Monday, March 31, 2008

Menu Plan Monday--March 31

Today is the first time I'm posting my menu plan. This week's plan is pretty simple, especially since I'm going out of town this Friday, and dh will be doing kitchen (and kid) duty while I'm traveling.

Beef and bean burritos with salsa and sour cream, green salad

In honor of April Fool's Day, we're reversing the meals today!
Breakfast--meatballs and brown sauce over pasta, green beans
Lunch--as usual
Dinner--waffles with strawberries and whipped cream, scrambled eggs, sausage

Chicken and mushrooms in stirfry with rice

Spaghetti with meat sauce, green salad, garlic bread

Pizza at Chuck E. Cheese

Lasagna, green salad, garlic bread

Pizza, green salad

Lasagna (leftovers), green salad

If you want to join in with your own menu or get some ideas from other ladies participating, head over to Laura's blog at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

School catch-up

Winter is still here, despite the calendar telling us Spring began last week. Another storm last night covered the ground in snow. The kitties were offended by having wet paws when they went outside this morning, and quickly shook them off when they came back inside.

School isn't getting done today. We managed Bible and English, and I think we'll at least get Spelling done once the little guys go down for their afternoon naps. I'm already planning on Saturday being a catch-up day, to make up for our abbreviated day on Tuesday with the unexpected doctor's office visit and emergency room run. So far it looks like we'll have one lesson each of English and Spelling, and two lessons of Math and History. I may try to do two Math lessons tomorrow, so Saturday is less stressful.

Since we've made the change in homeschooling curriculum to Bob Jones textbooks with the lessons taught on video, our three bigs have made huge strides in their learning. They are all now reading, with a lot of hesitancy, but definitely decoding the words in the stories in their readers and understanding the meaning.

Today's reader story was the first time I've seen my 8yodd read with confidence. The story had a fair amount of repetition, and once she read through the beginning section she was able to continue on with almost no help from me. This was wonderful to see. My 8yodd often struggles with recognizing that she's read a word before, even if it was in the previous sentence. Listening to her read through today's short story without hesitancy was a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meal planning

I'm the resident cook in our home, not because I'm particularly gifted in making meals or enjoy cooking as a hobby, but simply because I'm the one at home.

When dh has time, he really enjoys perfecting his specialties, bread and pizza--both whole wheat. He's also quite handy with a grill, and makes teriyaki chicken and burgers and dogs all summer long.

I, on the other hand, am much more utilitarian in my approach: I'm mom to six children and wife to a diabetic husband, all of whom need to eat healthy, appealing, economical food every day. I don't have time or energy at this point to make complicated, fancy meals, but am focusing on cooking things that everyone in our family will actually eat, that I can prep with a minimum of time and fuss.

Right now I'm trying to organize four weeks worth of meals along with a corresponding grocery shopping list, so I can simplify the process of getting food on the table. I'll likely vary the side dishes, but since dh and the kids tend to prefer the same meals on a consistent basis I'm hoping this will give me a much-needed break in the kitchen.

I'm finalizing this week's menu, and will be posting it tomorrow. At this point I'm not planning meals for breakfasts and lunches, since the kids tend to rotate through about five meals over a two week period. It's going to be interesting to see how the plan matches reality, once I get it all figured out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fajitas and the Sovereignty of God

Tonight our family went out for a celebratory dinner, having completed a transaction that ended an unfortunate association. We went to The Mayan, a restaurant with "Mayan" cliff divers acting out hyperbolic dramas and randomly diving, jumping, and falling into the safely chlorinated pool below their rocky stage. The kids love it, and dh and I have taken them there for birthdays and when family visits.

Tonight was the first time we've been since the place was renovated and the menu revamped. They no longer serve fajitas, but have a dish called something like Fajita Adventure, which I guess is supposed to be a classier take on fajitas. Instead of the classic flavors and sides, it had poblano peppers and onions, a black bean and corn salsa, a side of some kind of rice pilaf, and a dab of sour cream and picante sauce. No lettuce or cheese, no guacamole, and the steak didn't have the classic fajita seasonings.

I tried not be negative, but dh could tell that I wasn't really enjoying it. And then he said something that really struck me. He said that he didn't want me ordering fajitas anymore when we went out, because they always fell short of the fajitas at El Rodeo and I was always disappointed.

