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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to School!

Ems here:

Finally coming up for air now that the first week of schooling is behind us! Nothing like going from 0 to 60 from slovenly summer to hard-core lessons...... Dealing with 1st trimester tiredness all summer necessitated that the kids spent an inordinate amount of time in the afternoons playing computer games while Mommy and Simona napped.  The kids grew so fond (ok, addicted) to these afternoons that it would be barely 10 AM when I would hear the first comments of, "When is Simona going to bed?" or , my favorite, " Mom, you look tired..."  Grrrrr.

As luck and good timing would have it, I am beginning to emerge from the coma and enter into the land of the living (aka, 2nd trimester) as the school year begins.  It is still REALLY hard. Having a hard time organizing five children with lessons, cycling them on the computer and on mom-teacher time. I feel like I need to be 3 places at once. Hoping this week starts to fall into a bit more of a schedule.  And hoping that I can possibly deal with the fact that it looks like a giant bomb went off in the living room. And kitchen. And the entire 2nd floor.

Jo reviews place value for re-grouping! Gabe makes a mess in background!

Matt and Theo turned Gabe's mess into flags of many nations. It was their own idea! Creativity is back, baby!

One positive that I noticed is that with the lack of computer time and with the incentive of avoiding lessons, the kids have been super creative.  Their imaginative play has increased a hundred-fold--group games of battling, robots, zombies, WalMart, dragons, etc. keep them occupied and content when not completing lessons.  It is so good to see that they remember how to play something other than MineCraft or WebKinz!

Nate constructed these weapons solely from computer paper and Scotch tape. All kids had a blast shooting each other. Just realized this is not very PC....praising God we are removed from the dangers of school-time violence, and boys can just be boys.

Think playdough on the deck would be less messy than inside? Guess again! Power-washing is in Daddy's future..... 

So here is to a new school year for all of us filled with learning and fun, as our kids begin to appreciate the value of free time and the structure of lessons.


Easy Rule #5223: Although summer we will miss you, we welcome the possibilities of fall!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

World Series Game 7 Cooking Contest

Jules here-

The finale of the cooking contest took place last week-- and yet I am not typing until now as I have had some crazy moving stuff going on.  We decided on a "weeknight" dish this time-- something with chicken that was 5 ingredients or less.  At first I thought this would be challenging, but just Google "5 ingredient or less Chicken" and be amazed at the hundreds of recipes that appear! All look pretty good too-- except the one that I chose. I decided to go with a breaded, rolled chicken breast stuffed with Boursin cheese and crushed nuts.  The nuts work yummy-- the cheese not so much.  Don handedly beat me with his delicious chicken legs, while the judges barely ate my disastrous dish.

I am posting Don's Award-Winning Recipe-- while omitting mine from the blog. I want to preserve our "delicious-recipes only postings"!!


Honey Roasted Garlic Chicken Recipe

  • 2 pounds Chicken Drumsticks
  • 1 cup steak sauce
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic cloves                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Combine all ingredients in a zip lock baggie and marinade overnight. 
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line bottom of broiler pan with foil.
  3. Place drumsticks in foil-lined pan.
  4. Bake 45 minutes or until done (internal temp 180°F).

The children devoured the chicken legs as well as the grown ups.  If you are looking for a quick, easy, and absolutely delicious dinner-- look no farther! 

I will be posting my Top Ten Favorite Chicken Breast recipes later this week, so you all can see that I can really cook-- just not with Boursin cheese. Not recommended.

Easy Rule #67908-  It's easy to lose graciously when you are eating delicious food.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

What NOT to Do at an Amusement Park

Ems here:

We are still talking New Hampshire reunion...after all, it was the highlight of our year!

One of the most special trips we made during our visit was to the amusement park, Santa's Village. It is a really a unique place. Set high in the mountains, the views are just amazing. It's clean, and although full of families, it doesn't feel claustrophobic.  Still, when an insanely large group of adults and children traipse into a park full of strangers, the wise thing to do would be to make a plan. Sadly, we did not. Luckily, no permanent harm was done, but we have learned some lessons from our excursion. Feel free to learn from our errors in judgement; hindsight is 20/20! So, what NOT to do:

1.  Don't discuss a group meeting spot in advance. Turns out cell phones don't work so well in the North Pole, so a plan to meet in advance would have been very useful on several occasions.



