Saturday, November 5, 2016

Announcing Kolbe Vincent

Kolbe Vincent was welcomed into the world on October 30. This adorable little dude is the perfect addition to our crew.

Yes, I decided to keep rather quiet about being pregnant this time around. I chose not to share with folks not living near us this time. While I realize this decision is not popular and many people don't understand my thinking, it was the best choice for me. Pregnancy is truly a sacred time. This time can be easily ruined by the negativity and lack of respect we pretty  much always get in huge numbers when announcing pregnancies. I needed peace, calm, and quiet this time around. I needed the chance to truly enjoy and embrace this baby without the negativity, gossiping, and lack of respect for our opinions that we have received every time I have been pregnant.

In this age of oversharing, people seem to have decided they have the right to know everything about someone else no matter what. When I back off on what I share and the response is "I'm going to keep asking until you tell me what I want to know," that shows a huge lack of respect. When the gossiping starts in with rude, horrid comments, I start to rethink things. No, we are not crazy stupid breeders. No, we are not too poor to care for our children. No, our child did not die because God was telling us to stop having kids. No, I don't care to hear the opinion of someone who doesn't know us on my husband, home, or marriage. So yes, I kept quiet this time. And loved the peace. My emotional health needed to be the priority for a change. Especially with Alan gone all summer.

Putting myself first in regard to this decision is not one I regret. It made things much easier this time around and allowed me to focus on the gift that pregnant is, even when the pregnancy is hard.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Using Amazon to Save Your Budget

It is no secret that I have managed to become rather skilled at finding new ways to save our family money in as many ways as possible. It is one of those things that goes along with living on a budget and raising a large family. And, no, budget is not a bad word nor does it mean we are poor. It just means we live on a budget, something that used to be considered a good and responsible thing.

Most people realize by now that Amazon Prime provides you with some wonderful benefits. We use it for streaming tv shows and movies, free kindle books, free music, and free 2 day shipping. Our college kids also have used their own free college prime memberships. Not necessarily because they need to but because that way they can get away with watching things on their computers that we don't allow them to watch around the younger children. Yes, we are fairly strict about what the younger children can watch and what the older ones are allowed to expose the younger ones to while at home.

Two other services that Amazon offers that I use on a regular basis to pinch pennies are Amazon Mom and Amazon Subscribe and Save. The Amazon Mom program provides you with 20% orders of diapers and baby food. combining this program (free to join) with other sales allows me to get some killer deals on baby products. In recent months I've been able to buy cases of diapers for around $15. Yes, cases of diapers. We do use primarily cloth diapers but there are times when it is nice to have a back up. The prices are also low enough to allow regular donations to a pregnancy center or low income Mom in your life.  Now that Charlie is actually able to eat real food, I've started watching the prices on baby food. Using Amazon Mom to buy baby food and getting 20% allows me to get cases of organic baby food for less than conventional prices. Yes, using coupons at the grocery store can sometimes be cheaper but this option saves me from going out of the house and delivers more at one time. And I do realize that skipping baby food is even cheaper but for right now, Charlie cannot eat the stuff I would normally feed a baby her age since her mouth is still healing.

Subscribe and Save is another program I've started using recently. To get the most out of this program, you have to order 5 different items each month. With an order of 5 items, you get 15% off every item. Combing this 15%, free shipping, and sale prices allows me to find some incredible deals. Not every item will be worth ordering but if you keep track of prices, you can find some good deals. Typical items that I order each month are deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dishwashing detergent. The orders change every month since I cancel the recurrent orders as soon as the box arrives. In recent months, I've found great deals on oatmeal, pasta, baby shampoo, and cereal.

Everything is shipped directly to our door which is rather convenient.And the kids get giant boxes to play in. I do think that is their favorite part.  Even if you aren't looking for savings, if you are dealing with an illness or a time when you can't get to the store regularly, Amazon can make your life so much easier when used properly.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Meal Plan

breakfast options for the week are yogurt, bagels, eggs, cereal or oatmeal

snack options are fruit, popcorn, animal crackers, string cheese or fruit leather

M: grilled cheese, fruit (L), pulled pork over baked potatoes, veggies (D)
T: bean and cheese quesadillas, fruit (L), chili with corn bread (D)
W: corn dog muffins (L), pasta with meat sauce, salad (D)
T: leftovers (L), spicy chicken soup with cheddar muffins (D)
F tuna sandwiches, fruit (L), spinach tortellini soup, rolls (D)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Congratulations Robert!

Robert celebrated his first confession tonight. He said it went rather well other than being a bit scared because he did not know the priest. Next up is his First Communion in December.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Meal Plan

Breakfast options for the week are bagels, frozen pancakes/waffles, yogurt and granola, or eggs and toast. All served with fruit.

Lunch options are sandwiches or leftovers. Burritos if I'm able to convince one of the children to help me make a batch for the freezer.