El Rodeo was a little Mexican restaurant in our hometown. Their food was sensational, and I have so many good memories of meals eaten there with friends and family. Some pivotal moments in my life happened in that place, full of the smells of good food and the sound of happy conversations and the cook in the kitchen, singing along with the Mexican radio station.

Some unfortunate business decisions led to the restaurant closing, and ever since then I've been on a fruitless search for a fajita that can bring me back to El Rodeo.

What I realized tonight, though, was that even when I do find that perfect fajita once again, it still won't bring back the place that I loved, with its corner booth and carnival music. That place is gone forever. The last time I visited my hometown, the former restaurant was being used as a Pilates studio. I wondered as I drove past if the diligent people excercising there ever caught a hint of freshly made tortilla chips and salsa.

I miss my home. And what's funny is, if I were home right now I'd still be missing parts of that home that no longer exist. Restaurants shut down. People move away. Relationships change, sometimes radically. Churches close their doors.

My children have already learned the lament of missing our old house, missing Grandpa and Grandma, missing their aunts and uncles. And as I tell them, so, too, I remind myself: where we live now is a good place, we'll see the people we love again, and God is on His throne.

None of these things came as a suprise to Him.

I need a good fajita recipe. By the time summer rolls around, I intend to have a killer version of my very own.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Black Sunday

Fifteen years ago or so, a good friend of mine dubbed Palm Sunday "Black Sunday" because of the lousy run we'd had for a couple of years on that particular day.

Today was not on the same level as some of those truly terrible days, but it wasn't easy, either. Between the two littlest having rotten colds and dh needing to put in some overtime, we decided to skip church today. That always starts our week out wrong--the whole week just seems off kilter.

And we're in the midst of so many things right now, stressful and joyless, that I wonder sometimes if we're in a permanent state instead of a season.

To top it all off, it snowed again last night. Winter doesn't want to let go of us, this year.

Right now, I am focusing on the good things: I'm so grateful that my children are safe and, beyond a case of the sniffles, healthy. Dh's job is a blessing, an affirmation once again that God loves us and provides for our needs. I've been in closer contact with my extended family over the last couple of months, and once again I've been reminded of how blessed I am to be a part of my large, loud, grace-filled but snarky, and even sometimes cranky family.

As winter holds on I'm looking forward to next Sunday, and Easter, and the reason for my hope.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Hero

Today my 8yo daughter came running to inform me that there was a spider in the entryway. She and I agree that spiders are icky, and the boys (either dh or the twins) take care of them.

I concentrate on keeping from squeaking, because, really, a grown woman should be past all that silliness. Nevermind the fact that spiders just completely squig me out--I'm trying not to pass that on to my kids.

So the big boys were busy doing something--building robots or lego towers or some such important thing. Dh was at work. The spider was at the other end of the house, and I told my daughter to just keep away from it, and we'd get one of her brothers to deal with it in a while.

And then my 4yo son proudly informed me that he had killed the spider. Or, more precisely, Buzz Lightyear had squished the spider with his foot. And my heart exploded just a little with love for my sweet boy, who used complete sentences and words I'd never before heard him attempt.

Our 4yo son is significantly delayed in his speech. He doesn't meet the asinine requirements our insurance company has in place for qualifying for speech therapy, and our local school district can only offer placing him in a special-ed preschool, which we have declined. Dh and I work with him ourselves, and we've seen significant improvement.

But I worry. Sometimes I think that's just a part of being a mother, that I worry about my children, the challenges ahead of them.

Most of the time I remember that, as a believer, I am to put my trust in the Lord no matter what cares or burdens I am carrying. I remember, but I can't always quite do it.

My 4yo son is now able to say the word "squished." What's more, he is the brave defender of his big sister and his mama.

His future is looking brighter and brighter.

*I'll post a picture when I can. Our camera port is having technical difficulties.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Rejoice with me!

My three oldest children became Christians tonight!

For the last several weeks, my three bigs have been asking probing questions about faith, sin, forgiveness, and what it means to be a Christian. Over the last two weeks we have been learning about the Creation in our Bible time, and then yesterday we began learning about the Fall. It's not the first time they've heard these stories, but they have been connecting the dots in ways I've not seen before.

