Monday, December 31, 2012

Meal Plan

Time to come up with a plan for the week.  I decided not to make a plan last week since I figured we'd have leftovers and Alan home a bit more often which would keep things a bit more informal. Seemed to work but I've been reminded that with the size of our family, leftover turkey meat simply does not last as long as it once did.  I think we only got one pot of soup and 2 days of sandwiches out of the leftovers.  Kind of sad. I'll have to plan the use of the two turkeys in my freezer better later this year.

Due to some upcoming financial changes (new taxes anyone?) plus needing to plan for increased bills (it looks like we are going to get stuck with some extra medical bills because there is apparently a way to code an ambulance bill for insurance purposes to make it appear as if the ride was not an emergency even if the person transported was not breathing which means then the insurance does not pay for it) and a massive jump in the mortgage payment due to a massive increase in local taxes, we are going to have to make a few changes in the meal plan department.  I'm very grateful that the kids love soups because they will be eating a ton of them. Bread prices jumped last time I was at the store (unless you buy the cheap bread and I refuse to buy bread made with corn syrup because that is just wrong and not healthy for you) so it is  time to get into the routine of making our own bread.  Unfortunately I was only able to stock up on 115 pounds of flour over the past few weeks while it was on sale so we'll plow through that amount rather quickly.  In order to make the budget work, our grocery budget has been cut almost in half and since I've been struggling to say in the other budget, I'm thinking it will be hard to stay in this one.  I have January to load up the pantry stores before the new budget kicks in so I'll be grabbing as much meat as possible this month to freeze.  Wish me luck on finding sales and marked down products because we'll need them.  I also need to figure out which one of our coolers we can fit a crockpot insert into because we learned this weekend that not only will bread not rise in the kitchen in the winter but yogurt also will not set without being incubated in a cooler.  Yes, our kitchen lacks proper insulation and gets incredibly cold in the winter.  It's rather quite annoying and the children poked a bunch of holes in the large styrofoam cooler I was using to incubate the yogurt last year because they enjoy doing things that drive me crazy.

So here is the weekly meal plan, made up as I am typing.

M: eggs and bacon (B), FFY (L), pulled pork, coleslaw, potato salad otherwise known as party leftovers (D)
T: pumpkin bread (B), chili (L), spaghetti (D)
W: cereal (B), pbj (L), honey glazed chicken (D)
T: muffins (B), soup (L), tacos (D)
F: eggs (B). tuna sandwiches (L), hoping for leftovers (D)
S: cereal (B), FFY (L), pizza night (D)

I have to spend some time today using up the rest of the yogurt that did not set right.  We are using it as a buttermilk substitute and making bread and muffins with it which will be used for breakfast this week.  I am also searching for a tortilla press.  Making them by hand saves a ton of money when you use 20 to 30 tortillas at a time (which we do) but is rather time consuming. They do taste a ton better than store bought but it can take me 2 hours to hand roll enough for our family.  It is much cheaper than buying them though so I am hoping to find a decent inexpensive press to make my life easier.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Karate Class

I've decided that I totally suck at trying to get pictures while the children are moving.  Yes, there is a setting on my camera to make it easier.  Yes, I always forget to take the time to switch over to it.  Yes, perhaps that is a sign that I am a tad lazy and complicating matters more than I need to on a regular basis.  And yes, it means way too many pictures end up out of focus. Sigh.

Anyway, half the class was unable to attend karate this afternoon so I thought I would take the chance with fewer kids in the way to grab a few pictures.  Just the middle kids since the older two are in the adult class. Please ignore the slightly goofy karate instructor.  I swear some days he's worse than the kids in the class but perhaps that is why they seem to click with him so well.

Ice Skating

We headed to Batavia today to meet up with some friends and go ice skating.  The rink has open skating in the middle of the day when most folks are in school or at work. This translates to a mostly empty rink.  Which is the perfect venue for a bunch of kids who are learning (and falling).  Since I was hanging out with the younger two, the pictures are wee bit blurry at times and not so close.  It's a bit hard to get decent pictures when you are not near the action but I did try.

 Gabe did an awesome job. He actually stayed out on the ice for most of the time we were there and even let go of the wall.  His oldest brother spent a decent amount of time helping to haul Gabe back off the ice and onto his feet.  I have to say Bryan did a wonderful job of willingly helping Gabe try to figure things out.

Abby spent the first few laps around the rink using the wall for support but then she let go and took off a bit.

I know the kids would love to do this on a regular basis and I truly wish we could because everyone has a great time and comes home just a wee bit tired.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Picture Time

Court of Awards

The boys' scout troop had their annual Christmas dinner tonight.  The evening also doubled as a Court of Awards.  This is always an interesting event for us since it is meant for the entire family.  Usually the younger children only make it part way through the evening before they are done and ready to head home but aside from a minor meltdown from Robert, they did rather well tonight.
Bryan and Sean both advanced to the second class rank.  I'll admit that I am not entirely sure where this puts then in terms of Boy Scout rankings but I do know they are making steady progress.
Kieran will join their troop in January and is looking forward to the chance to be with the bigger boys.  Ok, he's jumping out of his skin excited over the chance to join the big kids.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Christmas Carol

We've always intended to take the kids to plays on a regular basis.  Maybe call it part of their school experience.  But we've had a hard time fitting it into our lives.  Regular shows are often too expensive and the cheaper shows for school groups often are not welcoming of infants and toddlers so it just hasn't happened.  So we jumped at the chance to take the kids to A Christmas Carol for free.

We took the older six kids to the Geva Theatre and they had an awesome time.  I was a bit surprised that the theater was so small.  It would be rather hard to find a seat that did not provide you with a fairly up close and personal view of things.  I was also very surprised by the quality of the special effects used during the play.  It's been a long time since I've seen an actual play so I really was not expecting that sort of thing.  It was very impressive.

Everyone enjoyed themselves and a thank you goes to Geva Theater and the sponsors of the Home for the Holidays program for giving us the free tickets and the chance to enjoy a wonderful night out with the kids.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Prayer Quilt

I don't know the ladies who spent the time to make this wonderful gift for us but I just have to say I am very thankful for it.
It arrived on Friday and was made by the Prayer Quilt Ministry at Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Fredericksburg, VA.  A wonderful group of folks who took time out to pray for our family in the days following Isabel's death.  This is an amazing gift that we will treasure for a long time.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Yet another idea to file under frugal ideas.

This is a simple recipe using common inexpensive ingredients you'll likely always have an hand. The most expensive part of the solution is buying a spray bottle.  This is assuming you have the same issue we have around here.  You see, I bought some all-purpose cleaner in a sturdy spray bottle from the store.  The same basic recipe I make here.  But when the kids finished up the cleaner, they forgot to save the bottle and given that I was still under the weather a bit, I did not notice until several days later. So we gave up on that idea and bought a package of 6 commercial quality spray bottles at SAMS Club.  The awesome thing about these bottles is that the sides are labeled with the markings to tell you how much water to add to dilute your cleaning solutions to the strength you desire.

So here are the simple directions for an orange based all-purpose cleaner.  First you need to collect a bunch of orange peels in a clean container with a lid.  I do believe that we actually used tangerine peels this time and used all of the peels from snack one day.  Put the peels into your container and cover them  with plain white vinegar.  Put the lid on and shake everything up a bit. Make sure when you are done that all of the peels are completely under the liquid, then store the container away from the light.  (I just stuck the peels in a quart sized canning jar, put on one of the reusable plastic lids, and stuck the container in the snack cupboard.)  Leave it to sit for at least a couple weeks.  You can add more peels over time if you desire.

After a few weeks, pour off the vinegar into a clean spray bottle.  Strain if necessary.  Add water to the bottle to dilute as desired. Shake to mix it all together.  You can add some dishwashing liquid if you want more scrubbing power.