Dinners for the week:
S: beef teriyaki over rice
M: tacos
T: buffalo chicken and potato casserole
W: cheeseburger soup
T: leftovers
F: fish
S: not sure yet

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Surgery Update

Charlie had her second surgery on Thursday. She came home on Friday and is doing relatively ok. Given that the surgery was in her mouth and you need to use your mouth to eat, she will likely have a very painful recovery. I see lots of snuggle time in her future.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Meal Plan

Breakfast options for the week are eggs, cereal, and oatmeal, all served with fruit.

Lunches for the week are sandwiches, quesadillas, or leftovers.

Snack options for the week are fruit, baby carrots and cucumbers, fruit leather, string cheese, or popcorn.

Dinners planned for the week:
M: chili and corn bread
T: chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole
W: pasta, salad
T: crockpot beef stew, rolls
F: fish, vegetables

Just Had to Share

Sharing this because it is an incredibly important message that I've noticed several adults in my children's lives do not seem to understand. I do not care if you are a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend. You never have the right to insist that anyone has to hug you or kiss you or anything of the sort. Teaching children that they have to hug or kiss you because you are a relative or a friend and you say so puts them at risk and tells them to ignore their natural instincts and warning signs. And trust me when I say I am now at the point of pulling out the mean Mom the next time I see someone demand that my kids have to hug or kiss them just because of who they are. This was something I was always forced to do with relatives growing up and it always made me uncomfortable. Like skin crawling uncomfortable but I was never given a choice. I can no longer stand by and watch the same thing happen to my kids. The first thing we tell them is so and so is coming to visit and you do not have to hug or kiss them if you don't want to. Then so and so shows up and demands the kids hug or kiss them anyway. I have failed my kids by not speaking up loudly enough when I can see they are uncomfortable but it is high time that changes.

School This Year

**I was going to put pictures in but then, well, that will take too long right now. Maybe I'll add them later. Maybe not.**

School has been in full swing for a while now around here. We took a long look at our schedule and demands on our time this year and decided to try something a little different. All of the kids are actually enrolled in a full service provider this year. Which is different but given that we had so many surgeries and such things to work around this year, I thought it might make things easier. So what are we actually using this year?

Ellie is in Kindergarten this year. She is doing Seton K this year. We are not far enough into the program yet for me to have figured out how they teach reading with Seton but hopefully it will be easy enough.

Robert is in 2nd grade. He is also enrolled with Seton. Admittedly, he has a little bit of catch up work to do before we can jump into the program completely because last year was just as hectic as this one will likely be but he's doing rather well.

Gabe is in 4th grade and is also doing Seton. The only substitution we have made is that he is using Teaching Textbooks 4 and 5 instead of their math. It is just so much easier for me to have math on the computer for the older ages so I don't get behind on grading it. Grading 7 different levels of math every single day is a huge pain. Seriously.

Abby is in 5th grade with Queen of Heaven Academy. At the 5th grade level, the school does not offer every class necessary for a full load so she is also doing other things as well. Her history, English, religion, and reading are with Queen of Heaven. Everything else is a mix of stuff thrown together at home. She is using handwriting, science, and health from Seton. Art will be from CHC. For math she is also using Teaching Textbooks 5. For music, she is taking piano lessons and The Story of the Orchestra. Chances are that Gabe will sit in on some of the art and music with her. She also has a basic map skills book.

Katie and Liam are in 8th grade with Queen of Heaven. Everything other than health, art, and music are covered with them. For health, they are using a course from Accelerated Christian Education. Music will be studying a couple of composers.They aren't doing art this year since they covered it last year but I am hoping to also add in a typing program for them. Submitting all of their work online is a wee bit more of a challenge without proper typing skills.

Kieran is in 9th grade with Queen of Heaven Academy. He is also enrolled in a typing course through Seton Homestudy. Not only because he needs the typing skills but because NY State has different requirements than QHA does for graduation and we must follow NY rules. And, well, there are a few classes Mom thinks all the kids should take no matter what so even with full enrollment in a set program, there are a few things I will add on each year.

Sean received notice from the school district that he is done with high school (a year early) so even though he is currently enrolled in a dual-enrollment program at college, we are counting this as his first year of college. Hopefully he will get all of his regular enrollment and financial aid paperwork in before next semester so we won't have to pay for the next semester. I do have to say that switching our older kids to college classes for the last 2 years of high school was the best decision for us. Let's face it. Most of the end of high school is a huge gigantic waste of time. All of those early college classes can be taken for high school credit anyway so why waste your time and money. Admittedly, I do NOT believe that everyone needs to go to college. That is a huge lie we have been selling people causing them to graduate with way too much debt, entering into a job market that is no longer there. But that is a story for another day. I still prefer to not have the kids waste their time with 4 years of traditional high school when there are so many other, better options out there.

