Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Press Release

Just a quick bit of info I want to share:

Five Rivers to Publish A Method To the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil

Villains rejoice! Co-editors, Michell Plested and Jeffrey Hite have reached an agreement with Five Rivers (www.5rivers.org) to publish the anthology, A Method To the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil.

A Method To the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil will be a tongue-in-cheek anthology of short essays aimed to guide the up-and-coming mad scientist to success in a career of supervillainry.

A Method To the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil is a for-love anthology, accepting submissions until May 31, 2012.  The anthology is scheduled for release Spring 2013 in both print and digital formats, and will be available globally through online booksellers.

Guidelines for the anthology can be found at: http://madscientistanthology.wordpress.com/.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The $200 Gift Budget

I am setting a goal for myself to purchase all birthday and Christmas gifts for the year for $200 out of pocket. This kind of goes along with our long standing fight to get ourselves out of all debt other than the mortgage.  It's been a long battle but we are making progress.

But back to gifts.  The $200 is out of pocket cash expenses only.  This does not include any amount we manage to earn for free.  Both Alan and myself use both MyPoints and Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards.  When we combine those gift cards with free shipping and other discounts on the site, we are often able so save quite a bit of money.  Lately between the two of us, we have been earning  about $25 to $30 a month but I am hoping to ramp up the efforts a bit more.

We need to cover 12 kids for 2 gift giving occasions.  This means 2 to 3 gifts per child.  No, we don't go overboard with our own kids.  Heck, we've even been known to give them used gifts every so often.  I'd love to be able to include our Godchildren this year if the budget allows but as their parents know, some years the budget does not allow.

I am currently down about $8 and I have birthday gifts covered for 5 children.  I also have a new microscope in the gift closet but I have a feeling that will end up coming out of the education budget and I have a few gifts set aside for the odd birthday party invite or holiday donations.  Hopefully if I plan properly, I can pull this off.

And just a note. Even though we usually keep gift costs down through Amazon gift cards and buying things on clearance in stores, I do refuse to buy something just because it is on clearance.  It has to be a classic toy of some sort, usually no batteries required, nothing trendy, must be age appropriate especially if being given to a child other than our own.  This does take more time than just walking the clearance aisle and throwing things in the cart but in the end I think it is worth it.

Menu Plan

I have a feeling that this meal plan will be tweaked a bit this week. But that tends to happen some every single week.  The goal is to have a plan, not be a slave to the plan.

Monday: oatmeal (B), crockpot macaroni and cheese (L), honey glazed chicken (D)
Tuesday: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), meatloaf (D)
Wednesday: eggs (B), soup (L), spaghetti (D)
Thursday: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), crockpot chicken (D)
Friday: eggs in toast (B), pizza at First Friday (L), hearty Italian soup (D)
Saturday: hashbrown casserole (B), leftovers (L), pizza (D)
Sunday: cranberry bread (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), sweet Asian chicken (D)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

For The Doubters

For the doubters.  Why we will have nothing to do with Girl Scouts.  The sad part here is this same lady has for a very long time been publicly denying that Girl Scouts partners with Planned Parenthood because she is well aware that it will cause some parents to be upset and pull their girls and their support of the organization.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Science at Home

We haven't been doing too much hands-on work at home lately.  Something I do regret.  We also have not been making as many trips to the local museums in the past few months.  The kids keep asking when we are going back so it is time to get back up on that horse, so to speak. 

Anyway, over the past few months we have had a few simple science projects in the works around here.  Liam played around with making glaciers and ice formations.  I don't even want to mention how many months he owned this science kit before we sat down with him to use it.  It is truly sad.

This past week Bryan did an experiment I remember doing in my Chemistry II class except we used acetone, permanent markers, and clothing to make tie dyed stuff.  He followed the same basic principles but used coffee filters and rubbing alcohol.  He also knew enough to take pictures himself.  Love that kid.