Dh and I had a conversation earlier this week about all this, and agreed that we wanted to be careful not to push them in any way. It's important to us that they make this decision themselves, and not because they think they should.

So tonight at dinner, my 8yodd asked dh if there were more people in heaven or in hell. To answer her, dh opened the door to our basement 3 or 4 inches, and explained what the word "narrow" means. Then we went out to the garage, and he opened the big door to our driveway, and talked about how wide that door was, and how we could go through every door in our house, and hundreds besides, but never be able to get into our basement unless we went through that one door. We sat down at the table again, and talked about how Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Our three oldest had many, many questions about all this, and really started pressing us about specifics: What is the path exactly? How does someone become a Christian? What does it mean to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord? How does this fit in with asking Jesus to forgive us when we've sinned?

Finally, dh asked them if they wanted to pray right now. They all said, Yeah! So we sat together on the couch, and dh talk with them for quite a while about how this was forever, that for the rest of their lives and beyond, they will belong to God. Then he lead them in a prayer. (Our 4yods chimed in, too.)

I'm still a bit teary-eyed. I called my parents a while ago, and they were thrilled. Both of them were the first believers in their families, and for them to now see their children's children come to Christ is an awesome thing.

Today is a very, very good day.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Looking ahead

Today's grocery shopping trip resulted in a bit of an impulse buy, a fistful of hope in the midst of winter. Aren't those colors beautiful?

We have been planning on putting in a garden this year. The previous owners had a garden in the side yard, and with our houseful of veggie-lovers, a garden is a necessity. We've had to forgo planting a garden for the last several years that we were living in a rental, and last year my pregnancy kept me low-energy, so we didn't have one even though we now own again.

Our house in Oregon came with several raised beds, and included mature raspberry canes, current bushes, and a rhubarb patch. We really enjoyed having our very own tomatoes and carrots, peppers and carrots.

This year I'm planning on checking out the book Square Foot Gardening and following the author's plan for compactly using our garden space. I'm by no means an expert, and this will be my first year gardening in Utah, so I want as much advice as I can get. I wonder if there's a county extension service in Salt Lake County? Hmmmm....

Today's purchases included two varieties each of beans and peas, carrots, cucumbers, pumpkins, summer squash (yellow and zucchini), radishes, green onion, a lettuce sampler, cherry and slicing tomatoes. This will be my first time starting my own tomatoes, and I'm excited to try it.

Mostly, though, I'm excited to remember that Spring is on its way, and that by gardening, I get to participate in the new life of the season.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Look! My first meme!