The best part of this cleaner (aside from the cost) is that you can leave bottles easily accessible to your children and not have to worry if a toddler should grab one.  So you end up with a cleaner that is both affordable and non-toxic and adding the orange peels to the solution prevents the smells that is left behind from using straight vinegar to clean.

Meal Plan

M: oatmeal (B), baked chicken legs (D)
T: yogurt (B), tator tot casserole (D)
W: cereal (B), Boy Scout Christmas party (D)
T: eggs (B), soup and muffins (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), green chili chicken enchiladas (D)
S: pancakes (B), pizza (D)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cookie Decorating Party

Alan and I will admit that we are not quite up to trying to do everything we normally do for Advent and Christmas this year.  I did not make an Advent calendar and even failed to buy the chocolate ones at the store.  The nativity sets are not out (although I'm not sure where we would put them anymore).  Most of the feast days have not been celebrated. I really doubt any cards will go out this year and the few adults we do usually send gifts to won't be getting anything this year.  It's just not where we are at the moment.  And yet there is a need to try to keep things a tad normal or fun for the kids. So we invited some folks over today for a cookie decorating party.  Translation: we just came up with an excuse to have some friends over.  Cookies, lunch, playing outside, and a house full of friends who just came to spend time together.  Something we really need to do more often.  And, yes, I did totally lose count of how many cookies were eaten and watched a few little ones dump entire bottles of sprinkles on top of their cookies.  But it's all fair in love and sugar, right?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

And There Goes the Streak

Last night Gabe took a header into the hat and mitten box.  Apparently that is what happens when you are running in the house. Which led to a trip to the ER because, of course, you can't split your head open in the middle of the day when you can go to the doctor or earlier in the evening when the urgent care center is open.  You'd think a head wound on a child would be a reason for some urgency but apparently not.  They spent about 5 hours there in total.  Perhaps the problem was that Alan had managed to do a decent job patching things up before they left home so the wound was not gaping or bleeding heavily.
Either way Gabe finally made it home with 6 stitches right smack dab in the middle of his forehead.  Our first kid ever to need them.  I'll admit that I am a bit shocked that we avoided them this long.  Apparently there is a lot of appeal to getting to spend all that time alone with Dad and leave the house at night dressed in your jammies.  So Gabe is none the worse for the wear.  Just hoping next time someone splits their head open that they are polite enough to do it earlier in the day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Detergent

Ok, file this one under frugal hints.

This week I made a triple batch of laundry detergent.  Nothing fancy or earth-shaking here but it seems folks have forgotten that you can make such things and cut down on your expenses.  So I just thought I would share the recipe for anyone who might be interested.

First I will say that we don't always use the homemade version.  If I can get laundry detergent inexpensively I will.  Usually the case lot sales have decent prices on it in bulk but when Alan picked up our order last time, they were out of the detergent I had ordered.  Since he did not know the prices himself, he opted not to buy the other detergent they had in stock (which was not at all a bad choice).  Coupons and matching sales can bring the prices down at the regular stores but sometimes I just am not on top of tracking those things.  When I've run out of the cheaper stuff and am not in the mood to pay the regular price for detergent, I make it.

The version I use is 1 bar of soap, 1 cup of borax, and 1 cup of washing soda.  Grate the soap and mix it with the rest of the ingredients.  You want to use a soap made for laundry or something that lacks extra ingredients.  Fels-naptha, zote, and ivory are all great choices.  Ivory is probably the best option cost wise since you can easily get it for free with coupons. I had 9 bars stashed away that I paid less than 10 cents a bar for earlier this year.

Next week I'll mix up a batch of all-purpose cleaner (once I find the missing spray bottle).  When done alone, these things won't make a bit of difference to the budget but when added together you will see a difference.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I Don't Like the Elf on the Shelf

It's that time of year.  The time of the year when hordes of parents give up on parenting their children in favor of threatening to tell the Jolly Old Elf all about how their kid is not behaving.  In years past, I always hated going to the store this time of year. It never failed that I would hear at least one parent threaten their child with "If you don't listen to me, I will tell Santa that you aren't being good" because apparently the only way to deal with your child is to either bribe them or threaten to tattle on them.  Yup, this bugs me more than I can even begin to articulate.

Now the lack of parental authority is taken a step further and millions of parents are paying to have some ugly looking toy in their house to help them with the tattling on their children department.  Yup, this bugs me.

I will openly admit that we don't do the whole Santa thing around here. The blank looks on my children's faces when strangers ask them if they are excited about Santa coming somewhat cracks me up.  It's not that I am completely against the idea of Santa. But society has taken what was once a small part of the holiday and turned it into the entire reason for the season.  So we leave him out of our celebrations for the most part. Yes, the kids watch movies and read about him in books but he remains simply a fictional character based upon a great saint.  So there is my bias to begin with and I do know it colors my view.  But good grief, parent your child. If they are throwing a fit in the store, pick them up and take them out.  Or put the toy back. Or ground the child. Do something, anything other than threaten to tattle on your child because in case you haven't noticed, the kids are winning and you are left looking like a fool.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Menu Plan

We are still working through various meals in the freezer and otherwise trying to keep things simple around here.  I discovered on Saturday that SAMS has boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale by the case for $1.64/lb.  Since the chicken shipment from Zaycon foods was cancelled due to the hurricane, we are hoping to be able to take advantage of this price in the very near future to fill the freezer a bit.  Hopefully the price will not go up before we are able to do so.

Lunches this week will be sandwiches and leftovers except on Friday. On Friday we are having some friends over for a cookie decorating party and will have something in the crockpots for lunch.  Taco soup in one and I'm not sure what will go in the second one as I am struggling to come up with something more child friendly than I usually seem to cook when cooking for a crowd.

M: eggs (B), salisbury meatballs (D)
T: oatmeal (B), honey glazed chicken (D)
W: cereal (B), soup and muffins (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), lasagna (D)
F: muffins (B), ham and scalloped potatoes (D)

We are also apparently entering the beginning of potluck season.  Alan has one at work on Tuesday and there is a Boy Scout dinner/potluck next week.  This Thursday we also have the Frontier Girls Christmas party.  They should keep us just a tad busier than normal and making lots of extra desserts to take with us (I think we will be sticking with caramel corn for most of them since it is cheap, easy, folks seem to love it, and most folks now seem to never have a chance to have homemade caramel corn).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

St. Nicholas Day

St. Nicholas Day was celebrated in a somewhat low key manner this year.  No movies, no crafts, just candy.  And Alan still refuses to allow the kids to eat just candy for breakfast so he even insisted on making sure the kids only had one piece of candy before breakfast.
One thing I've noticed as the shoes get bigger and the line of shoes gets bigger is that I am now having trouble getting all the shoes into one picture.

Happy Birthday Kieran!

Kieran turned 11 on Wednesday.  Yes, this post is a wee bit late because I was waiting until I pulled the pictures off the camera.  I've been running a bit behind on most things lately.
 Kieran is rather focused on trying to be different than everyone else lately.  I suppose that sometimes happens when you are part of such a large crowd. So he requested a pie rather than a birthday cake.  He also made sure to pick a restaurant for his dinner out that no one had chosen before.  He's currently taking fencing lessons (a birthday gift) and is thoroughly enjoying them.  Alan says he is picking up on things very quickly.
Here's hoping you had a wonderful day buddy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

At Least They Were all Dressed

My how things change on you.  Once upon a time, we only had a few kids.  So few in fact that you only needed one hand to count them all.  So few that we could always make sure every child was holding an adult's hand.  So few that we always were able to make sure every child was neat, presentable, and matching when we left the house for important events like Mass.

Now, well, we have a few more kids.  We need two hands to count them all.  And there is no way everyone will be holding a adult's hand when we leave the house unless you count the teenagers as adults.  And we now apparently settle for just making sure everyone is wearing clothes when we leave the house.

We attended an evening Mass tonight so that Alan could join us after work.  Robert arrived wearing a pair of water shoes because they were the only ones we could find in his size tonight.  Ellie arrived wearing two different soft sole shoes (both cast-offs from an older brother so very much masculine looking shoes) because her sneakers have gone missing.  Half-way through Mass I noticed that when her older sister got her dress, the dress went on backwards.  She was also sporting some leftover blue marker streaks on her face from her adventures with the box of markers this morning.  And if you stood above her and looked down, you noticed the numerous bald patches on her head from where one of her siblings gave her a haircut.  Gabe was wearing nice matching clothes.  But the pants kept falling down and I'd look over and notice he was mooning everyone in the rows behind us. Several of the older children managed to walk out of the house without really combing their hair.

But we were all there. Together.  And the kids pretty much behaved.  So that's all that matters, right?

Happy Birthday Ellie!

Ellie turns 2 today.  Currently several of her siblings are arguing over who will get to make her birthday cake.  This pretty much illustrates exactly what her role is around here. She's the one everyone wants to spoil and take care of and fight over.  Right now I am currently fighting a battle with her older siblings trying to convince them that it is not necessary to spoil her so darn much.  As cute as she is, I can see the attitude becoming an issue if it is not reigned in soon.

I can safely say that Ellie loves her baby dolls.  She is often seen carrying one or two of them around the house.  She still seems to think that the diapers somehow go on the dolls' heads but we're working on that one.

She also loves her brother Robert.  I've watched her climb into his lap and just walk up to him and hug him. The two of them rather remind me of Katie and Liam at the same age.  Which just slightly worries me.

Her favorite book is Wrapping Paper Romp and she will ask you to read it over and over and over again.  The other day she brought the book to Gabe to read to her.  Gabe did his best considering he has not yet mastered reading.  He told her he would read it to her silently.  After flipping through the pages, he handed the book back and informed her he was done.  Ellie was not amused and looked at the boy like he had two heads. Clearly he did not understand the read to me request.

I will admit that I consider Ellie's happy temperament and laid back personality to be the result of having so many wonderful siblings around.  To be completely honest, I have spent most of the past two years being slightly or not so slightly emotionally burned out.  About the time she was born, I was still dealing with a wee bit of a mental breakdown due to life and family.  Once I finally started getting back on my feet we were knocked over by a miscarriage and then the pregnancy.  But luckily for Ellie, when Mom was not available to pick her up and carry her around and dote on her, she always had a sibling standing by who was more than willing to rock her to sleep and toss her in a baby carrier and spoil her slightly rotten.  She may not have always had a parent taking care of her but she has always had more than enough love and care.  We've found ourselves pointing out to the older boys that she likely views them as another adult type person in her life.  Yes, Mom and Dad are special but those big boys get just as many hugs and smiles and she runs to hang on them when they come home.  I hope they all realize what a special relationship they have together.

Anyway, happy birthday to Miss Ellie.  You truly hold a special place in our family.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Menu Plan-Birthday Edition

This is one of our busy weeks.  We have 2 birthdays plus St. Nicholas Day to celebrate plus a Holy Day on Saturday.  Did I mention the boys are scheduled to serve the early morning Mass on Saturday? And we have to leave here 40 minutes early to make sure they are there on time?  So much for sleeping in I guess. So there is my reason for putting this together a bit early.  Hope you can deal.

Sunday is Ellie's birthday but Alan has reserve duty so we won't be able to go out for her birthday dinner until later in the week.  But we'll still have cake after dinner.  What we'll have for dinner, I haven't a clue.  Ellie is talking quite a bit but as of yet, I have not been able to determine what her favorite meal would be.  I can tell you that she is really great at saying snack and no and gets really upset if her dad tries to put one of her stuffed dolls into his shirt pocket.  "No, Daddy! No!"

M: yogurt (B), sandwiches (L), hopefully we'll get out for Ellie's birthday dinner (D)
T: oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), meatloaf (D)
W: Kieran's birthday so whatever he picks for breakfast and lunch and going out for his birthday dinner followed by pie for dessert because he said he does not want a cake this year
T: St. Nicholas Day so I'm sure the kids will eat mostly candy (B), sandwiches (L), soup (D)
F: breakfast casserole (B), leftovers (L), drawing a blank (D)
S: whatever can be grabbed and eaten in the car (B), FFY(L), pizza night (D)

So how is that for a rather scattered and not quite organized meal plan?  In the end everyone will be fed but I can pretty much promise it won't look exactly like this by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy

A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy by Sarah A. Reinhard arrived on our doorstep somewhere in the second half of my pregnancy.  I will admit that I was a little skeptical that there would be much new in the book for me given that I was currently smack dab in the middle of my eleventh pregnancy.  I was surprised to find that there were things for even a seasoned Mom to glean from this book.

First, this book is not full of the nitty gritty physical and medical aspects of what is going on when you are pregnant.  If that is the kind of book you are looking for, this one is not for you.  Second, this is not a book that you will sit down and read in large chunks. This is a book meant to be taken in slowly in small pieces over time. Unless it arrives in your home when you are already most of the way through your pregnancy. Then you just might find yourself reading the entire thing at once.

What this book is a spiritual guide to the path you travel when expecting a new baby. Each chapter covers a week of your pregnancy.  Your experiences are covered from a faith based or emotional perspective. Each chapter ends with a short prayer that is relavent to that phase of your pregnancy.

I'll admit that a few weeks after our little Isabel died, I saw this book laying on my bedroom floor and found myself reaching for it.  Yes, that seems a little strange to some folks I suppose.  But I had remembered seeing something in the book on stillbirth so I found myself sitting on the floor paging through the book looking for something that might help me sort out the mess in my mind.  Although the  topic was covered very briefly, it did help me to realize that the path we are currently walking is not one we are traveling alone.  I suppose my one complaint was that the topic was touched on so briefly that I felt a need to read more.  I know folks do not like to dwell on the possibility of losing a baby rather than bringing one home but when it happens, you need something to lean on without leaving the house.

One particular section of the book that spoke to me the first time I read it was the reminder to pray for our husbands.  Alan often reminds me that it's incredibly hard for him to connect to the baby during pregnancy or to watch the times I'm in pain for some reason or another.  There is something about a pregnancy that can leave a husband feeling incredibly helpless.  Our last pregnancy was full of so many minor bumps in the road that I know Alan was feeling particularly helpless this time around.  The reminder to focus on praying for him and the burdens he carries was particularly needed.

If we are blessed with another pregnancy, I hope to be able to say that I was able to spend time each week reading this book and praying my way through each week.  But until that time, I hope to recommend this book to other expectant mothers, both first time moms and those of the more seasoned variety.  We can all use the reminder provided that each chance to carry a new life is the greatest gift and miracle that will ever touch your life.

These Kids of Ours

I'll admit it. These past few weeks have taught us quite a lot about ourselves and our little family. I've watched the kids all step up and be rather amazing.  I'm very grateful that we have spent so much time focusing on siblings being friends and not tolerating rude or hateful behavior towards each other in the name of "that's just how siblings are to one another." Not to say they don't argue but rather that they have learned for the most part to respect one another rather than be just plain mean.  This meant they each had a friend or two to turn to in the past few weeks.  I can't imagine how lonely things would have been for them otherwise.

The older children have been helping with cooking and laundry and diapers and putting the younger ones down for naps. The middle kids have stepped up and helped quite a lot as well.  Which was a reminder to me that Bryan used to do all that stuff when he was their age just because he's the oldest and I needed the help.  I need to remember to require the same help from the other kids that I required from him.  I can't imagine how much more challenging the past few weeks would have been if I had a house full of kids who were used to having everything done for them.  The help has made a huge difference.

So, hm, I guess I'm saying that I think my kids are rather awesome and I'm not quite sure how we would have managed without them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Saint Catherine Laboure and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

Marianne Lorraine Trouve has written a new book for the Encounter the Saints Series covering the life of Saint Catherine Laboure.  As with the other books in this series, this biography is written at a level that is perfect for children in the 8-10 year-old range.  The story is told in fairly simple terms while managing to give a decent amount of detail.  A glossary is also included in the back of the book to explain terms in the book that may be new to the reader.

I found this book to be a quick simple read. The story was engaging without being overwhelming.  Even though it is written for youth, I found that there were a few details in the story that were new to me.  This book is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the story behind the miraculous medal.

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 Saint Catherine LabourĂ© . The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your family Advent activities and supplies this year, such as Advent wreaths and calendars for kids, as well as Christmas decorations such as nativity scene sets and religious Christmas gifts for the whole family.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meal Plan

We have reached the end of the wonderful meal train that was providing us with dinners for the past few weeks.  The ladies who provided the meals for our family over the past few weeks were incredibly generous so we even have some extra food in the freezers.  But now it is time for us to take over again and for me to start planning meals again.  Granted, I think we'll be relying fairly heavily on freezer meals for a few more weeks because I am still not back on my feet.  The meds still have me too weak to function and my doctors are arguing over who is responsible for regulating the dosing so I'm somewhat stuck unable to function at the moment. No, I am not happy and yes, I do plan to start taking things into my own hands very soon if I don't get a better answer.  It's way too important that the other children have parents available to them who are able to function and be parents.  They are a huge priority right now and I won't feel better until I am able to start taking care of them again.

So, here's a slightly pathetic attempt at planning meals for this week.  Breakfast will be whatever Alan and the kids throw together each morning.  Lunches will be sandwiches and leftovers.
M: salisbury meatballs over rice
T: ravioli
W: cheesy chicken casserole
T: honey glazed chicken
F: tuna casserole maybe
S: should be pizza and movie night

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quiet Times

I'm hoping everyone will understand if things are a bit quiet around here for a while.  Yes, life simply must go on especially with all the other children in the house who need things to get back to normal.  And yet I'm having a hard time sorting out my own thoughts and feelings and finding things to say or share.  I know there are things that are going to change around here and I think I'm just slightly afraid of what life will look like on the other side.  Once the numbness has worn off.  And we ask for folks to pray for our family over the next few months.

A friend shared this song with me the other day and I think it's something several people could maybe benefit from.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Our sweet baby Isabel. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Warning: brain dump ahead.

It's been a little over a week.  The guests are heading home.  I'm rather glad.  I'm tired of having other folks around and just want time alone with my family.  Neither Alan or myself are truly very social people and having so many people around in our space is rather overwhelming.  While we appreciate the concern and help, we're truly ready to be alone. 

I'm grateful for my children who all take such good care of each other.  And play well together.  And fill the house with noise.  It's a reminder that life goes on. 

The kitchen is full of food from so many wonderful friends.  It seems like every time I turn around, more food has shown up in the house.  This means I don't have worry about feeding the kids or running to the store which is awesome.

I'll admit I'm not so thrilled with the florist showing up.  We don't do flowers well around here so I'm sure they are all going to die.  Not what I need right now.

I'm a little tired of answering the how are you doing question.  Part of me wonders if I should really answer it the way I feel but I'm sure that would not be considered polite.

I'm very grateful for my husband who has been picking up so much slack and taking care of the kids so I can just rest.  He's been a rock lately even though I know he has his own nightmares running his head right now. 

Anyway, it's been a week.  One we hope to never repeat. But one with a purpose. I just haven't figured out what that is quite yet.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Isabel Rose 

Born November 6th 2012
Died November 6th 2012

There will be a funeral Mass Held at St. Mary's Parish In Holley NY
11 am Tuesday November 13th 2012
with internment to follow.

In lieu of flowers please donate to National Right Life or Birthright International 

Thank you

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Isabel Rose, Our Newest Saint

For the folks who did not hear some where else, I just wanted to share that our littlest angel was born and died on Tuesday.  Hard to say, harder to imagine.  We are doing ok here with family and friends helping to take care of the house, cooking, and kids.  I will say there is something slightly surreal about watching your husband doing cpr on your own child.  We don't know exactly what went wrong and we have decided not to pursue invasive measures to find out.  We'll have a funeral next week sometime.  Please pray for our other children.  The littlest ones obviously don't notice a difference but it it hitting some of the other ones rather hard. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Chicken Gyros

I just wanted to share that the chicken gyros from last week's meal plan were absolutely delicious. Bryan did most of the work making the meal and it was super easy to throw together. As long as you plan to allow the meat to sit in the marinade for a few hours, this is easily a meal that can be made in 15 minutes. I'm sure that the recipe is not quite authentic but it tasted pretty darn close to me.  All of the kids loved it and as proof, there were no leftovers.  Alan added a bit of garlic to the cucumber-yogurt sauce to give it a bit more of a kick.  Gabe calls the sauce ice cream but as long as he eats, it doesn't really matter what he calls it.  The recipe can be found here and if you make it ahead or double what your family needs, it is a super easy meal to toss into the freezer for later.  Just make sure the whip up the sauce the day you eat.  Next time we will try a crockpot gyros recipe using lamb and ground turkey.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meal Plan

The truth is the real meal plan this week will likely be whatever other people feel like cooking. I've somewhat given up on keeping up with the meal plan this past week.  I'm assuming next week will be pretty close to the same.  Just feeling very tired, constantly nauseated, and frankly worn out. 

M: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), BBQ chicken (D)
T: eggs (B), sandwiches (L), spinach tortellini soup (D)
W: yogurt if it gets made (B), sandwiches (L), taco ring (D)
T: cereal (B), leftovers (L), pulled pork (D)
F: eggs (B) sandwiches (L), south of the border skillet (D)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cleaning Out the Fridge

I decided it was time to clean out the fridge today.  I found 4 opened packages of tortillas. Why on earth there were so many in there, I haven't a clue.  Especially since Bryan made fajitas last night and I know rather than looking in the fridge, he just grabbed the unopened packages out of the pantry. Ok, I guess I do know why. Sigh.  So, um, meal plans will have to be tweaked a bit for tomorrow.  There is also a tube of Pillsbury biscuits that got knocked out of the basement fridge yesterday and popped open so those must be used tomorrow.  And while pulling everything out for dinner, I remembered we had half a pound of ground turkey and two slightly freezer burnt hamburger patties. So that was the meat for tonight's soup. A bit different than usual but that is the joy of taco soup. It's incredibly versatile and easy to adapt to whatever is in your pantry at the moment.

We've been having some trouble of late with children wasting food and sneaking food without permission.  I've always frowned on such things but it seems no matter what I say or do lately, I am ignored.  This is not a case of children not getting enough to eat. This is a case of kids being picky and stubborn and trying to get all of the treats for themselves and not share honestly.  For instance at lunch today, the first child done asked for a piece of fruit.  Immediately there was a chorus of kids asking the same thing.  Because everyone wants to make sure they get a banana before they are all eaten.  Never mind that I bought enough for everyone to have one. From the couch where I was resting, my answer was you can only have a piece of fruit if you have finished your sandwich.  When I got up to make sure lunch had been cleaned up properly, I discovered at least 4 sandwiches tossed into the garbage.  Yup, I'm not happy with that kind of a stunt. So the kids were told there would be no snacks this afternoon since they think they can waste food. We don't tolerate tossing food away or taking one bite and saying you are done around here.  It just does not work for our family.

So while trying to figure out a new way to deal with it, I came up with a project for the older children.  I'm not sure which ones will be considered older children yet. I may partner them up. But in a few weeks (after we have settled in from the baby's arrival), the kids will be assigned a week to do our grocery shopping and meal planning. They will be given our standard weekly grocery budget to spend ($175 a week) and dietary guidelines to follow. In other words, they may not plan to serve peanut butter and fluff or nutella sandwiches every day.  I'm hoping giving them some real world experience on how hard it can be at times to balance our budget while providing truly healthy food for the family.  I don't want to make them feel guilty but I do want them to realize that their actions with regard to food thievery and wasting simply are not acceptable.  And we can call it home ec credit I suppose.   Judging from the rolling of the eyes at dinner when I brought up this idea, I don't think some of the kids are looking forward to it but I have to admit that I am.  I'm hoping it will give at least a few of them a new perspective on things.  Just maybe.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What Would You Do

Something has been weighing rather heavily on my mind as of late. I keep watching as many folks keep slipping further and further behind financially.  Hard working folks who simply cannot keep up with the financial challenges we are all facing today.  No, you simply cannot always get another job. No, you simply cannot always just join the military (and joining the military is never a guarantee of job security, I can think of many folks who can attest to that one).  No, you cannot always just cut something extra from your budget.  Many folks are living on a bare bones budget already but are falling further behind each month as they struggle to buy gas to get to work and buy groceries to fill their stomachs.  And even more shocking to me is the attitude from some folks who simply say well, get a job or plan better or it's all your fault if you can't keep up.  The attitude many folks have that they are somehow better than those of a lower socioeconomic status.  Yup, this one bugs me big time.  Sure, there are folks who refuse to help themselves but a vast majority of folks I know who are struggling are doing so through no fault of their own and simply find themselves out of options.

So what do you do when you are down to your last $20 because you had to fix the breaks on your only working car so that the adults could continue to get to work? And you have 6 people to feed on that $20 for a week because you have been scraping bottom grocery wise over the past few months.  And when many food pantries now require that you are already on government assistance before they will provide any help? And you don't have family to ask for help? This is a very real life situation that people are facing on a regular basis.  What would you do if it were your family? Or what would you do if it were a family you knew? 

Just one of those things floating around my mind lately.  I realize that we as a family are blessed to have family who would help us in such a situation. We also do our best to maintain a pantry that would prevent such a situation although I can easily see how we could use everything up if finances change.  I also realize that many people simply do not have the same resources to fall back upon.  So what would you do in that situation?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Meal Plan

I'm once again planning this as I type.  I had a meal plan organized the other day but I'm thinking a few tweaks are necessary.

M: oatmeal (B), leftovers (L), honey glazed chicken (D)
T: eggs and biscuits (B), sandwiches (L), soup, I think this one (D)
W: cereal (B), quesadillas (L), taco soup (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), sandwiches (L), chicken gyros (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), leftovers (L), tuna casserole (D)

The weekend plans are up in the air at the moment so we'll just have to see what happens.  Maybe I can convince the kids to have hot dogs instead of pizza on movie night because although I enjoy pizza night, sometimes you need a change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tomato Soup

I made this tomato soup for dinner tonight.  The first time making it.  While the recipe was not completely from scratch, I think it is close enough.  You can always start with fresh tomatoes and crush them  yourself but I'm totally ok with getting those from a can.  This soup was much better than the canned stuff I grew up eating.  Full of vegetables and a real texture. All the kids loved it.  It can easily be kept completely vegetarian but I will admit I did not worry about that tonight since I did not have vegetable broth in the house.  If you want the soup smoother, you can either take the time to chop the vegetables smaller than I did or run the soup through a blender.  It was very easy to make and quick to throw together.  And did I mention it is a very thrifty/affordable meal? This will definitely replace the canned condensed tomato soup around here.

Fencing Lessons

Kieran has been asking for fencing lessons for years.  He tolerates karate but has even asked if we could afford fencing lessons if he stopped taking karate.  For many reasons, fencing simply does not fit into our budget or family plans. I refuse to fill our schedule up with individual classes/lessons for just for one child.  I'd rather spend more time at home and not drive everyone crazy.  Family time is a greater priority.  Plus most of the fencing lessons are on the other side of Rochester and they are very expensive. So they never were considered.  However, the other day I was flipping through a catalog we received for some local recreation programs and found an introductory fencing class for elementary kids.  It is just a 6-week session and was still out of our budget in general but his grandparents are chipping in on the classes for a birthday present. When we split the cost in half, it almost brought it down to the level we normally spend on birthdays.  Since Kieran has been wanting fencing lessons for so long, I decided I was willing to spend just a little more than usual. 

Alan took him to the first session last night. We did not tell him where he was going to keep it a surprise.  The kid was beyond thrilled.  Just judging from the grin on his face when he arrived home last night, I think we can safely say he is thrilled with his birthday present.  Yes, I know his birthday is in December but the class is now.  I think he won't mind no presents on his actual birthday because this experience is much better than a new toy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Little Ones and Church

Obviously we have many younger children. Obviously we have had little ones for quite a while.  So the question of what to do with small ones and how to handle them during Mass is one that we have been dealing with for quite some time. And over the years our way of dealing with children during Mass has evolved as our family dynamics have changed. A recent change of thought at our parish has caused me to spend some time rethinking what we believe with regard to children in church and why.  Funny thing is I am now even more convinced that we are doing the best thing for our family.

We currently attend a smaller church several towns over.  One of the things that drew us to this parish was the awesome young priest and the incredibly family friendly welcoming environment.  This parish has grown in numbers in huge ways over the past year or so simply because folks with children are absolutely drawn to this priest.  He relates wonderfully to the children and they all seem to love him.   However some of his recent statements have me wondering if he realizes how easy it can be to alienate those same families who are so drawn to his parish.

First, I will state that I understand keeping everyone in a parish happy is impossible.  And I realize that some folks are simply set in their ways and do not like change so seeing so many young kids in Mass is not always a good thing for them.  And I do completely admit that we have some families in our parish who do need to do a better job of managing their children and their own noise levels during Mass. One family in particular was being so loud in front of us that Robert started telling them to be quiet and I found myself digging in my bag for toys and books to hand the kids in hopes that they would get the idea.  Sadly, they didn't.

So what is the issue?  Quite simply it's the dreaded cry room/children's liturgy question.  Our parish does not currently have either one but is now planning on putting in a cry room of sorts and starting a children's liturgy.  Do I like either one of these ideas? Nope, not really.  Do I like the way they are being presented?  No, not at all.  Several of the families with young children (including our own) have been privately pulled aside and told about how these things will be starting and they will be great for the children.  None of us can tell if we were being told the kids are obnoxious or not.  And at all Masses for the past few weeks, the cry room/children's liturgy has been brought up with the basic premise of we are all expected to make use of these options once they are available. 

Here's the problem: none of the families with young children were at all asked if they wanted these things, desired them or felt they were necessary.  And frankly, none of us are happy.  Having options is awesome but the way it is being presented is frankly offensive. 

What are my thoughts on the matter?  I have never seen children's liturgy done well.  I have never seen kids truly get a benefit out of it.  They leave Mass (where they belong) and go do craft projects and listen to a watered down version of the readings which are then explained to them in dumbed down terms by a well meaning but often uneducated volunteer.  Then they come back into Mass right at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist hopped up, bouncing off the walls, talking, obnoxious and unable to sit still and be respectful for the most important part of the Mass.  Nope, our children are not allowed to participate in children's liturgy any longer.  And yes, we are used to the looks we get when our kids are the only ones left in Mass where they belong.

Cry rooms.  Well, I do honestly love the idea of a place to take a restless toddler. But, again, I have never seen them used properly.  Instead I have seen parents truck in bags of toys, video games, and enough food for a full meal.  Cry rooms do not allow you to teach your children how to behave in Mass because most parents using them believe that because they are in the cry room, they don't have to teach their child to behave.  Or adults congregate in the area so they can have a conversation themselves.  Yes, I went through a period when I was pregnant with Katie and Alan was away for 8 months and I was alone with the 4 boys. So I used the cry room since it was my only real option for taking the kids to Mass. And it was awful.  You can't hear anything or get a benefit from Mass at all.  Great idea in theory but rarely used as it should be: as a short stop meant to help teach your toddler appropriate Mass behavior.  Nope, we don't use cry rooms either.

Lest you think I am against having options, let me assure you I am not.  Yes, we used to bring drinks and a small snack, a book or quiet toy.  Over time we've learned that these things simply serve as distractions and give the kids something to fight over during Mass.  Yes, we do our best to remove grumpy toddlers in a timely manner.  But now we suddenly find ourselves feeling as if the toddlers make even the smallest noise, they are no longer welcome.  This leaves me feeling as if I cannot attend Mass when Alan is out of town which happens at least once a month.  Just this past weekend Alan was out of town, the older boys were at a retreat, and I'm at that point in pregnancy where any time in the car is likely to start contractions.  This means driving the 30 minutes to Mass and then dealing with the children alone during Mass was frankly out of the question.  They know when they have me out numbered and act accordingly. If I have to take one child out of Mass and I am without both my older children and my husband, I will have to take them all out and that is a bigger distraction. Since I have frequently been in the position to have to attend Mass alone for months at a time, I make a point to seek out family friendly parishes where I will be welcome even if the kids make some noise.  Yes, I've been in the position many times of leaving Mass in tears over the children's behavior when I was alone.  I've found attending Mass at times to be a huge struggle rather than a welcome respite from my week. But we've kept plugging along because I know it is easy to slip into the habit of not going.  And I've seen many families who have simply stopped attending Mass because they felt their children were no longer welcome. And these folks don't come back when their kids are older. They simply stop attending.

So what is to be done to keep everyone happy?  I'm not sure.  But I'd love to remind older folks that without the young children actually attending Mass, there will be no future for our Church at all.  I'd like to suggest that maybe you should spend less time focusing on other people. I know I rarely hear the noise from a specific other family or child unless they are being truly obnoxious.  I'd like to suggest that maybe if you see a parent alone with their children and struggling, just maybe you can offer to help them.  I've willingly handed a baby over to a welcome set of arms before or allowed a grandmother to adopt one of the kids during Mass because I needed the help.  That is true help.  Not asking that if you have a young child, please make use of these options to segregate your child and family from the rest of the congregation. And maybe, just maybe, remember that one day it might be you in the pew with a kid who is acting up or maybe it used to be you.  And remember how hard it used to be and just pray for our young families.  The society we are trying to raise our children in is much, much different from the one you raised yours in.  We all deserve to feel welcomed by our church community.  Yes, take out a rowdy toddler.  But please, please, please don't make us feel as if our kids don't belong in the church with the rest of you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Meal Plan

I have decided it is ok to start using some of those freezer meals this week rather than keeping them all for after the baby is born.  Because I'm getting kind of tired lately.  Because the freezer is a bit full. Because I am expecting a delivery of 40 lbs of chicken the first week of November which will have to be made into more freezer meals and such and put into the freezers somewhere.  And because certain seasonal sales are starting that also require some extra freezer space and I am hoping to avoid having to plug in the 3rd fridge.  I really want to have room for a few extra turkeys if the prices drop in the next few weeks.  Of course, we are also starting to run low on bread and milk but I am hoping to avoid a trip to store until Tuesday or Wednesday so the beginning of the week will have to a bit creative or cautious in the use of those items. Usually this is not a problem.  Unless I leave the house or take a nap and the children decide to raid the kitchen without permission.  Then it becomes a problem.  So I'm just going to hope they don't do that to me this week.

Monday: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), salisbury meatballs (D)
Tuesday: eggs (B), macaroni and cheese (L), tomato soup (D)
Wednesday: cereal (B), tuna sandwiches (L), pork chops (D)
Thursday: yogurt (B), mini pizzas/calzones (L), spicy chicken soup (D)
Friday: muffins/quick bread (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), fish (D)
Saturday: French toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza bread (D)

Right now our freezers are full of pumpkin puree, pumpkin butter, bell peppers, blueberries, shredded zucchini, chicken broth, frozen fruit, pie filling, and some assorted freezer meals.  I learned this week that it is best not to send a child down to the freezer with a freezer meal to put away and the instructions to lay the bag out flat to freeze because apparently that translates to wad the bag up in a ball and shove it in the freezer. This means the bag does not freeze flat, takes up way more room than you planned, gets in your way, and makes it harder to fit more food/meals into the freezer in an organized manner.  Oh well.

Tonight I think I am going to ask one of the older boys to make dinner, one of the girls to make apple crisp (working on the baking merit badge and using up the last few apples) to go with our ice cream for sundaes on Sunday, and pull out a jug of cider to have with dinner.  Translation: most of the kids will be thrilled and think I'm being nice while I will get to rest after a weekend of Alan working, the older boys being out of town, me getting over what I think was a stomach bug, one little one with the runs and another little one who threw up all over themselves in the car on the ride to pick up the boys.

NFP and Zealousness

In our work as NFP instructors, we are often contacted by folks dealing with less than ideal NFP related situations.  I've had more opportunity than I can count to talk to people who are struggling not only with the ins and outs of NFP, but also with the judgmental attitudes from other folks regarding their choices.  It seems if you admit you use NFP, you are immediately labeled as an idiot by mainstream folks.  I've been yelled at, insulted and mocked by more medical "professionals" than I can count regarding our religious beliefs.  Yes, religious beliefs. For us there are two options with regard to spacing the births of our children: either use NFP when we need/desire more space or do nothing.  No other choices are morally acceptable because the Church has never changed it's rules folks.  Yes, we've also been openly mocked by family members who disagree with us.  Because that is the new tolerance. Don't ask for information. Don't respect another person's beliefs. Simply make fun of them.

I think the saddest issues we run into with regard to NFP use, however, come from within the ranks of those who claim to support it. There seem to be two main camps.  Those who believe that you should only use NFP in the most serious life or death situations and those who believe that using it in anyway other than one that provides a minimum of 2 to 3 year spacing for a reasonable (usually no more than 4) kids is irresponsible.  So you have folks who get pressure to just keep having kids no matter what and those who will tell others they need to reread their books because they have their hands full.  But neither of these beliefs is in line with Catholic teaching on the subject.  Heck, I was recently told by some young starry eyed twenty-something not been married more than a few years young lady that anyone who has a child at a less than ideal time should have simply planned better because NFP is always fail proof or some such nonsense.  Hm, right, what a load of hooey.  As anyone who has used NFP for more than a few months can attest to, it's a monthly challenge, a daily commitment, and it certainly is not all sunshine and rabbits.

In the past year, I've had the chance to speak with several different women struggling with real world NFP issues that simply can't be solved by saying chart more, rest more, pray more, and remember that other folks have it worse than you.  I think one of the most insulting ideas I have heard tossed around by some heavy hitters in the NFP world is that you should not ever consider using NFP to be a struggle because those in our military don't get to have sex when their spouses are deployed.  Seriously, that is an entirely different ballgame. Just speaking from experience here.  So I will never tell you that you should not struggle or that it will always be easy.  Heck, I'm more than willing to say it can absolutely suck at times.  But what I think hurts more than that is watching women tear each other down and belittle each other over their differing interpretations.  Yes, many folks are called to raise a large family and can do so well.  But many other folks frankly need more spacing and should be supported as they try to provide it in a morally acceptable manner.  Many folks will find themselves at some point in their marriage welcoming a child at a less than perfect time.  They should be supported and reminded that every child is a gift no matter what the situation.  Yes, sometimes support means listening while the parents express their fear or anger or frustration over their new blessing rather than just telling them it will all work out because sometimes you just don't need the rose colored glasses look at life.

Even though this somewhat long winded rambling post probably makes little sense, I just want to say that I am praying right now for 4 different women I have spoken to this year regarding their NFP struggles.  One is battling life threatening health issues and her doctor's only suggestion was get on the pill, giving absolutely no care or regard to the fact that doing so was against his patient's religious beliefs and a greater danger to her health.  Apparently preventing a pregnancy is all that matters.  Two are mothers with young babies needing to assure themselves of a greater spacing for differing reasons: one financial and one health/emotional related. One is a young mother who I believe still doesn't realize that  NFP is not a guarantee of no problems or an easy road to follow. I'm praying she figures these things out before something in her life changes and she gets knocked to the ground unexpectedly.