We have found both positives and negatives to our current arrangement. The biggest positive is that the older children have someone else to answer to regarding their work. This has given them a challenge that they needed. However, we have found a huge negative to be the school schedule with Queen of Heaven. The kids all have live on-line classes M-TH. They cannot miss these classes for much of anything. Even a doctor's appointment is considered an unexcused absence. Their teachers, however, are able to cancel classes for almost anything. The double standard is frustrating, to say the least. We are also no longer able to attend field trips or sign the kids up for extra curricular activities they are interested in during the day or even attend daily Mass. We were unable to take any time off as a family when Alan returned because it would be unexcused. And obviously, we can't have anyone visit during the school day because that just won't work at all for any reason. In other words, we have lost the very flexibility that we love about homeschooling. So I am completely on the fence regarding staying with Queen of Heaven after this year. We will have to see how things continue to work out.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Frontier Girls

The older three girls have been enjoying Frontier Girls again this year. They just finished up the Fun With Science badge.  During the first meeting, we made a cloud, a rainbow, and floated an egg in water. The second meeting was spent on a few other fun projects.
Oreos were used to make the phases of the moon. This required taking the time to actually teach the girls how to properly open an Oreo so that the filling was all on one side. A skill they came home and taught Seamus.
Everyone made their own models of the solar system. This was Ellie's creation. 
We also made solar ovens. These are not very fancy ovens by any stretch, perfect for melting marshmallows or making nachos, nothing too terribly fancy.
SAMS Club actually donated the pizza boxes to us which was rather amazing.
Now we just wait for a warm sunny day when we can use the oven. Given that we had snow and hail today, I'm thinking we might be waiting a little while.

Meal Plan

M: chocolate peanut butter baked oatmeal (B), hot dogs (D)
T: English muffins, yogurt, fruit (B), cheesy chicken bacon tator tot casserole (D)
W: eggs, toast (B), tuna casserole (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), enchiladas (D)
F: cereal (B), mac and cheese (D)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Meal Plan, I Think

Trying to come up with a meal plan when you have no real clue what your life is going to look like during the week is, um, not so easy. But I'll give it a try anyway. There will be hot dogs because the kids brought home bags and bags of hot dog buns from the parish grounds clean up. And eggs since Liam discovered 24 eggs in the barn this morning. When asked if he'd been looking for them all week his answer was no. Thank goodness we only have 4 hens old enough to lay right now or that would have been a big mess. Then again, 24 eggs is barely enough for one meal.

M: yogurt, granola, fruit (B), hot dogs and bratwurst (D)
T: crockpot breakfast casserole (B), sloppy joes (D)
W: eggs, cinnamon raisin bread (B), spaghetti (D)
T: cereal, fruit (B), maple dijon chicken over rice (D)
F: oatmeal (B), something meatless, still thinking it over (D)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Meal Plan

S: waffles (B), ham (D)
M: eggs, toast (B), BBQ chicken (D)
T: waffles (B), pulled pork (D)
W: oatmeal, fruit (B), spaghetti, salad (D)
T: cereal/waffles (B), shredded beef sandwiches (D)
F: eggs, toast (B), macaroni and cheese (D)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Meal Plan

M: eggs, toast (bread in freezer) (B), creamy salsa chicken over rice (D)
T: peanut butter chocolate baked oatmeal (B), beefy baked ravioli (D)
W: eggs, fruit (B), crock pot sweet n sour pork (D)
T: yogurt, granola (B), honey glazed chicken (D)
F: cereal (B), bean and cheese enchiladas (D)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Meal Plan

M: eggs (B), beef stew (D)
T: oatmeal (B), cheesy chicken and rice casserole (D)
W: Abby's birthday
T: cereal (B), pulled pork sandwiches (D)
F: English muffins (B), tuna casserole (D)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Busy Weekend

Have you tried out the Home Depot Kids Workshops yet? If not, you are missing out on a wonderful FREE resource to share with your kids. Particularly if you have any crafty kids or kids who want to always be the one helping out with any projects at home.

This month I took 7 of the kids with me. Liam still loves to get a hammer in his hands any chance he can and Katie likes to come along to help with Seamus (because she is too big to do a project on her own she says). We made butterfly nesting boxes and as soon as the snow melts, we'll search for 6 places in the yard to hang them up. Maybe plant a few extra butterfly attracting plants.

The rules may vary by store but at our store you just show up. No signing up needed. This is great because we can go when it works with our schedule and not go when we are too busy. But check your local store because some do have sign up requirements.

We also finally got around to making our Pascal Candle. We took a super easy route this year because last year I ordered the pascal candle making kit from Illuminated Ink. Then I got to feeling rather sick and the project never got done. In fact, the 2015 pascal candle making kit is still somewhere in the house. So this year I lowered my standards and we finished the project. I call that a win.

Plain white tall candle (available at Aldi's or the Dollar Store), pascal candle print out from a creative person online. Project complete. We even managed to remember to take it with us on Sunday to get it blessed by Fr.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Meal Plan

S: bagels (B), honey glazed chicken, salad, baked beans (D)
M: eggs (B), chicken burrito bowls, corn bread (D)
T: cereal or oatmeal (B), crockpot lasagna, garlic bread (D)
W: overnight breakfast casserole (B), chicken divan, salad, veggies (D)
T: pancakes, bacon (B), beef tips, mashed potatoes, veggies (D)
F: yogurt and granola or cereal (B), mac and cheese with broccoli  (D)
S: leftover pancakes (B), pizza (D)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lunch Time Freezer Meal Win

We've been making freezer meals for quite a long time but until this past freezer meal session, I had focused almost exclusively on dinners. We often had leftover pancakes or french toast in the freezer and bagels or English muffins if I made a large run to the bread store. But lunches were never really covered. I always figured leftovers or sandwiches would work. But lately the concept of leftovers is laughable around here. I think I would have to start cooking for 20 to have leftovers. And sandwiches get a tad boring.