2.  Dress in a variety of apparel. Even though it is supremely nerdy to dress in fluorescent orange shirts en masse, practicality would dictate that a wise suggestion for next years park trip.



3. Walk haphazardly. Perhaps a buddy system? Or require children stay with their own parents who are used to counting to 7 rapidly and repeatedly every 20 seconds or so? Either way, the random pairing and grouping of children resulted in a high level of parental stress while walking through crowds.



4. Don't look at a map until halfway through park. Make a plan of "attack" before entering the park. It would have saved on the spontaneous direction changes and useless dithering that results when disorganized.



5. Don't discuss park safety and review actions if lost. I'm sad to report, we did lose one of our progeny for a fearful 10 minutes. Luckily, said child (to remain nameless) kept her wits about her and informed the staff of her name and her mother's name and was even able to give a description of her mom! Yay! No harm, no foul. Still, we should have given the kids a quick tutorial of what to do in case of separation.


Happily, we were not complete morons and did make some competent decisions:

1. We packed lunches and snacks for all the children thus saving boatloads of cash.

2. We brought along The Nicest Person In The World to help us! God bless you, Chrissy! I will never forget the fruit cup and lemonade you brought to a weak and ravenous pregnant woman. 


And yes, I was in that pic looking spectacularly unphotogenic per usual. But "it's my blog and I will crop if I want to!" I kept in the star of the photo anyway.

3. We managed to bring 13 children under age 11 to a park...and then brought the same number home again!



Easy Rule #7445: In case dementia strikes and you want to bring too many people to a crowded amusement park, please do as we say, not as we do. And may God and His Holy Angels be with you!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reunion Minute to Win It

Jules here-

As I alluded to earlier, we completed an Olympic series of events throughout the week-long reunion.  I used the "Minute-to-Win-It" template to create a family-friendly competition.  Now Ems boys are quite talented athletically, so I wanted to even the playing field by creating challenges that most people couldn't excel at naturally. 

Before the reunion, I developed an algorithm to determine how the teams should be divided (ha, just kidding, I just split up the super-competitive, talented kids and then mixed in mine). Either way, I am proud that the teams were very evenly matched; the head-to-head competitions all seemed quite appropriate.

So here are a few of the events for Minute to Win It:

Cotton Ball Transfer
 

Concept is simple. In one minute, transfer as many cotton balls from one surface to another using only your nose dabbed with vaseline. I have an awesome video of my brother and Uncle Bri- but they may get angry if I posted it so publicly....

Pasta Line-Up

 

This one was quite challenging for all---not a favorite, but it still worked. Using a spaghetti noodle in your mouth, you had to scoop up a penne pasta and move it from one side to another.  You had to get all 5 to one side in a minute.

Face the Cookie


By far, this event created the funniest faces!  Starting with an Oreo on your forehead, without using your hands, you had to get the oreo into your mouth (in under a minute of course). Out of 13 participants, only Theo was successful! It was so challenging, but hilariously fun.

Movin' Marshmallows

Using straws and air pressure, you had to suck a mini-marshmallow from one bowl to the other as fast as you can. The person with the most marshmallows in one minute wins.  Obviously from the photo above, James was not successful at this endeavor.  
Nylon Head Knock-Out


 Another hilarious photo opportunity: Put old nylons/pantyhose on your head, put a tennis ball in one of the toes of the nylon. Line up a row of water bottles and knock 'em down in less than one minute! It was so funny (especially after the grown-ups had a glass of wine-or two).  All the kids wanted to try even the "unofficial" Simona & James!

After all the events it came down to ONE point, Team Two took the victory and earned the king-sized candy bars! The losers, alas, only had fun-sized. There were no sour grapes, however, and the kids seemed to appreciate the silliness of it all.

Tough candy decisions....
If you are planning on having a family or friend gathering, you might want to try some different activities for everyone to participate in. I found dozens of ideas on the Internet for Minute-to-Win-it--most are quite family friendly and age-adaptable.