I will still unashamedly state that I believe nothing good will ever come from artificial birth control and that I will never support a young lady (or older one) in seeking it out.  But I pray that over the years we have learned to tone down our message and simply listen and be supportive to others who are embracing this life.  It's not exactly what I expected it would be and yet it's something I will never give up. I just hope that other NFP zealots will realize they are often doing much more harm than good with their one-sided attitudes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I just have to say that I have developed a deep love for potato soup.  Yes, I am slightly crazy. But I am loving the absolute simplicity.  We tried a new potato soup recipe for dinner last night. No, I did not use the one linked in the meal plan because when I pulled it up, I realized it called for an entire box of butter.  So not happening. The recipe I used was incredibly simple with only 5 ingredients.  Everyone loved it.  Ok, I'm not 100% sure on Ellie since she dumped most of her bowl out onto her tray but she has a few more weeks to get away with such tricks before she gets in trouble for them.  No, we in general do not tolerate wasting food but when you are under 2, you get a bit of a pass.  I am incredibly thankful that all of my kids will eat soup without complaining.  Next week I plan to try a homemade tomato soup recipe.  I love tomato soup but hate the idea of canned stuff so I haven't had in a long time.  My question for you is what ways have you been finding to stretch your food budget lately? 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Meal Plan

We are hitting that point in pregnancy when the meal plan is subject to change at anytime if I need to rest.  There will be plenty of crockpot meals and things the kids can make for me if needed.  I also have 12 lbs of ground beef that needs to be dealt with and put into the freezer over the next day or so.  I'm hoping to make at least 2 freezer meals with it but I'm not exactly sure what it will be turned into.  On another note, it seemed everywhere I turned at the grocery store today the prices had just jumped up again.  It's honestly getting a little bit scary. I think I am going to have to start researching some alternative places in our area for shopping.  I've heard great things about an Asian grocery store but I'm not quite sure where it is located.

M: pumpkin baked oatmeal (B), tuna sandwiches (L), spaghetti and meatballs (D)
T: eggs in toast (B), quesadillas (L), potato leek soup (D)
W: cereal (B), corndog casserole (L), crockpot pepper steak (D)
T: breakfast casserole (B), pbj (L), black bean and salsa soup (D)
F: pumpkin bread (B), sandwiches/soup (L), crockpot minestrone (D)
S: french toast casserole (B), leftovers (L), individual pizzas (D)

We brought home 10 pie pumpkins from our Stokoe Farm field trip on Friday.  Seven have already been processed and turned into pumpkin puree, 3 are still waiting and will be turned into pumpkin butter.  Since I bought a case of pumpkin puree from Amazon earlier when it was super cheap, this leaves us with quite a bit of pumpkin to use up over the next few months so we are looking forward to plenty of pumpkin based snacks.  I'm also planning to make a batch of chicken and rice soup so that Alan has food to take with him for lunches (and for me to have as well on occasion).  It seems we are rarely able to count on leftovers from dinner to fill in for lunches lately.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Field Trip Friday

I arranged a field trip to Stokoe Farms for today. I thought since we had such a great time on the weekend, that it would be a great trip for the group.  However I am going to come out and say that they really stink at arranging field trips.  I received little direction on the organizing the trip from them (information regarding what we'd be doing, time frames, etc.) and the place was sheer chaos when we got there.  Perhaps it was because it was Friday but seriously, sheer chaos.

Pretty much the only time Robert was not crying.

Every group was supposed to have a schedule and stick to it. But at no point did anyone in charge at the farm make sure people were where they were supposed to be at the right time. So we often found ourselves waiting for our turn at an event (trying to stick to our schedule as requested) only to find that when our time arrived, other folks were there pushing us out of the way.  Add to this chaos the fact that it was cold, windy, and miserable and we opted to come home after lunch rather than stay all day.  We did get our pie pumpkins from the field so at least we have those and the kids got to ride the train and go down the slide. But in the end, I will say I was not at all impressed with the farm today.  Not impressed at all and I arrange field trips on a regular basis.  I've seen the good, the not to great, and the ugly. This one was fairly close to the bottom of the heap for me, I have to say. So we came home and made hot chocolate and the kids are watching a movie instead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hoping for a Productive Day

I'm hoping that maybe if I write down everything that I truly need to get accomplished today that maybe having the accountability will encourage me to actually do it all.  Maybe.  Unless I feel just too darn tired or the kids keep arguing over having to clean the playroom or something.

So up on my to do list today:
get the rest of the bell peppers sliced, frozen, and bagged - DONE
blanch and freeze the broccoli - DONE
can another batch of grape jelly - DONE
toss chicken into the crockpot to make shredded chicken for dinner - DONE
can hot pepper rings
can a batch of applesauce - DONE
two loads of laundry - DONE if you don't count the folding which I'm not right now
make a library run (alone, to escape the children for a few minutes) - DONE but renewed everything  on-line instead
make dinner - DONE
run older boys to karate - DONE
send out reminder email about Frontier Girls meeting - DONE
maybe start planning said Frontier Girls meeting
work on NFP email - DONE
work on a book review for the blog

The good news is that the bell peppers are half done and there are a few things that the children can/will be helping me with.  The pantry and freezer are starting to fill up again which makes me feel a bit better. Yes, we'll have lots of salsa this year but I've been looking for a reason to try making black bean and salsa soup anyway. Later this year I will try my hand at canning enchilada sauce because it is decidedly expensive and the commercial stuff is full of extra ingredients that we don't need to eat.  But I think I can wait a little bit on that since we still have some of the commercial sauce in the pantry (it's one of those items I stock up on with coupons so we either have a lot or none at all it seems based on the coupon cycles).  Hopefully tonight and tomorrow Alan will be able to work on the salsa and roasted red pepper spread.  Yes, there are those things he takes over canning and those things I take charge of and the things we both do.  He mostly manages all the salsa now.  And now the children are beginning to argue like a bunch of heathens so I'd better get back downstairs to check on them.  Enjoy your day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exciting Day

Well, we had an exciting day for the kiddos at least.  This afternoon we went to Genesee Country Village so the kids could work as models for promotional materials for the museum.  We have done this one other time and the photographer who works for the museum is amazing.  He allows you to have copies of the pictures and they were wonderful last time so I am secretly hoping they turned out just as wonderful this time.

One of the reasons I signed up for this was to allow the kids to participate in the separate pay activities that simply do not fit into our budget.  With the kids posing for pictures, we were able to participate for free.

Today the kids were able to test out the corn maze (very family friendly and full of fun activities for the kids), visit with chickens and turkeys, try miniature golfing, play in a bounce house, climb on a 100 year-old tractor, and pretend to trick-or-treat in the village (yes, they got candy. we just only visited one house so not much).  They also took us to one of the older kids' favorite homes in the village just to take a few family shots.  Too bad Bryan was at work because I'm certain they will turn out great.

We also got to ride on golf carts all over the village.  I think this was the real highlight for many of the kids until Abby accidentally took a tumble out of the back of the cart and was dragged a bit. She's fine obviously as she was more scared than hurt but it definitely added a bit of excitement to the day.  I don't have any pictures of my own since I decided it was more important to actually be with the kids today than it was to be outside of what they were doing snapping pictures but we'll hopefully end up with some nice pictures in a few weeks.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Meal Plan

I'm finishing up the meal plan as I type.  I'm getting to that point where I need to spend less time on my feet and come up with more easy to fix meals (or call the teenagers into service a bit more often which I will admit I am trying to avoid when I can because they already help a ton around here).   The plan might change later in the week if I come up with a plan for using the spaghetti squash and acorn squash we have waiting to be eaten. Of course, they might just end up in the freezer somehow instead.  I do have one new recipe this week as well but we aren't trying any new vegetarian meals.  Alan is making chili for dinner tonight and I'll make a large pot of soup tomorrow so hopefully those will provide the adults with lunches next week.  Yes, I find myself craving homemade soup when it gets cooler weather wise and have found that I really don't care for the canned stuff much at all anymore.  Guess I've been slightly spoiled as of late.

Monday: waffles (B), chicken and cheese quesadillas(L), Italian sausage and potato soup (D)
Tuesday: oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), cheesy chicken and rice (D)
Wednesday: cereal (B), leftovers (L), BBQ beef sandwiches and coleslaw (D)
Thursday: eggs (B), tuna salad (L), quiche and salad (D)
Friday: pancake sausage muffins (B), field trip so a packed lunch (L), mac and cheese with broccoli unless I toss something into the crockpot in the morning (D)
Saturday: french toast (B), leftovers (L), pizza/popcorn night (D)

Purple Peppers

Friday was "gleaning" day at our CSA.  I took 4 of the older children with me and we picked quite a bit of produce from  the fields.  For most of the crops, they didn't have too much left but we did bring home a ton of peppers.  I was attempting to get the kids to keep the spicy peppers and the bell peppers in separate bags but that just didn't quite end up working.  So as we've been processing them today, we've had a few surprises.  Kind of like the surprise Bryan had while in the fields when he bit into a pepper thinking it was a bell pepper.  Yup, not so much.  Apparently it was a rather spicy one with a bit of a kick to it so he immediately ate an entire bell pepper in hopes of cooling his mouth down.
Most of the bell peppers we have are purple peppers. I will admit that I did not realize bell peppers grew in a purple color. I've seen red, orange, yellow, and green before but I had never seen purple. They are only purple on the outside, the inside is green. I promised pictures so here they are.  Quite interesting to look at if you ask me.
We brought home enough peppers on Friday to put 5 quarts of sliced bell peppers into the freezer and make 2 batches of salsa.  I did have to buy tomatoes since none of the tomatoes planted at the CSA grew this year due to the funky weather but I found an awesome deal at the farmers market and picked up 10 quarts of tomatoes for $4.  Alan canned  at least 12 pints plus one quart of salsa.  We have enough tomatoes left over that we will make roasted red pepper spread tomorrow.  We haven't made that in a few years so I know there are a few folks looking forward to it.  I'm also planning on canning the rest of the hot peppers as sliced pepper rings tomorrow so we'll have some of our own this winter.  And, yes, we are running out of canning jars.  But I suppose that can be considered a good thing.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Weekend Plans

It looks like we will have a kind of busy weekend so I am trying to work on my meal plan for next week a bit early.  I took four of the kids to the CSA farm today to get some of the last produce out of their fields.  Now I need to make sure I write the plans so that I use up what we brought home.

We picked a bunch of peppers so I'll toss the bell peppers into the freezer and either can the spicy peppers or make salsa with them. Hopefully both but it depends on the availability of tomatoes right now.  We have kale which will go into a large pot of soup this week.  Popcorn which needs to dry out for a few weeks.  Some broccoli, squash, and a few cucumbers all of which should be easy to use up this week.  I kind of wish we'd brought home some more of the spicy peppers but the boys assigned to the task of picking them were much more interested in playing with the fire the other boys had going and got a tad distracted. 

Last week's meal plan provided us with two new recipes that everyone loved.  The kids devoured the bean and cheese enchiladas although the recipe prompted a discussion on why you would make your own refried beans out of pinto beans instead of just opening up a can of refried beans (the answer is I can buy pinto beans for somewhere between 0 and 50 cents a can while the other ones were 99 cents a can).  The South of the Border Skillet was equally loved although I'm not sure it is truly authentic Mexican food.  It is cheap, filling, healthy, and easy to make.  Both recipes were also vegetarian which gives us more popular Lent options.

Now to start using up the 100 cans of tuna stocked in the basement. The only issue is I am decidedly not interested in tuna casserole as of late so I need to do something else with it.

Hopefully we will finish up our canning this weekend and manage to tackle a few other projects around here. Hopefully.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Happy Birthday Katie!

Katie turned 8 today.  It seems rather amazing that she is quite that big.  In many ways, she acts so much older.  Any time Ellie cries at night, Katie is right there taking care of her before we have a chance to get into their room. I walked in the other night and found Katie doing the half-asleep baby carry trying to bring her sister into her bed so she'd stop fussing.  The two of them are wonderful together.
I do believe Katie had a great day today, even with the massive bumps in the road.  She tested for her orange belt today.  Helped her older brother make her birthday cake (which frankly looked awful because apparently we were not in a following directions kind of mood today but it tasted great).  Sean managed to lock my keys in the house as we were trying to leave to head out for her birthday dinner so Alan had to come home to rescue us. This meant that by the time we made it to the restaurant, they were rather busy and we had to wait for a seat.  And if you've ever had to wait for a table for 11, you know that the wait is never a short one.
I do believe our little lady had a wonderful day. I can't quite believe how much she has changed over the past few years.  Happy birthday, Katie.

Karate Testing

Last week the older boys had testing week in their karate class. Both advanced to orange belt.  This week, the younger kids had testing week in their class.
 Abby joined the class several months after the other kids so she is not as far along as they are at the moment. She received her second stripe on her white belt today.
Katie, Liam, and Kieran all advanced to orange belt today.  I don't have decent pictures because the camera battery died on me but such is life. I tried. I will admit that I am slightly wondering what it takes for you to not advance to the next level with their instructor but maybe as they continue to progress, he'll get a tad stricter.

Clara's Kitchen

After dropping the older two boys off at karate last, I headed over to the library.  I picked up a copy of the book Clara's Kitchen:Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression and promptly read the entire thing last night.  I have to say I really wish I'd checked this book out back at the beginning of the summer because so many of the recipes in the book were for items we got from our CSA this summer that I just was not sure what to do with. Simple, easy, filling recipes that required little time or preparation.  So many of the recipes I looked up for these ingredients over the summer were frankly a pain in the neck and just unappetizing but in this little book I found a simple practicality that almost made me feel like an idiot for not figuring some of it out sooner.

I will admit this book is more of a story or memoir than a full cook book but I loved the simple charm of the book.  And I loved the reminders that we as a society have gotten way to spoiled, selfish, and picky.  I do hope to be able to pick up a copy of this book for myself later on but I do recommend that you head to your library to see if they have one in stock. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Today I actually managed to remember a feast day in time to plan a small celebration.  Some years I'm great at remembering all these things, other years I don't do so well.  But I love to try to celebrate feast days every so often because I truly believe that the practice of the Faith is more caught than it is taught.  In other words, I believe you have to do quite a bit more than just take your kids to Mass and send them to religious education classes if you hope to plant a seed of faith in their hearts.  Two generations of families have learned the very hard way that it takes so much more than that to make things stick.

So what did we do today?  I intended to get out our Guardian Angel movie from CCC but I forgot until just about dinner time at which point it was too late.  Maybe I'll put it on for the younger ones tomorrow or see if EWTN is running it as a special.  I did remember to print out these guardian angel color sheets from Waltzing Matilda.  Abby, Gabe, and Robert all loved coloring them (even if I did insist that the markers were to stay locked up because Ellie keeps decorating herself and the house with them).

While at the store picking up a few things for dessert, I saw orange colored vanilla flavored milk and picked up some of that as a treat for the kids.  Strange thing about my older children. They acted entirely too put out that I bought orange milk.  Guess next time we won't share with them and will just give it all to the little ones. 

After dinner we had angel food cake for dessert.  Seems to me that angel food cake is rather appropriate for this feast and it is one of my favorites.  I did insist that the kids had to say the guardian angel prayer before eating.  So we kept it simple and easy.  Hope you took the time the celebrate with your family.