100 Questions

1. Do you like blue cheese?
I love it. I especially love the big containers of bleu cheese dressing we pick up at Sam's Club--that stuff is great over a salad or with buffalo wings.
2. Have you ever read a book in one sitting? Ummm...yeah. In fact, one of the most difficult things for me to accept about parenting is that I no longer have the option to just sit and read the day away.
3. Do you own a gun? No.
4. Your favorite song? Right now it's probably Here is Our King, by David Crowder Band. I also love the song We Live, by Superchick.
5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Not really.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? My kids just had them for lunch. I'm not a huge fan unless they're grilled, preferably Hebrew Nation all beef.
7. Favorite Christmas song? Secular--Carol of the Bells. Sacred--Oh, Holy Night. Silly--Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? Hot chai tea.
9. Can you do push-ups? Heh. No.
10. Favorite thing about the person who sent this to you? Chautona posted this on HearthKeepers, so I'm calling her the person who sent it. I love that she's real. And I can still wear the dresses she made me six years ago.
11. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? The ring dh gave me for Christmas two years ago.
12. Favorite hobby? Scrapbooking. Nothing else even comes close...although I am enjoying blogging again.
13. Do you put butter on your popcorn? What's the point in eating popcorn without butter? Why even bother?
14. Do you have A.D.D.? I don't really think I--Look! Something shiny!
15. What one trait do you hate about yourself? Lack of follow-through.
16. Middle Name(s): Rachael
17. Name three thoughts right now: I really don't like these oversized dill pickles. I wonder if dh can make it home in time to go out tonight, since we have a sitter. I wish Spring would come.
18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday. Nothing. Last time I went shopping, grapes, breakfast cereal, and mung bean sprouts.
19. Name 3 things you drink on a regular basis. Not including water, diet Coke, chai tea, Mother's Milk tea.
20. Current worry right now? Dh's job situation and the stress that bleeds over into our home.
21. Current hate right now? Reality tv.
22. Favorite place to be? The Oregon Coast, my parents' house, and my very own kitchen.
23. How did you bring in the New Year? Sleeping. What can I say? I'm old....
24. Where would you like to go? China, Britain, Chile, Israel.
25. Name three people who will complete this? Probably no one, since I don't think too many folks read my little blog.
26. Do you own slippers? Nope. If my feet are cold, I put on socks.
27. What shirt are you wearing? Red v-neck t-shirt with small button detail.
28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Ick--no, I can't stand them. I love flannel sheets in the winter, though, and then crisp cotton in the spring and summer.
29. Can you whistle? Yes.
30. Favorite color? Red.
31. Would you be a pirate? Only if I could be a pirate who doesn't do anything.
32. What songs do you sing in the shower? Lots of praise songs. Some hymns, too.
33. Favorite girl's name? That I haven't already used, Eleanor.
34. Favorite boy's name? Heh. After having five sons of my own and eight nephews, we've used all my favorites.
35. What's in your pocket right now? Maybe some lint?
36. Last thing that made you laugh? My daughter saying "Gobble, gobble" when I called her a turkey.
37. Best bed sheets as a child? I have no idea.
38. Worst injury you've ever had? Breaking my arm while roller skating a week after finishing fifth grade. It was lousy to spend the summer in a cast, hot and itchy and no swimming, my favorite thing to do. Plus, I got the cast off just before sixth grade, so I didn't even get to show off my cast and get my friends to sign it.
39. Do you love where you live? I love my house. I don't love where I live, but it's where we need to be for now.
40. How many TVs do you have in your house? Two, one in the family room and one in our bedroom. But since we dropped our satelite service, our bedroom tv hasn't been useable.
41. Who is your loudest friend? Probably my dh.
42. How many dogs do you have? None.
43. Does someone have a crush on you? I think my little guy lurves me!
45. What is your favorite book? Um...only one? That's like choosing my favorite child...The Jesus I Never Knew, Persuasion, Ender's Game, A Severe Mercy, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, gods in Alabama, I Know This Much is True, Shards of Honor, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Desiring God...
46. What is your favorite candy? Peanut M&Ms
47. Favorite Sports Team? Boston Red Sox
48. What song do you want played at your funeral. It is Well With My Soul
49. What were you doing 12 AM last night? Sleeping.
50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? It is too early to be awake, baby--go back to sleep!
51. Do you have a dishwasher? yes.
52. Is your living room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors? Carpet, sadly. I miss the hardwood floors of our house in Oregon.
53. What room is your computer in? The kitchen
54. Are there pictures hanging in your living room? One, a painting of an ocean storm by dh's dad.
55. What personality trait gets on your nerves the most? Hypersensitivity.
56. What decade were you born in? The 70's.
56. Do you like to entertain? I like having over people for casual things--grilling out, things like that.
57. What were you doing exactly an hour ago? Homeschooling my three bigs.
58. Do you like to wear hats? Ball caps.
59. Last thing you read? My Simple Scrapbooks magazine.
60. Favorite website?
61. Last person you emailed? A friend from church about the kids' upcoming soccer team.
62. Last person who emailed you? That same friend, letting me know where she buys shin guards for her kids.
63. Do you own any season DVDs? Nope. We have Netflix instant downloads, so we don't need to own our favorites.
64. Last thing you ate? Baby carrots
65. Favorite toy as a child? My doll, Pushka.
66. Have you ever ridden on a train. I went cross-country on the train when I moved home from Boston back to the Portland, Oregon area. I was thrilled to be coming home, but the four day trip was more than exhausting.
67. Favorite subject in school? English
68. What do you see out your window? More snow. Bleah.
69. Baths or showers? Who has time to take a bath?
70. Name of favorite cousin? Amy
71. Worst movie you ever saw? Se7en.
72. Biggest change this past year? Dh's diabetes diagnosis. Oh, and we had another baby. :-)
73. What hurts you the most? Seperation from people I love.
74. Biggest regret? Sin. I'm just too good at it. Disgusting isn't it?
75. Person from your childhood that you remember most fondly? My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Geary.
76. What is the third digit of your current weight? 1
77. How many personal snail mail notes or letters have you sent in the past month? 5.
78. Favorite form of art? Pottery
77. Worst date you ever had? A very ugly evening last fall.
78. Second favorite color? Orange
79. Have you ever met anyone in person that you had first met online? Yes
80. Funniest person you know? My dh.
81. Last word you googled? dunno...
82. Favorite author? Living non-fiction--Philip Yancey. Living fiction--Orson Scott Card. Dead non-fiction--C.S. Lewis. Dead fiction--Jane Austen.
83. Favorite fictional character? Ender Wiggins, from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.
84. Last time you ate out? Sunday after church. Cheap Italian at Fazoli's--very nice.
85. The hardest thing you have ever done? Homeschooling three children who are not yet fluent readers while caring for an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler. Keeping a household running and everyone clothed and fed. Being a support to my dh in the midst of some extreme stress and difficulty. Doing all of the above while dealing with postpartum depression. Oh, wait, I'm doing all that right now!
86. Talent you wish you had? I wish I could write like the authors I love to read.
87. Are you a good cook? I'm okay. I'm working on getting better.
88. How do you like your eggs? Fried, with a runny yolk and toast.
89. Favorite vegetable? Artichokes and broccoli.
90. Are you a good speller? I'm okay. I can usually tell if something is spelled incorrectly, but I can't always spell it right. And it's a visual thing for me--I have to see it written down.
91. What should you be doing right now? Sitting in the kitchen while my kids finish school for the day, so I'm doing what I should be!
92. Pet Peeve: People who don't parent their children, but let them run wild in public. And then ignore their little Fifi trying to wake my sleeping baby.
93. Who is your hero? Elisabeth Elliot.
94. Nicest thing that happened to you today? Our friends who we trade babysitting with are coming over this evening to hang with our kids so dh and I can go out.
95. Favorite way to eat a potato? In potato soup. Or baked, with butter, sour cream, bacon, and cheese.
96. Do you have a blog? Heh...
97. Is your hair long or short? Short. And I'm not really happy with it, so I'm growing it out again.
98. What did you do last night? Hung out with the kids and dh.
99. Are you glad this is about done? Um, yeah.
100. Favorite question? Are you glad this is about done...