Easy Rule #4340- Simple games can add a new level of fun to a routine family event-- no time for boredom!

Easy Rule #78970- Watching grown ups compete in ridiculous games: AWESOME.

Surprisingly, James is NOT throwing a tantrum in this pic. Someone chalked a sports scene and he was looking at it closely. This was one of the few moments he WASN'T throwing one.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Expose! Shhhhh!! Don't tell Jules!!

Ems here:

Do you all remember when Jules blogged about Working Out With Kids? Well, guess what?! It turns out, it's not really as fun as she makes it out to be! Couch potatoes of the world, laugh with me!

During our reunion, I got to witness this lovely scene:





Ok, so now you've seen the truth. Let's all nod and try to keep a straight face when she mentions exercise and children in the same sentence again, deal? 


Easy Rule #6618: What we are calling a "temper tantrum" Jules will optimistically call "resistance weight." Sigh. Maybe she wins after all.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Reunion Stats

Jules here--

Easy Rules has just passed 10,000 page views! To celebrate, I thought you all might appreciate some statistical analysis on our Family Reunion Week!!
  • People stats: 
    • Thirteen grandchildren age range from 8 months to 11 years
    • 5 girls, 8 boys (imagine the noise level....)
    • Out of the total adults & children, in twelve months only August & October have no birthdays
    • Total added age of all participants:  464.6 years


  • Food stats:
    • 88 fish sticks (in one meal)
    • 7 gallons of milk
    • 2 batches of chocolate chip cookies
    • 4 batches of homemade cinnamon buns
    • 10 pound pot roast (in one meal)
    • 2 racks of ribs
    • 4 pounds of steaks
    • 15 hamburgers & 18 hot dogs (in one meal) **side note confession, Jules didn't actually get to eat a hot dog or hamburger because she had to change a diaper and by the time she returned... only salad was left**
    • 6 pounds of pasta
    • 3 pounds of shrimp
    • 6 loaves of homemade bread
    • 5 loaves of store-bought bread
    • 4 "gallons" of ice cream (we all know that they aren't really gallons anymore...)
    • 8 pints of blueberries
    • 6 pounds of strawberries
    • At least 20 bananas
    • 5 pounds of apples
    • 2 bags of marshmallows (mostly used for s'mores)
    • 5 large pizzas
    • 45 slices of french toast
    • Over 50 waffles
    • Over 80 pancakes
    • 22 bagels
    • AND that doesn't include lunch....
  • Sleeping stats
    • 22 people total in one house
    • Average room held 4.4 people
    • 2 airbeds used
    • 3 crib mattresses in the master bath
    • 2 pack n' plays used
  •  Travel stats
    • Furthest amount traveled: 13 hours
    • Least amount traveled (beside the homeowners): 1.5 hours
    • During the week travel (to different activities): 10.65 hours
  • Random stats:
    • Fastest time to the top of a mountain: Matty at 32 minutes
    • Slowest time to the top of a mountain: Grace, Lissie & Tad at 1.5 hours
    • Diapers used (all sizes): 125
    • Children lost at a theme park: 1 (we found her...)
    • Minute to Win It Games: 7 (there will be a future post on this...)
    • Laundry: 31 loads (and the machine didn't break!)
    • 52 pigtails/ponytails done on little girls
    • 9 Time outs ordered
    • 500 pictures taken
    • 9 socks without mates by the end of the week
    • 7 wooden weapons made by Pop pop
    • 1 tea party hosted by Mom mom
    • Average time during the day where not ONE child was napping/sleeping: 5 hours (imagine how many times we "shushed" children)


    • Over 3,000 pounds of wood stacked for Mom-mom & Pop-pop's winter!
    • Amount of weight gained from above food choices... yeah, no stats on that one....
    • Amount of crazy fun:  INNUMERABLE!!!
Thanks Mom-mom & Pop-pop for a wild, fun, and memorable family reunion!!

Easy Rule #22- No matter the travel hassle, the cramped sleeping, and the noise level-- it is ALWAYS worth hanging out with family.

Easy Rule #5340- Grandmothers on a segway= awesome: