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Saturday, November 30, 2013

What We Did Black Friday

Ems here--No, we didn't go shopping. Can you imagine??? Aldi's was rough enough, but WalMart on Black Friday?? I would have come back a few kids lighter, for sure. And probably needing a tranquilizer.

Husband was working, so the kids and I had some plans for the day.

1. Do School (mostly, this was my plan)
2. Clean House for Jules (mostly my plan too)
3. Decorate House for Christmas (kids were on board with this one)

We packed in math and vocab and spelling and literature while I ran around moving furniture and cleaning behind the television and big comfy chair (perhaps the first time in a year). No judgments, please. This is not a blog about cleaning.

Anyhoo, after I found 30 odd socks and 45 pencils--but no money, sad face--I was ready to enlist the troops to carry up the Christmas stuff from the basement. This is where having a bunch of kids is REALLY useful.  Man oh man, do those kids work fast! Nate, the eldest, is like one of those Egyptian taskmasters (think Ten Commandments where Moses and company are slaving away and the powerful Egyptian guy is lording over them with a whip). I exaggerate slightly. We don't own whips. However, he is highly motivated and keeps everyone else on task. I literally made cookies while they carried up the various parts of our artificial tree and the boxes of lights and ornaments.

Then, they proceeded to put the ENTIRE TREE TOGETHER in 20 minutes. Without assistance. I helped when it came time for lights, but after that, the children decorated the tree in another 20 minutes. It was the fastest tree decorating I've ever witnessed.






A brief note about the tree. We DO use an artificial tree, and I've never had a real one. I grew up with fake trees, so I think it is in my comfort zone. I know many people are passionate about real trees, but I don't know any better. Plus, I admit, I admire the perfect conical shape of the artificial tree. The real trees I've seen in others' homes are always weird shaped and scrawny--which I guess is "natural" --but I like neat cones. And I don't want to go out in the cold and search for a tree. So, that makes me either a perfectionist or really lazy. You decide.

We did have one Christmas mishap. Gabe (2) reached up and pulled at a stocking hanging on the mantle and the heavy ceramic holder beaned him on the head. There was some blood and a bump-- and an ice pack with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to soothe him. No lasting damage.

I still have a bunch left to clean, but I know that my mom and Jules won't really care. Especially because it is only ever clean for that 15 seconds when I greet them at the door. Then the 10 cousins will be together, having a raucous old time.

Good luck with your Christmas decorating, everyone! And if any of you need assistance, I will lease my kids out for a minimal fee. And by that I mean I will pay YOU.  Just kidding, children!!


Easy Rule #1073: The more the merrier, and the lighter the load!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Packing for the Long Haul-- with kids

Jules here-- Get ready for the stars to align-- Ems & Jules will be together, in person, in a matter of days! Ems & I will be coming up with millions of more rules every moment we are together--just kidding, we'll play word games and watch cheesy Hallmark Christmas moves; we lead riveting lives.

However, to achieve my goal of couch cuddling with my sis, I must first endure an arduous 12 hour car trip with three children 5 and under.....  *sigh*  So, to kill two birds with one stone, here is my car-packing list and a blog post in one!

Food Items:
I keep one snack bag up front, and I pack my 5 year-old's mini back pack with her snacks. I make sure all of her items can be opened by her (there have been meltdowns in the past when she is staring at an impenetrable pack of fruit snacks for an hour...)  Common car snacks for us include:

  • Goldfish
  • Pretzels (rods are fun and last a bit longer too)
  • Crackers--wheat thins, triscuits, etc.
  • Fruit snacks
  • Animal crackers
  • Water in sippy cups -- side note.... I'm doing this pinterest link idea:
http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2010/09/sippy-cup-leash-re-visited-improved.html
I also will pack PBJ's, yogurts, and granola bars for a lunch break. We will be on the road through two meals, and I doubt my children can stomach fast food TWICE in one day without intestinal turmoil.

Activities:
I am blessed with three kids who can be entertained with singing, stories, and games pretty well... but 12 hours worth? Not so much.  I typically like to have an organized center in my car of activities to do on the ride.

  • Books on CD (all my children enjoy these)--free from library
  • Nursery rhymes/singalong songs--also free from library
  • Stickers & Paper-- this works well with the younger two. Give them a bunch of stickers to put on a piece of paper. Sounds dumb, but it works.
  • Notebook/pen for my writer in the back
  • Picture books
  • Doodle pad
  • Leap-pad (small letter tracing one is the one I have)
  • Car game list
    • 20 questions
    • The guessing game (all ages game that starts with "I'm thinking of...."  it could be an animal on the farm that starts with the letter P or a place where you can buy bananas.... you can easily adapt activity for different ages and take turns).
    • Old MacDonald-- this seriously takes up 30 minutes of different animals, people, etc. All kids love it. It's monotonous and cringe-worthy for adults, but I do anything to entertain on trips...
    • We do a couple of rhymes that we have learned throughout the years from story time too:
      • Eeney-meeney miney mo, let me hear your hands go: Clap, Clap...Clap Clap Clap (a catchy rhythm of 1,2....345)
        Sounds go good, sounds so fine, let me hear you one more time: Clap, Clap..Clap Clap Clap--- now change the verse to "feet...stomp". "lips...kiss" etc.... be creative!!
      • I had a little *red* balloon until I blew and blew (put hands up to mouth and blow)Then it got all big and round and grew, and grew, and grew! (make hands bigger and bigger)I tossed it up into the air, and never let it drop (Mime tossing a balloon up)Then I bounced it on the ground (bounce motion) until it suddenly when POP! (clap loudly) **We change the balloon color, and repeat...incessantly...

Car Organization
Packing the car efficiently is crucial to a well-run trip.  I divide the packed items into several categories:
  • Stuff I need within hands-reach-- CDs, snacks, drinks, pacifier, "loveys"-- Goes in my door pockets or on the center console.
  • Stuff I need at rest stops: diapers, wipes, change of clothes, and lunch foods-- usually put these items in bag behind my seat.
  • Stuff my eldest needs in the rear-- within arms reach of her car seat
  • Stuff I don't need until arrival- in the trunk
 Now, I have a final weapon in my arsenal of entertainment this year: a DVD player.  My fantastic friend has lent me this quiet-inducing device, and I am excited to use it as last-resort entertainment in the car. 

Lastly, I pack emergency dum-dum lollipops-- not too much sugar and they definitely quiet a raging toddler for a bit!!

Ems-- here I come!!


Easy Rule #58902 Use the Boy Scout motto for car trips: Be Prepared.

Easy Rule  #5241 Enjoy the journey more than the destination-- just kidding... SURVIVE the journey and then relax :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

About Daddy and the Littles

Ems here:  

My older three sons are very involved in sports. Almost ridiculously so. They have about 3 billion football trading cards (which I find in the most random places--to be detailed in a later post to be entitled "Why My House Will Never Be Clean Until My Kids Are In College").  They play football in the street. And in the living room. They watch Sports Center and have their own fantasy football teams. They also play travel soccer.

As you may imagine, a big part of their sports obsession centers around their father. He plays ball with them whenever he can. He pulls up random YouTube videos of famous soccer players scoring crazy goals. He even coaches a travel soccer team. 


In all the sports insanity around here, sometimes the little people get a little bored....Josephine has been heard to bemoan loudly at the dinner table, "Why do we ALWAYS have to talk about soccer??"

With that in mind, Daddy decided to take the three little children (not counting baby) on a date to the bowling alley, Sunday after church. The excitement was through the roof! And they were so happy that the big boys were not allowed to come. They realized that this was a special time with Dad.

Needless to say, they had a blast. Tad got his ball stuck ....


Then they discovered those cool ramp things for weak people ....

And then they bowled and had snacks and soda (ahem. Remember I wasn't there).


It was such a good reminder to step back and make sure that ALL ages in the family get some special attention now and again. I also would like to make bowling something we do more frequently as a family. Brian said that they were the only people in the whole place! I love that. I hate crowds (to be discussed further in a later post entitled "How Ems Is Secretly a Lame-o Who Prefers Deserted Locales").

Rule #1923: Make your kids feel special! Doesn't take much....unless you have a fear of bowling shoes.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mini-Traditions

Jules here- I woke up this morning to see this outside:

Little November Snow

Now, for NH, this is nothing compared to the normal snows we get:

February 2013 Snow (at least 18 inches...)

So, what is so spectacular about a 1/2 inch of snow in New Hampshire (besides the fantastic slippery driving)?  It's the FIRST snow. My eldest IMMEDIATELY remembered the tradition I made up last year with the first snow: snowman pancakes!  Now, I have alluded to my pancake 'shape' incompetence before; however, how can you mess up---CIRCLES!  Instead of making one connected snowman, I find it easier to make three separate circles and then add them together.  I leave out different toppings to create your own snowman-- mini-chocolate chips, strawberries, whipped cream, etc.  Anything you can find in your freezer or pantry works-- canned peaches, frozen blueberries, sliced bananas, etc.  Kids can get VERY creative with their snowman and it is a super fun "mini-tradition".  It doesn't require much planning, the kids love it, and it becomes a fun thing to look forward to.


    Think outside of the Elf on the Shelf tradition that permeates Pinterest-- those ideas are time-consuming, and quite frankly too complicated.  Try to simplify and instead of tackling all the activities of each season/holiday, choose a mini-tradition: hand-print turkeys on T-day; first blizzard movie night; pajamas on Christmas eve; or even choose a random-holiday to celebrate (check out this link for BIZARRE and fun days to remember).

**Side Note of this day--- my mini-van door froze shut this morning, so I had to side load my kids in the car... only to have it "defrost" and open at 40 MPH on the way to church....  Such fun times to be had in a New England WINTER!!!


Easy Rule #5890-- Don't give up on celebrations because they are too challenging-- find a simple way to excite and encourage your kids to appreciate small moments!

Easy Rule #4222-- Finish cleaning out the garage BEFORE the first icy/snow mess. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Museum of Free

Ems here--I will post my Thanksgiving meal soon (although it may look eerily similar to Jules'). I haven't even thought past "turkey"...but I better get on the ball. Especially because we will be celebrating our Thanksgiving a day early since hubby has to work on the actual day. Sometimes it's hard for me to get too fired up when I'm not having any special guests.  It's not like my kids are going to want to try any exotic holiday foods like "salad" or "green bean casserole" or "cranberry sauce."

Anyway, today we took advantage of our homeschooling status and declared an off day. Hubs had to get a quick physical at work, so we all went along for the ride so that we could hit up our favorite museum: CABELA'S !

Seriously, have you ever been?? It's a giant store that sells outdoor hunting and camping equipment--which is of absolutely no interest to our family. My husband is a sports guy, not a sleep with the critters type guy.  But Cabela's offers a lot more than kayaks and tents and moose tableware. 

There is a walk though aquarium with large freshwater fish and turtles.


There are huge dioramas with marvelously stuffed and labeled animals in natural poses and in their environment. 


And upstairs is an old school shooting gallery equipped with a talking moose inviting you to take aim!


A candy shop, a toy section, and even a restaurant, round out the place. 

I'm sure many of you have been to either Cabela's or a store similar, but hearkening back to Jules' post about cheap outings for your kids, this is a perfect example. I was pleasantly reminded that kids don't need a trip to the big city science museum to have an entertaining and educational day. 

Standing face to face with a giant polar bear; following a catfish as he swims around the tank; savoring a sample of cheesecake fudge--these are more than sufficient to bring smiles to the ten and under crowd.


Rule #412: Remember that it doesn't cost much to make kids happy.
Rule #7: A pink camo sleeper may be just the thing for baby Simona this Christmas...hmmm....


My Perfect Thanksgiving Feast

Jules here--So this year, I'm not cooking on Thanksgiving, but I am sure excited about eating! Now, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner the past five years so I know what I enjoy making and eating.....

First off, to be at my Thanksgiving table, it has to be special (only made at holidays), fattening, and delicious. I have compiled family recipes and some new internet favorites!!

TURKEY
I cook a big Turkey-- usually 20-25# as I LOVE leftovers. Emily & I both discovered the Reynold's oven bags to cook the turkey in to make it moist and yummy! I use a variety of seasonings usually involving onion, celery,butter, and paprika.  But it ends up like this:


GRAVY
O.k. I'm going to have my mom guest-post on gravy, as mine is awful. I use store bought usually... much quicker and one less thing to do last-minute.


MASHED POTATOES
I found this recipe a few years ago on the internet, and I really like them! Honestly, what I like most about this recipe, are the leftovers. These potatoes make the BEST soup a few days after T-day.   Click the name for the link:

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
And for the leftover soup link:



It is a FANTASTIC way to use leftover potatoes. AND you can freeze leftover potatoes too and make the soup later. 

YAMS & MARSHMALLOWS
Now, living in New England, people call Delaware (where Ems & I are originally from) the SOUTH. The classic sweet potato dish is a standard "down South" and my eldest can't wait to decorate the top of the yams with big marshmallows-- the more the better!

Ingredients

2 Large cans of Bruce’s yams (drained)
2 bags of marshmallows
1/3-1/2 cup (to taste) brown sugar
2 eggs
4 TBS butter, softened

Directions

1. Spray large casserole with Pam.
2. In mixer, put drained yams, butter, brown sugar, and eggs. Beat until smooth.
3. Put in serving casserole dish, then place marshmallows everywhere on top!
4. Bake at 350° for 1/2 covered with foil.
Yams (Right) Fruit Fluff (Rear) Jello Salad (Left)
 
OVERNIGHT FRUIT FLUFF
At Thanksgiving, this may SEEM like a dessert, but any chance to put heavy cream into a side dish, do it :)  We have served this at parties, baby showers, and more; it is like a really good ambrosia without the coconut. 

Ingredients 

2 eggs
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup lemon juice1 TBS Butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup heavy cream
3 Cups mini marshmallows (1/2 bag)
1 can mandarin oranges
1 can crushed pineapple (or tidbits)
1 Cup green grapes (halved)
1 Cup red grapes (halved)

Directions

1. Beat eggs slightly and stir in sugar, lemon juice, butter and salt. 
2. Cook over low heat, stirring just to a boil. Remove and cool completely. 
3. Whip 1 cup heavy cream. 
4. Fold whipped cream into cooled mixture (from step 2) 
5. Add 3 cups mini marshmallows and stir. 
6. Add remaining ingredients and fold together. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


AUNT LENORE'S JELLO SALAD 
This is another *healthful* side at our dinner..... Our Aunt has made this for years, but hers always comes out an integrated, smooth jello mold. For some reason, when we make it, it divides into two layers. It tastes FANTASTIC no matter what way we do it..... 

Ingredients

1 Large Box Jello (preferably orange)
2 cups hot liquid (water and reserve)
1 large can of Fruit (canned mandarin oranges)
2 Cups Vanilla Ice Cream

Directions


1. Drain fruit reserving liquid. Heat reserve liquid in microwave. Add boiling water to equal necessary amount of hot liquid.
2. Dissolve jello in hot liquid.
3. Add ice cream and stir until melted. Add fruit and stir.
4. Refrigerate until set.
 O.k., did you read the ice cream and say, "Oh my Lord--this is the most unhealthful Thanksgiving feast I have ever heard of"?  It's Thanksgiving, just enjoy, count calories later.... :)

EASY CREAMY CORN CASSEROLE
I found this recipe online a few years ago-- it's easy, scrumptious, and it fits in a 9x9 which fits in my toaster oven (yeah! clears up oven space!)  You can also mix and make ahead of time.  Click on the link for the full recipe.
Awesome & Easy Corn Casserole

 STUFFING
This classic stuffing is not something to alter. Yummy flavors that have stood the test of time! Thanks Mom!!



INGREDIENTS
1- 2 Loves sliced and cubed white bread
3/4 Cup butter or margarine
1 onion chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 Cup Chicken broth
2 tsp poultry seasoning (Bell's is best)
Salt & pepper to taste
 
Directions:
1.
Let bread  dry out over night, tossing occasionally to make sure all parts are dried out.
2.
Cook onion and celery until soft (we do this first thing in the morning). Season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir in bread cubes until evenly coated. Moisten with chicken broth; mix well (ONLY Mix in broth when you are READY TO COOK-- it will get soggy if you fix it too early)
3.
Chill, and use as a stuffing for turkey, or bake in a buttered casserole dish at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes. 

BREAD
We definitely have the homemade bread that Emily blogged about before. It can freeze well for make ahead timing too!

DESSERTS
Pumpkin pie is the traditional dessert and I LOVE it, but I am not a huge fan of crust. I find it to be more fattening than it's worth (like white wedding cake-- not worth the calories).  Anyway, I usually make this pie as well as some other chocolate dessert (this usually rotates every year as I love trying new dishes).  I found this pumpkin pie through pinterest, and I LOVE it. And it's much healthier than the original-- NOT that it matters on this holiday....

No Crust Pumpkin Pie


To sum up my virtual feast, here is the menu:

TURKEY
GRAVY
MASHED POTATOES
STUFFING
CORN CASSEROLE
YAMS AND MARSHMALLOWS
OVERNIGHT FRUIT FLUFF
JELLO SALAD
BREAD
PUMPKIN PIE
MYSTERY CHOCOLATE DESSERT
Post links to your favorite holiday dishes and maybe I'll add even more to this gluttonous feast!

Easy Rule #1128  Thanksgiving is a time of counting your blessings, not your calories.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picture It - 2 - Bad Baby



Bad Baby Scares Yoshi


Bad Baby Eats Halloween Candy


Bad Baby Messes Up Daddy's Stuff


Baby Jail

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding Your Inner Motivation

When my alarm goes off-- strike that--- when my 2 year-old screams "Woo-Hoo, Mommy!" at 5:30 AM, I am tempted to stick him in front of mindless television and hit the snooze button on the couch.... but, I don't.  What drives us to get up every day and do the mindless tasks that we have to do as mothers? What makes us do the dishes one more time, fold the laundry, and make the beds? So many mother's say "I just can't get everything done."  Of course you can't get everything done. No one can.  Which inspired my first e-card creation:





Sometimes I call upon my spiritual side when I am changing the umpteenth poopy diaper and scrubbing crayon of the walls; I remind myself that every small act as a mother will be recognized by God and how we treat the "least among us" matters most of all.

If it's hard enough to get up and do our necessary tasks, how does one stay motivated to do unnecessary, though important) other tasks? How do I get up and work out after a night of interrupted sleep? How do I find the time to make homemade presents and send Christmas cards? How do I scour every inch of my house all the time ?(o.k.... just kidding on that one)

I have a few strategies to share on how I maintain my will power:


  • Keep your stress level appropriate for you--  I taught a stress management class once, and I always impressed upon my students that stress isn't necessarily a bad thing.  For example, if you have 10 things to do on a Monday, you get them done, but on a Saturday when you have one task... by 5 PM, you still haven't done it.  Too little stress is actually UN-motivating.  However, if you have too MUCH stress, well, that's a typical mom.  Your perfect level of stress gives you your best performance. If you find your optimum stress level, you'll have a perfect balance:

  • Wear the right clothes.  Sounds simple, dress for success they say.... but dressing for working out, running errands, or cleaning the house helps too.  When I wake up in the morning, I try to put on the clothes that I know I should wear. If I don't put on my sports bra, I just don't work out. As simple as that. 
  •  Trick yourself.  I don't know if this makes me a highly-evolved person, or just extremely dumb... but I am a master of self-trickery.  I give myself goals, rewards, and even (minor) punishments. For example, on days I don't work out, I don't usually give myself dessert after dinner.  If I fold and put away all the laundry before bath time, I will let myself skip another chore so I can relax and space-out on the internet when the kids are abed.   I'm pretty darn good at sticking to my own internal-system.
  • Set little goals. After my son was diagnosed with an extreme dust mite allergy last month, my first thought was to burn down the house. Seriously. Dust? I've already admitted I am not exactly the best housekeeper....so dust?  So, I am slowly scouring every inch of my house. And I mean slowly.  At first I set a "room" a day goal of thorough cleaning (and I mean moving furniture thorough).... then I realized that cleaning with kids is a joke, and I had to slow down the pace. I did do 3 rooms in one week, and so far 1 room this week.   Where do I find my motivation? Well, my son's itchy eyes, cough, and constant sniffling helps.... and THIS:
House Dust Mite (ZOOMED IN)


  • Try not to be extremely hard on yourself.  I know some women who go to the gym HOURS a week or do extreme dieting-- that is not me.  I want to enjoy life, but stay healthy. I try to make simple, healthful choices; I don't eliminate sweets or work out very long.  If you look at a lifestyle change (like gluten free or extreme fitness), you won't want to do it. It seems too hard (and honestly, those big changes ARE too hard for a lot of moms, including me).  I'm too tired to be perfect with healthful eating all the time. I need some sugar and caffeine just to survive. 
  • Make sure your goals are in alignment with your family. Many moms will attempt to fit working out, cleaning, errands, and more into their daily schedule---meanwhile children get left in childcare longer.  I'm a firm believer that it's important to take SOME time for yourself every day, but you can't sacrifice being a parent for that.  Some chores and errands can WAIT.  Don't spend all your free time dusting your picture frames when your kids would rather have you sit and read a book!!  I work out WITH my kids too--they've learned all the different indoor cardio moves, and they love that I don't leave to go to the gym for an hour.
So I leave you with a poem that I have seen circle the internet before, but it reminds me of priorities in life, and keeps me ultimately motivated to be a loving mommy:

I hope my child looks back on today
And sees a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking,
But children grow up when you’re not looking.
Tomorrow I’ll do all the chores you can mention
But today, my baby needs time and attention.
So settle down cobwebs; dust go to sleep,
I’m cuddling my baby, and babies don’t keep.


Easy Rule #4087- Find your internal motivation and strength-- it's there behind the little voice whispering "Eat the whole pack of Oreos."

Easy Rule #5222- Be grateful you don't have a microscope to assess the cleanliness of your house.  Good enough is good enough. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Small House Living

Our home is a two story brick on a cul-de-sac. We have a fenced in yard and are close to in-town amenities. There is a deck off the back and a charming breakfast nook.

 It is also 1,290 square feet, with 3 bedrooms.

"How does that work with seven children??," you may ask (possibly in horror)...and many have asked me...The short answer is that we have what we need.

Not to appear disingenuous, if I were to be offered a 3000 sq. ft. house I would not turn it down--I'm sure we would all love the extra space in which to spread out.  However, a small home does not preclude happiness--nor is it a reason to stop having children.  I've made a list of some blessings that come from having a large family in a small space.  No, the noise level reaching dangerous decibels is not one of them.

1. Less Space = Less Stuff.  One simply cannot accumulate large quantities of anything without the home resembling a scene from Hoarders.  So, we are led to simplify-- a beautiful thing, really.  Only the toys with longevity get to stay (example: Legos, a bin of Transformers, dress up clothes, football trading cards). Only the clothes that are worn regularly stay in the rotation. If you haven't seen it in a two week laundry cycle, odds are it's not a favorite outfit and can go.  This does require consistency and vigilance to maintain--in fact, looking around, I see a bit too much stuff looking back at me--but it is worth the effort to have less to organize and clean.

We have 5 boys in one room, with one dresser and one small closet.  Practically speaking, we use under the bed roll-out bins to organize--one for Legos, one for dress up, and one for pajamas. In the closet, hanging shelves are key.



2. Sharing, Sharing, Sharing. So, it's not always fun, but it's a necessary part of life, right? We learn to share our toys and our parents, our bedrooms and our bathrooms. We grow up and we share other things: our feelings, our hearts, our dreams....our cubicles, bad moods, frustrations, and bank accounts. Starting young in the habit of space-sharing really isn't a punishment...it's a reality check.

3. Found You!  There are many jokes about how a mother's deepest fear is the sound of silence. Surely that means a toddler is drinking the grape Tylenol. It's much harder for said toddler to hide in a small house filled with eight other people. In general, there is always someone ready to  tattle look out for you.  Seriously, though, there are much fewer places to hide. If we are still in this house when we have teenagers--SCORE, mom and dad! No secret Facebook for you, my naughty teens!

4. Imagination Rules.  Big families in small spaces mean tons of live-action gameplay.  I find that the kids rarely play with toys...they'd much rather be assigning roles in a game of robotic warfare or zombie attack.  All ages are invited. 2 year olds and 4 year olds make perfect minions to the bossy elders.  Sometimes the older boys will separate and venture outdoors for a rousing game of football or soccer.  Either way, when your house is full of people, it's full of playmates. Sometimes it's full of fighting. But no one is ever bored.




5. Children are Forever.  Which child should I give back to make sure the others have separate bathrooms? Which child do I regret because my kitchen feels cramped?   Exactly.

Fact is, in this home we have seven beds for seven children. Three of them are empty. The children choose to sleep with each other.  Big love, small space.


Rule #206: Count the people you love, not the square feet you live in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jules Favorites- (Part 1)

Inspired by Emily's blog yesterday, I thought I would share some of my favorite things-- just like Oprah.  I know people will also be riveted by my interests too, though I am shying away from the TV & books category as Emily & I have virtually identical tastes....

Favorite Classic Movie
The Lord of the Rings trilogy tops my list of modern movies, but we were raised on movies pre-1950 growing up, so many of my favorites are not exactly popular anymore.... Journey for Margaret was made in 1942 during World War II and it is a tearjerker with a happy ending!!


Journey For Margaret





The other favorite is Sergeant York.  If you haven't seen this-- see it! Now, I am not a huge fan of war movies, but these two movies show the stories of soldiers and ordinary people during wars (not much fighting, etc.)   Very family appropriate depiction of war (I know, the realism isn't there, but honestly I don't enjoy watching people get their arms and legs blown off for the sake of reality....)

Sergeant York


Favorite Dessert(s)

I love cheesecakes, brownies, ice cream, and candy... however, if I must choose one (or two) I will have to settle on cheesecake and Crème brûlée.  I will do a shout out to my neighbor Don who makes some fantastic cheesecakes and always brings me some. My favorite one that I have made would have to be this one from allrecipes.com:

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Recipe Link



I've decided that for future birthdays I shall only order elaborate cheesecakes and crème brûlée-- take note whoever wants to bake for me, I am going to be high-maintenance from now on...

Favorite Meal Enhancer

O.k, very specific category--- but I wanted to talk about the Avocado.  I only started eating avocado within the last year, and now I am sort of obsessed with it: salads, sandwiches, enchiladas, fajitas: ALL better with avocado.  I make a leftover-chicken, bacon, cheddar, and avocado wrap that rivals any sandwich boutique shop you've ever gone to.  So don't pass those avocados by at the grocery store, check pinterest for tips on buying, storing, and using them; they are worth it!!





Favorite Song (Right Now)

As I have three very young children, my typical music selections ranges from classical to Barney's Greatest Hits (no exaggeration...) so I rarely hear a song on the radio, and when I do it's popularity is already waning from overplay.  So, scoff if you want to-- but the children and I are addicted to:





This song makes me snort with laughter.  I like any song that I can hop around like a maniac to-- ask anyone who has been to a wedding with me-- I mortify everyone.  If you are lucky I may video tape my family enjoying this song in our kitchen.   Now that you are all dancing, I hope you enjoy the rest of your night humming along......


Easy Rule #1134  Take a moment to figure out your favorite things-- it's almost like making a "thankful" list  but more fun.

Easy Rule #1140  If you want to be a successful musician, try donning a fox mask and singing random animal sounds, it could be a hit....






Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Favorites (by Ems Vol. 1)

I wanted an excuse to make a list instead of opining in paragraph form. So here is a list of favorites, and if you would like to add your favorites in the comments section, I would love to read them!

My blog-savvy friend, Angie, informed me that there is a Wednesday Favorites blog link-up that happens weekly. I may have to check it out. But not today. Today is my stream of consciousness favorite list.


Favorite TV show (on currently)
I have two. And too many other shows that I watch to pass the time brainlessly, but I will not list them here so as to maintain a semblance of dignity.

Elementary
The Blacklist






















Favorite Dessert
TV and dessert are a beautiful combination. Mostly because I "do" both after the kids are in bed -- when they won't ask for a bite or comment on my portion size.

Cheesecake Brownies




Favorite Child
Just kidding. The kids are reading this as I type. Currently, baby Simona because she is downstairs with Daddy.






********INTERRUPTION*********

Here are Josephine's (age 6, Class Clown) category suggestions:
Favorite Toilet.   Favorite Hair Do.    Favorite Dentist.

Here are my responses:  Whichever is clean.     Ponytail, duh.     Oxymoron.

********************************



Favorite Book Genre

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Yes, I am a fantasy geek. I prefer my heroine to be sword-wielding and unaware of her natural beauty while possessing a newly discovered magical gift that will rival the most-powerful practitioners in the land as she overcomes obstacles to restore order in an unjust society ruled by evil while finding love with a cynical, chisel-jawed, and equally gifted mage.


One of my fave authors below...



Favorite Superhero
Having a few sons, I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is always the same, 

Superman

I can remember falling asleep at night imagining Christopher Reeves rescuing me from peril (usually a mean girl on the playground pushing me down a hill. Tame childhood.)



Favorite Season

Not winter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Impossibly Easy Dinners

Bisquick is a fantastic breakfast helper for pancakes, waffles, and biscuits-- quick, easy, and super-yummy.  My children love pancakes, and I probably make them 5-6 mornings a week (and sometimes they earn chocolate chips inside too!)  Bisquick does get pricey so I started making my own recipe to have it on hand, and honestly it tastes just the same:

Homemade Bisquick Recipe

When I first got married, I got the Bisquick-Brand Recipe book and I was amazed to see all the fantastic dinners, brunch, and even snacks you can do with the simple baking mix.   Every time I make the Bisquick quiche, I am asked to share the recipe.  Now, as I have studied these recipes, I have noticed a theme:

1/2 Cup bisquick
1 Cup Milk
2 eggs

Simple enough, eh? Now, the fun! I have made multiple versions of this recipe just using this base. Here are a few combinations I have done:
  • Ham, Swiss & Broccoli
  • Bacon, Cheddar, Onion, and Green Peppers
  • Shrimp, Swiss, and Green onions
  • Ground beef (or turkey), Onions, Peppers, and Cheddar
The "Impossibly Easy" pie series originated decades ago (my mother was a big fan of the lasagna recipe when we were kids), and check out the link!  Don't be afraid to be creative. As long as you have a cooked meat, cheese, and the base, it will be yummy.  Make your own Bisquick or buy some and have simple dinners on hand!


Easy Rule #388  Breakfast for dinner doesn't have to be just pancakes!!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Little Chess Nerds

Yesterday was the first Thursday of the month, making it Chess Club Thursday around these parts.  At 1:30 the usual "leaving the house" preparations begin -- 14 socks, 12 shoes, 5 bathroom trips, 2 diaper changes, 3 chess boards, and too many snacks....kids pile into the van while I survey the living room one last time, in peace, to assure I haven't forgotten anything.

We drive the 3 minutes down the road (ah, the conveniences of in-town life! Close to church! Close to McDonald's!) to our church hall. Arriving, unlocking the hall door, sending a big boy to switch on the lights, and the arranging of the long, narrow tables begins.

Soon they shuffle in, mostly boys, mostly quiet, bee-lining for the tables to set up their boards.  Large plastic pieces, roll-up boards, hand-carved Polish wooden bishops--the variety as charming as the smiles exchanged; the games begin with the move of a pawn.

We had 26 children playing the game of kings. No arguments, no bad sports. Competition and strategy at its finest, with kids ranging in age from 4 to 17. It's a rare joy to see an 8 year old defeat a 15 year old! But you will see it here. There's nothing quite like it.



My three oldest sons started playing the game seriously (as taught by their Dad) after their tonsillectomies a couple years ago. After playing game after game with one another ad nauseum, they asked if I knew any other kids who could play.  I immediately sent out a mass email to the homeschool group, inquiring if any children were interested in getting together to play my boys...the response was astonishing:  "Sure! We'd LOVE to join your chess club! When does it meet?"

Say What?

So that's how I came to be the moderator of the Chess Club. And that's how I get to see all these beautiful minds planning a checkmate 5 moves in advance.....game of kings, indeed.


Maybe someday I will learn to play.



Rule 887: If you see a need, take the lead! (this is the Frontier Girls' motto, as memorized by daughter Josephine).

Rule 102: Hug your inner nerd. Or hug your nerdy children. Nerds are awesome.