So now that I have let you in on a little secret (namely I have been entirely too lazy in giving the kids hands-on educational experiences and planning lately), hopefully I will use this as motivation to do better in the next few months.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Eight Polish Christmas Foods

For my husband who has not seen this before.  And for anyone else who could use a smile.  Yes, I am mostly Polish but we were not exposed to our ethnic heritage much growing up so most of these foods are not exactly familiar to me and yet the song still cracks me up.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chinese New Year

Today we celebrated Chinese New Year. It is the year of the dragon this year.  (Just a note, I had elaborate plans for this day but life got in the way so we went a simple route.  I was picturing inviting friends over for a party at lunch, a movie, crafts, the works. Instead I have a bunch of sick kids and simplicity.  Maybe next time will work out as I envisioned.)
We celebrated with a dinner of sweet and sour chicken, oranges, egg rolls, and fortune cookies.  Some funky coconut based gluten free fortune cookies which looked odd and tasted funky because that is all that is left at the store when you wait until today to go shopping. The oranges are in some way supposed to be a traditional food for this feast but I was not able to figure out exactly why.  Maybe by next year I'll have figured it out.
I ordered these cheater chopsticks for our younger children because they seem to have a bit of trouble with regular ones.  I think they might also come in handy for the occasional guest who has trouble with regular ones as well.  Robert was rather  happy that he was able to use them properly.
Several of the kids also colored dragons print-outs today.  It was also national pie day but I just thought it would be weird to have a pie for dessert with Chinese food.  Maybe I'll make one for tomorrow instead.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Menu Plan

We are still trying to work our way through the stock-pile in the freezer.  It seems to be a slow process.  We'll also celebrate Chinese New Year this week. Not in a traditional way, I'm sure, but hopefully in a fun way. And I am going to try to start using an idea of making soup for lunches to help with meal planning, budget stretching, and simplifying things during the day. Just toss everything in the crockpot.  I told you I have a strange addiction to those things.  And Alan is starting to share it. He has actually asked for small crockpot to keep at his desk at work so he can make a warm lunch.  I'm not sure if he was completely serious and it's not an entirely bad idea but I'm not ready to let him take my small one into work on a permanent basis.

Monday: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), sweet-n-sour chicken, egg rolls, fortune cookies (D)
Tuesday: eggs, toast (B), curry chicken salad sandwiches (L), tater tot casserole (D)
Wednesday: oatmeal (B), macaroni and cheese (L), cajun beans and rice (D)
Thursday: hashbrown casserole (B), sandwiches (L), chicken and gnocchi soup (D)
Friday: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), shepherds pie (D)
Saturday: pancakes, bacon (B), soup (L), pizza (D)
Sunday: muffins (B), fend for yourself (L), chicken and asparagus casserole (D)

This week we have Blue Knights on Monday, Boy Scout meetings on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and karate on Thursday so we'll have to see how well I do to sticking to the plan.  Hopefully I will be successful.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Little Flowers

I finally remembered to take my camera to our Little Flowers meeting.  We had 15 girls today.  Wow.  Quite a few more than I was expecting this week but we were very happy to have everyone join us.  We learned about St. Felicity and self-control.  Then we made sacrifice beads to help practice the virtue of self-control.  I've been having the girls make scrapbook pages for each virtue thanks to some wonderful print-outs found here.  Nope, I'm not creative enough to come up with this stuff on my own.  Being able to pull ideas from someone who has been through the books before me makes life so much easier. 

Since we also had karate lessons after Little Flowers, all of the kids were with me this time.  This came in handy when it was time to work on the sacrifice beads.  Ellie hit her head and wanted no one but me so Bryan was able to help show the girls how to put the beads together.  He also took a few pictures for me. 

