year, and I'm more than a little cabin fevered. They are on my kitchen window sill, and promise that despite the white and grey outside my window, Spring will be here soon.