The kids seem to love anything in a tortilla and almost every freezer meal plan I'd browsed included recipes for making freezer burritos. I always avoided those recipes because they were unnecessarily complicated and a part of me just kept saying it's easy enough to just make burritos when you want them. This time we had 2 lbs of ground beef that needed to be used up along with some leftover rice from another recipe so I decided to make up our own freezer burritos. They were a complete success.

I kept the filling simple. Ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning, about 2 cups of rice, and shredded cheese. This filling gave us 24 burritos which are easily warmed up in the microwave. Most of us have been adding salsa or peppers and some sour cream. I'm thrilled with the easy grab and go option for everyone and plan to make a larger batch of them this weekend. Loving the extra options for lunch. Makes life so much easier lately.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Meal Plan and Such

The kids got a break from school this week since Kieran's school was out on break. Of course, that meant they all took turns getting sick. I think maybe half of them have been sick, half are either sick now or will be soon.  We apparently like to spend our Easter's laying low.

I learned yesterday that a fasting day is not the right day to push yourself to make it to 5 miles for the first time in a while. So did not make it but I'm ok with that. Getting close and still working on it. Also did a little research on what fasting rules used to be for those of us of the Roman Catholic ilk. Seriously folks, we are all a bunch of wimps now. And enough of this ignoring the rules about no meat on Fridays because I'm fairly certain almost all of us are not doing the prescribed penance needed in order to eat meat on Fridays year round. It does admittedly annoy me that even so called Catholic schools no longer offer meatless options in their cafeterias on Fridays. That was a standard even in our public school growing up. Seriously, Catholic Kid Problems: when you are thrilled to discover lunch meat hidden in the back of the fridge until your siblings all remind you it is Friday. Not as if that is played out around here on a near weekly basis or anything.

But enough rambling. The side of beef for the year has been ordered. We are eating our prepared freezer meals and a few roasts and will be using the last of the bones to make broth. Must break out the pressure canner. Ok, I'm slightly afraid of the thing but I'll figure it out.

M: bagels (B), chicken parm casserole over spaghetti (D)
T: yogurt, granola (B), ham and potatoes (D)
W: eggs, toast (B), salisbury meatballs (D)
T: yogurt or eggs (B), Italian beef sandwiches (D)
F: cereal (B), tilapia (D)

Using Amazon to Stock the Pantry

Over the past year, I have learned to love the added extra benefits of Amazon Prime membership. We all know that Amazon Prime is great for super fast two day shipping, movie and video streaming, streaming music, free kindle books, and more. Two other benefits available for Prime members are subscribe and save orders and a service called Prime Pantry. I have been using these two services to help our budget, stock our pantry, and find amazing deals on food to donate to the local food pantries. The trick is learning to find the deals hidden among the expensive products to actually save money and not lose it. Unless what you need at the time is someone to deliver groceries to your door for free. Then maybe the cost is not as much of an issue.

You have to watch the prices on Prime Pantry very closely but once you find a good deal, snap it up. I've been able to find boxes of oatmeal for $0.74, large packages of cereal for $0.97, stuffing for $0.25, and 4 packs of soup for $0.99. I don't usually do the searching myself. I joined a group on Facebook that does the looking for me. This means that sometimes good deals pass me by because someone else snagged it first. But when I find a great deal, I stock up. It has become slightly normal to send Alan a message saying I just ordered 30 or 40 of a certain item. I combine these deals with free shipping promos and Prime Pantry credits for opting for slower than 2 day shipping. Right now I have 2 $5.99 credits in my account waiting for new deals to pop up. When I deal does show up, I fill a box and plan to donate 50% of what comes in.

Subscribe and Save is a service that gives you up to 15% off your order in addition to sales, coupons, and free shipping. If you are an Amazon Mom member, you can also get greater deals on diapers and wipes. You have to watch for the deals and not everything is worth it but when things are priced well, you can save a ton. I follow another Facebook group that track subscribe and save deals. I've managed to get $120 worth of formula for $36 and a case of diaper wipes for $2.00.  I often find dishwasher detergent very inexpensively, pasta for less than $0.50 a pound as well as deals on occasional snacks for the kids.

Prime Pantry can also be used to send groceries to those away from you experiencing a need. Maybe they just had a baby or surgery or life is just rough. Whatever the need, you can bless a friend with a Prime Pantry box full of groceries and other necessities and they can save a trip to the store. We were blessed with a similar box after Charlie was born. Lots of quick snacks and grab and go meals for the crew along with boxes that the younger boys turned into cars and rocket ships.

Just a reminder that even if you can't feed 100's, you can take the time to help feed 1. Even if that 1 is just your own teen boy. Seriously, how do they pack it all away? 4 teen boys in this house so you can understand why I am a wee bit obsessive about tracking down grocery deals.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Meal Plan

S: bagels (B), creamy ranch pork chops, mashed potatoes (D)
M: Robert's birthday so his choice, there will be chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate ice cream apparently
T: eggs, toast (B), Robert's birthday dinner out (D)
W: oatmeal (B), chicken and stuffing casserole, veggies (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), beefy ravioli, salad, garlic bread (D)
F: cereal (B), quiche, salad (D)
S: pancakes, fruit (B), pizza (D)

Charlie Update

Charlie has survived the rigors of her first major surgery. The repair to her lip was successful. She looks like a wee bit of a different baby and even her voice sounds a bit different. She's learning how to actually breathe out of her nose for the first time.
She goes in next week to have a few of the stitches removed and to make sure everything is healing properly.  At the moment, Charlie is still on some fairly heavy duty pain killers at least part of the time. Healing the mouth makes for some rather painful eating times but she is doing better. I have even caught her smiling at her big brother Sean.

I think the person hardest hit by the surgery just might have been Seamus. The minute his sister arrived home, he ran out to check on her and spent a good deal of that first day home trying to hug her and climb into her bed with her to check on her.  He was truly missing something with his sister out of the house. All is now back to normal, or mostly so. Hopefully we will have an uneventful few months to look forward to now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Freezer Cooking

Life is getting a bit busy again so I decided it was time to fill the freezer with freezer meals. Ok, Elizabeth posted about the wonderful cooking session her freezer cooking group had and I got a wee bit motivated. I took Katie with me to the grocery store since we needed to get a new mattress for the upstairs bedrooms (yay for moving Seamus out of our room) and we stocked up on meat. I'd originally planned on just doing beef and pork but we found a case of boneless skinless chicken breast on sale for $1.55/lb. If you've never bought meat by the case, that was around 36 lbs of chicken. That I had not planned on. But I am not a fool or willing to pass up a price like that because have you seen how expensive conventional meat is lately? I was going to buy stew meat until I saw the price. No stinking way am I paying $4/lb for conventionally raised beef. We pay that much for our grass fed organic side of beef every year. Not spending that much on the conventionally raised stuff. Just not going to happen.

So we arrive home with all of that chicken (plus the 2 packages I'd picked up at Wegmans the night before), a large pork loin I had the butcher cut into chops, a bit over 10 lbs of ground beef, and 2 large packages of ravioli and got to work.

Some of my favorite freezer meals are often referred to as dump meals. With these meals you just put everything together in a container and then the day you plan to use it, just dump it all into a crockpot. Seriously simple. I also like to precook and shred some of the chicken breast for casseroles, soups, and using for making pizza. Two of our favorite pizzas are Buffalo chicken and BBQ chicken. Having precooked, shredded, portioned chicken in the freezer makes pizza night easier and keeps us from using the canned chicken breast. We also made several pans of pasta based meals and a large batch of meatballs. Pretty much every meal is going to need side dishes added to it but making those takes almost no time (plus I have lots of extra helpers who can easily handle that part alone) but having the main dish already prepped and planned means all I have to do is just pull something out of the freezer each morning. No real thinking or planning needed. Just what my life needs right now.

I have learned that with lots of folks helping with putting dinner together, it is helpful to label each meal not only with cooking directions but also with side dish suggestions or serving instructions. I may know we usually eat a certain meal over rice, but writing it on the bag means there are no chances of the meal making it to the table alone. For some reason that I can't understand, many of the cooking folks in this house seem to forget that side dishes are truly needed to round out a meal.

So here is the final tally since it was requested:

honey glazed chicken
maple dijon chicken
chicken cacciatore
baked beefy ravioli (a cheater version of lasagna) - 2 meals
chicken divan casserole
chicken parmesan casserole
sweet and sour pork
creamy ranch pork chops
cheesy chicken and stuffing casserole - 2 meals
baked rotini
sweet Asian chicken - 2 meals
salisbury meatballs - 2 meals
creamy salsa chicken - 2 meals
shredded chicken for pizza - 4 meals
shredded chicken for soup
shredded chicken for a casserole
24 beef and rice burritos
uncooked chicken portioned for a crockpot meal
uncooked chicken portioned for soup
chicken broccoli alfredo

I am planning next week to turn a few of our roasts in the freezer into a few extra meals and cooking up/seasoning some ground beef to have ready for tacos. Here's hoping having dinner already prepped for the next few months will allow us to focus on more important things the next few weeks.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Meal Plan

The lack of meal planning last week meant there was a lot of chaos at dinner time. Not really a good thing when we were dealing with an already busy week. Hoping to rectify that situation this week. I'm also hoping to spend some time putting together a decent amount of freezer meals. They make life so much easier and I am feeling the lack.

M: bagels (B), all things pie related for PI day (D)
T: eggs, toast (B), crock pot Italian beef sandwiches (D)
W: cereal (B), spaghetti (D)
T: oatmeal (B), tacos (D)
F: eggs (B), bean burritos (D)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Meal Plan

M: eggs and toast (B), roast beef sandwiches (D)
T: peanut butter and banana bagels (B), roast chicken and vegetables (D)
W: cranberry apple baked oatmeal (B), crock pot beef tips (D)
T: breakfast bowls (B), honey glazed chicken (D)
F: cereal (B), fish of some sort (D)

Hearing Test Update

Results of the 3rd hearing test are in. Charlie does have the ability to hear. She just will not have full functional hearing as long as her palette is open (it is seriously a huge hole folks). Tubes will be put in during her second surgery which should help alleviate some of the hearing loss she is currently dealing with. A 4th test will be done then to assess if there has been any permanent damage from the near constant presence of fluid in her ears due to the palette issues. So in a nut shell: she is fine. Perhaps she might have minor hearing issues but we can't assess that until after her palette has been repaired.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

: Meal Plan

I finally got around to doing a real inventory of the freezers and getting them organized again. Surprise, surprise, we are almost out of ground beef and the pork chops are gone. Seems we run out of those first every year. Anyway, I've been trying to search for a few new recipes each week from different cooking blogs but this week I have decided to just stick to what I know we like to keep things simple.

M: egg sandwiches, sliced oranges (B), chicken cordon bleu casserole (D)
T: yogurt, granola, fruit (B), stuffed pepper soup (D)
W: baked oatmeal (B), black bean and corn chicken taco bake (D)
T: eggs and toast, oj (B), pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw (D)
F: cereal (B), south of the border skillet, salad (D)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Meal Plan

All new recipes this week are being pulled from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures. This site is a wonderful one to check out if you are looking for ideas for allergy friendly (gluten free, dairy free) cooking.

M: bagels, fruit (B), slow cooked roast beef sandwiches (D)
T: apple cinnamon baked oatmeal (B), taco pasta (D)
W: eggs (B), easy chicken pot pie (D)
T: pancake sausage muffins, fruit (B), easy crock pot spaghetti sauce, pasta, salad (D)
F: yogurt and granola (B), bean and cheese enchiladas (D)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dear God, I Don't Get It

We all have those times when we feel like God is not answering our prayers. This can be a hard thing for adults to understand but getting a child to understand why prayers appear to go unanswered can be a struggle. The book Dear God, I Don't Get It by Patti Maguire Armstrong helps children understand just this question.

Dear God, I Don't Get It is the first in a series of books about the Ajax family. In this book you meet brothers Aaron, Luke, and Tyler.  As the story opens, the family learns that they must move. This is something that feels like the end of the world to 12-year-old  Aaron Ajax. He prays to God to please find a way for the family to stay where they are but his prayers are not answered in the way Aaron expects.

This book helps broach an often misunderstood concept in a way young minds can easily grasp.  Adults are often heard saying that prayer works but they fail to understand exactly how prayer works. Many children often grow up with the mistaken notion that all you have to do is pray and God will grant your every desire. Failing to understand that God often answers our prayers with a no because He has something else in mind for us can cause many people to question their beliefs. By the end of the book, Aaron begins to understand that God's answers are not always our own.

This book does a wonderful job at weaving faith into the lives of the characters without being preachy or pushy. It successfully walks that fine line without beating the point home with a morality stick. This helps to keep the story interesting without turning you off.

I recommend sharing this book for kids in the 8 to 12 age range. The entire series promises to provide an easy way to tackle some of the tough topics in life with your children.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Meal Plan

All new recipes for this week are being pulled from the Budget Bytes website. If you are looking for interesting meal ideas while sticking to a limited budget, be sure to check this site out. Or check out her book from the library (because visiting the library is much better for the budget than buying the book).

M: cranberry apple baked oatmeal (B), leftovers/sandwiches with fruit (L), saucy southwest shredded beef over rice, salad (D)
T: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), pancakes, strawberries, sausage (D)
W: oatmeal (B), grilled cheese or salad (L), golden rice bowls (D)
T: country breakfast bowls (B), leftovers (L), bbq chicken (D)
F: cereal (B), tuna melts (B), sundried tomato and spinach mac and cheese (D)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Meal Plan

M: bagels, fruit (B), chicken azteca over rice, veggies (D)
T: oatmeal (B), spaghetti and salad (D)
W: eggs (B), stuffed pepper soup (D)
T: cereal, fruit (B), beef stroganoff (D)
F: eggs, toast (B), potato soup (D)
S: pumpkin bread (B), pizza (D)
S: donuts (B), taco salad (D)

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekly Update

So Charlie is finally starting to make some noises other than crying and smiling every so often. This seems to indicate that she is starting to be able to hear something since babies who cannot hear do not in general talk back to you.  This does NOT mean that we actually know anything definitively regarding her hearing. Granted, we aren't too terribly worried either way. Either she can hear normally or she can't. If she can't, we all learn sign language and she maybe gets hearing aids. Nothing worth getting upset about so we truly aren't worried. I would say Charlie's biggest issues right now are that she truly does not like the tape on her face and tries to remove it as often as she can and the annoying feeling she gets every time she spits up. Due to that wonderfully huge whole in the palette, when she spits up, stuff comes out of her nose. Seriously one of the most uncomfortable feelings. But she is doing well. No, I'm not sure when her surgeries will be scheduled and I'm really rather refusing to worked up about it. Please don't get worked up for me because it does no good for anyone. Truly her issues are minor and will be mostly fixed before her first birthday. So why worry about it.

Four kids are off on a retreat this year. Admittedly, we were not too happy to send them on this one because the parental gut just does not get the right feeling from the adults supervising the group but we are hoping the kids are having fun. It is one of those "mandatory" things for the confirmation program and even though I realize it truly cannot be forced upon us, I did not feel like fighting it right now. Depending on how the weekend went, we might fight any further overnight retreats because they really are not all the same.

Seamus absolutely loves his little sister. We have been very lucky to never experience sibling jealousy with a new baby. I will admit that I wonder how much of it now is often created by the parents and other caregivers worrying about it happening and talking to the older kid about not being jealous but who knows. All I know is we have not experienced it ourselves.

Seven of the kids attended a trial fencing class this week. Not because we intend to allow them to join fencing because, well, the budget is only so big. But because we thought they would like to see what Kieran has been doing. Everyone seemed to enjoy the classes. Robert insisted on defending Ellie's honor after another boy stabbed her and "killed" her. The game they were playing required you to go into a death scene if you got stabbed so she did. The Robert had to check to make sure she was ok before he took off after the boy who got her to avenge her.  Alan says it was adorable.

Gabe got his first library card this week. This is a big deal around here and our library tends to make a big deal out of the first time a kid gets a library card. He is very thrilled.

That is our week. Hope things are going well in your neck of the woods.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Empty Jar

You see that empty canning jar? Yes, the picture is awful but it's not the point. That jar. My favorite Christmas gift this year.

Why? It was simple and a reminder. A reminder I needed.

You see the paper taped to the jar? That paper has a note from one of the children. The note says:
To Mom and Dad: A jar of nothing for the people who have it all.
Ok, it is quite possible the child behind this gift was just looking for something simple, easy, and free. But I see something else.

I see a reminder that even with all of the chaos, the medical bills, the car repairs, the kids who are behind in school, the laundry that won't stop, the appliances that keep breaking, the darn freeloading chickens who won't lay eggs right now. In the midst of all of that chaos, when I've been oh so sick for weeks, going on months. When the baby isn't quite gaining enough weight to keep everyone happy, when we are still struggling to find a parish where the entire family feels at home and we are struggling with our faith. In the midst of all of that. We do have it all. And that is just what I needed to hear.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Meal Plan

M: cereal (B), creamy salsa chicken (D)
T: bagels (B), fettuccine alfredo, salad (D)
W: oatmeal (B), chicken soup (D)
T: eggs and cinnamon raisin toast (B), sloppy joes (D)
F: breakfast casserole (B), spinach tortellini soup (D)

Weekly Update

Not much of this week has gone as planned. But life is like that at times. Alan had intended to take the 5 older kids to the March for Life. After seeing the forecast, we opted to have them stay home. Not because we were worried about them getting there but because we were worried about them getting home. Seeing all the vehicles that are now stranded in the storm, I'm glad we made that call. It has also given me time to just rest and hopefully recover. I took Charlotte to the doctor on Wednesday and was told that she was fine but I was rather sick and needed to go see a doctor. So I do so the next day and spend most of the appointment fending off questions over the baby. What a pain. So rather than really worry about me, the doctor took the pediatrician's word that I have bronchitis. Really not too surprising I guess since I have been sick since Charlotte's last week in the NICU.

Liam has been released from physical therapy which means one less appointment on my schedule. Hopefully we will get a date for his surgery the next time we see the orthopedist. I am looking forward to being done with the appointments with this particular doctor because his bedside manner stinks. For a guy who deal with children almost all day, you'd think he would have a clue how to talk to them.

Three of the older boys are off winter camping this weekend. I don't understand wanting to do so every year but they seem to enjoy it.

So such is our life at the moment.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Meal Plan

I have decided that my children are slightly weird. The parents in the house are getting just a tad tired of pizza every Saturday night. The children are absolutely miserable. We even had bbq ribs for dinner last night and tonight there were multiple children suggesting pizza for dinner since we skipped it on Saturday. Robert first asked for pizza. Then he said "I have an suggestion. How about something pizza-ish?" He even tried playing the "We can use our Book-it coupons" hand. He still lost but you have to admire the effort.

I am going to attempt for the next month to try to plan including lunches and snacks and see how well we are able to stick to that. Obviously if the fridge starts to overflow, a leftover night will be thrown in. I think the hardest things for us to plan are lunches and snacks because the middle of the day gets crazy and the kids are rather locust like in regard to snacks some days. I am working on getting them to understand that I really don't mind if you are eating fruit, popcorn or string cheese but I do get a tad annoyed when the special snacks disappear in under 12 hours because that just rather boarders on gluttony. And irks me. Anyway, rambling again. So here goes.

S: cinnamon rolls (B), FFY (L), tator tot casserole (D)
M: bagels with cream cheese or fruit butter (B), corn dog muffins, fruit (L), apple BBQ pork chops, scalloped potatoes, apple sauce (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), ramen, veggies (L), chicken divan, salad (D)
W: English muffins, bacon, oj (B), taco cheddar biscuits, fruit (L), spaghetti with meat sauce, salad (D)
T: scones, yogurt (B), leftovers (L), spicy chicken soup, cheddar muffins (D)
F: oatmeal (B), pbj (L), tuna melts (D) for those at home, packable food/snacks for those heading to the March for Life
S: cereal (B), FFY (L), pizza (D)

Snacks: string cheese, gogurt, popcorn, pumpkin bread, fruit, carrots, crackers

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Baby, Baby, Baby

So today started with a trip to the plastic surgeon. A rather uneventful trip. All we can say is that the little one is not big enough yet to discuss scheduling the first surgery. This is rather a bummer because we really would like to get it over with and we are sort of working against a bit of a deadline. But since her surgery is not the life and death sort of operation, it is best to put it off until she is bigger and can handle the realities of anesthesia better.

Later in the day Kieran had fencing class. Abby and Gabe went along with me again to get school work done in the relative quiet and almost one-one-one time. The fencing club recently relocated so they are still busy with all sorts of last minute details such as testing the various alarms. While we were there, the fire alarm was tested. It went off for quite some time and was really rather loud and obnoxious. It bothered everyone but Charlie Girl who slept right through it. Also a bummer. Round three of her hearing testing is scheduled for late February. Hopefully we'll learn more at that point.

Otherwise, life is as normal. Just keep trucking folks.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Meal Plan

M: breakfast casserole (B), pasta and salad (D)
T: leftover pancakes and/or bagels (B), drunken honey bbq chicken (D)
W: oatmeal (B), slow cooker sweet fire chicken (D)
T: eggs and pumpkin bread from the freezer (B), pork roast, potatoes (D)
F: cereal (B), mac and cheese (D)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Day in the Life

So I took two younger kids with me to fencing today. We had an hour and a half to focus on their school work. What a reminder on how much easier this whole homeschooling thing was with fewer kids to worry about schooling. This is likely to become a regular part of our schedule now. I have two blocks of time every week when I am waiting for older children at their activities. Two and a half hours a week. Between Abby, Gabe, and Robert, I see being able to get quite a bit more accomplished in such a short period of almost one-on-one time each week.

Something amazing also happens when you leave your oldest children at home and take one of the middle ones to be the oldest helper. It's wonderful to watch them truly step up and grow into a larger amount of responsibility. And those older kids frankly deserve a stinking break every once in a while.

A day in the life of this homeschooling Mom. Living and learning with the crew.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Meal Plan

I don't want to get back into the swing of things but I suppose we must. With riding lessons, fencing, karate, and scouts starting back up this week and 3 appointments already on the schedule, life will get back to normal. And there is school. Yup, must make that a priority as well. That has been a huge challenge this year with all the appointments and visitors. Hoping to improve upon that.

So back to actually cooking food. I so don't want to but I must. A necessity for both the budget and everyone's health.

M: yogurt, granola (B), chili, cornbread (D)
T: eggs, pumpkin bread from the freezer (B), cheesy chicken bacon tator tot casserole (D)
W: oatmeal (B), beef teriyaki over rice (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), cheesy chicken and rice. (D)
F: cereal (B), potato soup, dinner rolls (D)

This is the beginning of two months when I will attempt to pay much more attention to using the food in the house more effectively and sticking to meal plans. I am hoping to get the freezers organized again after having everything thrown all over creation when the freezer was being repaired and then the fridge broke. In other words, I am in desperate need of a proper inventory so we don't leave good food languishing buried somewhere. Wish me luck.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Life in the New Year

It's a new year so what are the plans? I have lots of goals running through my head but it seems like 2016 will begin much the way 2015 ended. More car repairs. I am both frustrated and thankful. Frustrated because I'm tired of car repairs. Thankful because the van died after I pulled into a parking lot rather than when I was on the road. Alan hopes to fix it tomorrow. I'm praying he is able to because, well, that would be easy.

Other than that, it is time to tackle some reorganization plans, stick to that elusive budget a tad better, get back to more cooking and baking myself, figure out why the darn oven won't heat properly, and let go of plans that we were unable to get to this week.

I do believe my immune system is rather shot at the moment. Must work on fixing that. I am planning to start running in the next few weeks. Yes, that treadmill was an awesome investment. I'm just tired of walking. Yes, it has helped me in the past 18 months or so but walking on a treadmill is so, so, so boring. Have I said boring? Because gracious, just walking is boring.

Anyway, just hoping everyone has a wonderful new year.