I think this is my favorite part of the meetings.  Coming into church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  One week we were unable to stop in to say hi to Jesus because the school was having a Christmas concert and all of the girls were upset.  I can't so we do anything fancy but just seeing so many young kids gathered together makes me happy.  We may not pray for anything fancy or grown-up (there are often requests to pray for pets and siblings and traveling Dads), but I like to think that the sincere prayers of little girls means quite a lot even in it's simplicity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homeschool Myths

I'm sure you might have seen this before since it is making the round right now but I thought I would share it anyway since I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Good and the Bad

This is one of those posts that I have debated sharing because I know there are those reading who will judge me for it.  Either because they think they know me or some other such thing.  But I have decided if you are going to judge me, there is nothing I can do either way.  At least it will be on reality or a small little version of it.

So the good and the bad of the following few days.

The Bad: Abby let Robert cut her hair.
The Good: It's only hair and it will grow back.  I took her in to get it fixed up a bit this morning so it looks less like a hack job but it is so darn short.  After years of having people mistake me for a boy and being left out of certain activities with friends because my hair was so short (kind of hard to participate in a hair-do party when your hair does nothing because it is so short), I said my girls would have longer hair when they were younger.  Robert apparently had other ideas.

The Bad: While I was out taking Abby to get a haircut, the older boys had to call poison control because Gabe decided to eat the dishwashing detergent.
The Good: They knew what to do, took appropriate action, and Gabe is fine.

The Bad: Ellie has decided that she absolutely will not sleep unless she is in direct contact with me which means my plans to do things once the kids are in bed have totally not come to fruition and the laundry is threatening to take over the upstairs.
The Good: She is cute and adorable and tends to wake up, look at me, smile, and say Mom.  The laundry will wait and life will go on since she will only be this little and snuggable for a short time.  Besides, I know I sleep better when I'm not alone. I imagine she feels the same way.
The Bad: The pizza dough for lunch has not defrosted properly and is not rising at all so we'll have to scrap lunch plans for something else.
The Good: We have plenty of food in the house so it's not a crisis, just an inconvenience.

Yup, it's been one of those business trips.  Washing machine threatens to quit, pipes in the bathroom start leaking (but I know how to shut the water off to individual locations so it's not a big deal), the toilet keeps getting clogged (multiple times a day), one of the boys did not set the security alarm properly when we left so ADT called Alan to ask if they should send out police, the garage door opener has broken again so I cannot park the van in the garage since we need the gears to pull the door up those last few inches to get the van inside. All minor issues but I think I will need a small break when Alan gets home.  Just maybe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Meal Plan

Well, the meal plan was mostly ignored last week.  Major failure on my part I suppose.  One of those weeks where most meals consisted of cereal and sandwiches. Until we ran out of bread and I didn't feel like making anymore.  And we pretty much ran out of cereal.  It got to the point where the kids were asking "Do we HAVE to have cereal for breakfast again?"  Believe me when I say that is a rare thing to hear around here.  But I am hoping to do better this week.  The grocery budget has taken a wee little bit of a cut this pay period for various reasons (like paying for karate lessons and Alan's travel schedule) so it's pretty important that I actually stick to my list and get back into the habit of baking all of our bread and such.  I think I'm off to a decent start to the week since it is only Sunday night and I already have dinner for Monday in the crockpot and lunch sitting in the fridge.  The older 2 have Boy Scout meetings 3 times this week which will make dinner rushed on those days and on Thursday we have Little Flowers followed by karate a few hours later so we will be in town all day, only coming home long enough to make dinner then come back to drop the boys at Boy Scouts again while the rest of the kids and I will hang out at the library.  At least that is the current plan. So here is the hopeful menu plan.

Monday: waffles with apple butter (B), taco rice (L), chili and corn bread (D)
Tuesday: eggs in toast (B), pizza bread and oranges (L), curry chicken over rice(D)
Wednesday: yogurt and granola (B), sandwiches (L), ham and potatoes, salad (D)
Thursday: waffles with apple butter (B), might take the kids to Pizza Hut to use Book-it coupons (L), rotini, meatsauce, salad (D)
Friday: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), chicken and broccoli over rice (D)
Saturday: cinnamon breakfast biscuits (B), hoping for leftovers (L), homemade pizza or the kids will protest (D)
Sunday: donut muffins (B), fend for yourself (L), chicken tacos (D)

I say hoping for leftovers because I seem to be having trouble gauging how much the crew eats now.  Ellie is eating full portions now and the rest of the kids are growing.  I often think there will be enough left after a meal for lunch the next day for Alan or myself only to find that there is nothing left and a few kids still claiming to be hungry. Hopefully I'll figure it out soon. I'm trying to avoid just using bread to fill out a meal all the time but it seems they really can use a tad extra.  I'm not really looking forward to seeing how much they will pack away when all 4 older boys are teenagers at the same time. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ellie and the Ergo Love

Little Miss Ellie spends a decent amount of her time like this:
So when Katie put Ellie's doll in the newest carrier in the house and strapped it to Ellie's back, there were lots and lots of smiles.

2 Boxes of Pudding

I'm working on cleaning out the pantry and making sure we actually use the food that has been sitting a tad too long.  No, I'm not someone who absolutely follows the best if used by dates but that's probably because it's not usually an issue around here.  However, when you do find those boxes in the back of your pantry because food did not get rotated properly (some of the kids need a refresher course in putting the new food in back, pull the old food forward), rest easy knowing that in almost every case they will still be find to use.  Maybe the texture won't be 100% but unless you are dealing with pancake mixes or something has gotten wet, if your food has been stored properly it's likely fine even if it is a year or so past the dates.  Best if used by simply means that is the last date the manufacturer will guarantee their product and with the American mindset, that date is often much, much earlier than the last date the food is actually safe for consumption. 

Which brings me to my point here.  I found several boxes of pudding that ended up in the back of the kitchen pantry.  They had a best if used by date that was a year or more behind us.  So they were on my list to use these past few weeks.  Plain pudding is boring after a bit so when I found this recipe, I decided I would try it.  We had everything in the house other than the Nutter Butters.  Man, those suckers are expensive.  Four stinking bucks for a package of cookies.  Who on earth pays those prices? I almost scrapped the whole idea but then I remembered that I have a love for all things peanut butter and chocolate.  Yum. 

We long ago stopped buying instant pudding so instead I used 2 large boxes of the cook and serve stuff.  (Yes, I can now taste the difference between the two and have a dislike for the instant stuff.) This is our dessert for movie night tonight but I just might have possibly decided to test it last night after the kids were in bed.  Yummy.  Now to find a use for the last box of chocolate pudding this week.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Battling Burnout

Nothing much to see here.  We're not really doing much.  Lots of random thoughts floating around in my mind but I realize that if I put them out there "on paper" so to speak, folks will get offended and I will deal with a new tirade of you are an awful person coming my way and I'm not ready to do battle with that at the moment.  Kids are plugging along at life.  We'll go ice-skating tomorrow, karate starts next week.

But burnout. It sucks. Not the let's all watch a movie and veg for the day and I'll be ready to do tomorrow burnout.  The knock you down and beat you up kind of burnout.  The self-doubt that leads to feeling like a failure and questioning what the heck you are doing with your life kind of burnout.  Yes, I realize we are very lucky.  Grateful for everything we have.  I realize we have chosen a rather challenging way of living our life and even though I am yearning for feeling something different, I'm not yearning for major changes.  No, I don't think sending the kids to school is the answer.  Not that we could afford the nice, small private school I would prefer to send them to if we went that route. And I'm not ready to deal with the other issues that go along with traditional schooling at this point.  I kind of feel it would not help at all.

I'll pull myself up and out of this soon enough and we'll be back to normal soon enough but until then, not much to see here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meal Plan

Leftovers and easy meals are the name of the game this week.

Monday: cereal (B), pulled pork (D)
Tuesday: blueberry bread (B), tator tot casserole (yes we use a version of the Duggar's recipe mostly because it tickles me to actually find a recipe I have to cut in half) (D)
Wednesday: hashbrown casserole (B), sweet Asian chicken (another freezer meal from Fix, Freeze, and Feast that I can just toss in the crock pot) (D)
Thursday: cereal (B), mini meatloaves (freezer meal) (D)
Friday: oatmeal (B), chicken pot pie (D)
Saturday: eggs (B), pizza (D)
Sunday: no real clue yet but I am hoping we have leftovers

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crazy Busy Fun Weekend

It's been one of those weekends.  Not sure where all the time went.

The washer threatened to quit on me.  While full of dirty diapers.  Because no self respecting washing machine would quit with just a nice clean load of towels or anything.  It appears to be working again and there is a small side of me that is tempted to douse the thing in Holy Water in hopes that just maybe it will keep it running longer.  Ok, I'm kidding.  Sort of.

While at the store buying disposable diapers in case I could not get the washer running again, it did not even occur to me that I was hosting a party that night and do not have a single paper napkin in the house.  Luckily they weren't needed.

Robert rode a Little Tikes truck down the stairs.  Not on purpose.  He scared not only himself but half of his siblings.  Luckily he is ok.

Took Abby, Katie, and Liam to Home Depot for their Kid Workshop.  Total Mom Failure moment. I forgot my diaper bag which had in it my money, license, and the camera.  The kids made some very neat barn looking banks.  They even had a table set up to let the kids paint their projects which I have to say I think is just a ploy to get the parents to stay in the store longer and spend money.  It's always interesting to watch the other families at these events.  The kids who come in accompanied by 3 adults and are not allowed anywhere near their own project for fear that they might do something.  Me, I'm dodging hammers and trying to tell Abby to actually look at the wood while she swings because she is just grinning and denting the heck out of the wood and whacking my fingers.

Attended a very loud Mass at a neighboring church this morning.  It sounded before Mass like we were in the mall.  And sounded that way during Mass. And after Mass.  But we saw some friends and made it to church despite me sleeping in a bit late.  Ellie did not wake me up and the alarm did not mind me hitting snooze a few times and the bed was warm.  Who could blame me.  And we were asked if we wanted to register as new parishioners.  Guess when you show up with such a crowd, you kind of stick out and are noticed.

The Epiphany party was a ton of fun.  The kids had a blast seeing everyone.  Bryan and Sean did a great job managing the house blessing.  Ellie was a bit of a grump and would not let me leave her sight but otherwise, things were great.  Great cakes and food and lots of social time.  I've realized my perspective has changed quite a bit. There were over 30 kids here tonight and it did not at all seem like a lot of people to me.

Now to start another week and hit the books and catch up on the laundry.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Cleaning of the LEGO Area

Yes, we have a "LEGO area" in the house. It is our sad attempt to keep from stepping on these plastic toys and finding them in the mouths of small children.  The area is contained in the hall in the basement between the older boys' bedroom and the school room.  Today the older children were sent downstairs to clean this area because, well, we no longer had a rug in the hallway. We had a LEGO floor.  While they were cleaning, they were singing these two songs.  The combo just cracked me up.  Their father would be proud.

Catholic Update Guide to Confession

This small little book has been sitting in my "to be read" pile for a while.  Ok, not always sitting in the pile.  Sometimes buried under paperwork or hidden on a bookshelf or hiding who knows where in my attempts to avoid reading it.  Yes, I was avoiding this harmless little book because I was not in the mood to be lectured to because I manage to do enough of that on my own and don't need a book to do it for me.  But I finally decided it was time to pick it up and dust it off and actually read it.

The book Catholic Update Guide to Confession is a super quick read.  It is not preachy and does not lecture you.  In this book you won't find someone standing over you saying "You must go to confession weekly/monthly/whatever or you are not living a proper spiritual life."  You also won't find justification for the myriad of reasons we often come up with to avoid confession. I'll admit I can't quite understand why my kids have no problem going to confession but both of their parents avoid it at all costs.  Who taught them to not be afraid?  Whoever managed to do that needs to come have a talk with me.

Anyway, this book is short, simple, and to the point. It walks you through the ritual of confession both in an individual and a communal form.  It teaches you in simple language why we each have a need for confession and reminds you that it is not such a mean, scary thing.  The book gives you 10 tips to help you gain the most from confession and gives you the gentle reminder that the most important thing about the sacrament is "what Jesus does" and not anything we ourselves do.

This book provides a wonderful shot in the arm for those of us who have been avoiding the confession line and a great explanation for those who just never understood the sacrament to begin with.  I can honestly say that I plan on reading it again and hope to do my best to follow the advice in the book to take the time to seek out that ever elusive "wise and welcoming priest" we all need to help guide us through this sacrament.  And it just might be added to the pile of books the older children are required to read or risk the loss of movie night.  Just maybe.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Update Guide to Confession . They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

I Hate Wrapping Paper

Ok, we are working on getting the 2-year-old to stop saying hate so I suppose I should choose my words more carefully.  I'll do better next time. But now for another budget buster: wrapping paper.  Wrapping paper drives me bonkers.  It's often over priced, makes a huge mess, and you buy it with the intent of seeing it for 2 minutes and then throwing it away.  Seriously, it makes no sense.  Yes, our trash company will recycle it if it is totally separate from everything else but as we clean up on Christmas morning, we rarely manage to keep it separate from the plastic and the the boxes and the annoying twisty tie things that toys are strapped down with in case they get the idea to try to escape.  Seriously, it should not take 10 minutes to free one doll from a box. Just saying.

We currently own 5 reusable fabric gift bags.  4 that I made and 1 that came wrapped around a gift a few years ago.  My goal for this year is to make 2 new reusable bags each month using fabric scraps, pieces from remnant bins, inexpensive pieces from thrift stores or fabric stores.  I'd love to use ties to close them all but will probably resort to putting snaps on them instead.  Once they are done, we can hopefully avoid using wrapping paper for most gifts next Christmas.  We already avoid it mostly on birthdays (I've even been known to just tie a festive looking grocery bag closed and call the gift wrapped but I think that was more laziness than budget minded).  The only thing standing in my way to starting this project is that both sewing machines are out of order at the moment. One is only missing a foot, the other needs to be serviced.  Hopefully I will be able to replace the foot the next time Alan gets paid.  Or I can hand sew the bags.  A few seams are not exactly that hard to manage.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Babywearing in the Next Generation

Have I mentioned how much babywearing is simply a part of our life around here?  And how much I love seeing the kids mimic what they see everyday?  Bryan and Sean have both mastered the use of the sling with a baby and love to carry toddlers on their backs.  And the little ones love to carry their dolls in their carriers. Right now Abby has a doll on her back in her Ergo and Robert has a doll in the sling I made years ago for  Katie.  I'm truly hoping they keep these ideas in their mind as they get older and that our grandchildren get to experience being worn by their parents.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Meal Plan

Here's the latest meal plan.  Just a plan, we never seem to stick to it entirely but most weeks we stick with it for at least 5 days or so.

Monday: cereal (B), cream cheese chicken over rice (D)
Tuesday: eggs (B), hearty Italian soup, rolls (D)
Wednesday: cranberry bread (B), BBQ chicken (a "dump" meal I already have in the freezer: dump the sauce and chicken in a bag as soon as you get home from the store and freeze it) (D)
Thursday: oatmeal (B), cheesy chilada casserole (this is a freezer meal from the Fix, Freeze, and Feast book) (D)
Friday: eggs (B), quiche, salad (D)
Saturday: cereal (B), chicken fingers (D)
Sunday: donut muffins (check out Hillbillyhousewife for the recipe, they do taste like donuts but you can make them yourself easily) (B), Epiphany party so I'm making pulled pork and hot dogs and then whatever other folks bring (D)