Monday, March 3, 2008

The end of the world, as I knew it

Thirty years ago today, my life changed forever.

My brother was born, and his arrival marked the end of my existence as an only child. At four and a half, I was old enough to realize that things were different. But a child of four cannot comprehend what a difference having siblings will mean.

For me, my seven siblings have been one of the three greatest gifts my parents gave me. (The other two were their love for each other and a love of God and his Word.)

When I was young, I didn't always appreciate having siblings, especially since they were so much younger than I. But as we've grown up, I've been so grateful to have sisters and brothers who were raised in the same home, laugh at the same in-jokes, and share an appreciation for camping, the Oregon Coast, Bob's teriyaki chicken (all except our vegetarian brother, who makes a mean stirfry), books, 24, and Tillamook cheddar.

So I'm wishing a happy 30th birthday to my brother today. He ruined my life--and made it ten times better.

We can read!

Today marks a momentous occasion: the day my three oldest children officially became readers.

We've been working on their sight words and using their phonics lessons to learn how to sound out what they don't recognize, and today it all came together as they each read the first story in their readers.

I'm so happy I could cry.

This has not come easily. My daughter has struggled in learning to read, and because she is the oldest our entire experience of homeschooling thus far has been frustrating, to say the least. We're on our fourth phonics curriculum. And I'm afraid that in my concern that my daughter not be the last reader among our three bigs I've held back my two boys, who have been ready to take off for some time, now. Even today, my daughter struggled and hesitated, needing several minutes to decode the pages while my boys read the text easily.

It's hard to watch her fight for what came so easily to me. I was an early, strong, voracious reader. I can't remember a time when I did not love books. But it seems that my daughter takes after her Daddy, who also struggled with reading in his early elementary years.

So tomorrow we'll be reading the next story in our readers, and will continue on in the days that follow. And hopefully by the end of our school year, I'll have three children who love books and reading, and have moved beyond learning the mechanics to being fluent readers.