September 29, 2014

Sorting Clothes When Seasons Change

What?  You don't think this is a beautiful picture?  Well then-- you don't have eight children.  Or, you might not understand what you are beholding.

Yes-- I have officially sorted the closets and dressers of each of my children.  Winter clothes are out, summer clothes tucked safely away for next season, my trunk is full of Goodwill, all who visit leave with a care package of things I want out of my home.  Ahhhh- I feel like I can breathe again.

I am actually excited to sort my clothes sometime soon.

Here are some of my tips for the seasonal change around...

Just so I am completely honest, I absolutely hate this seasonal chore and spend a few days locked in a fetal position drastically trying to avoid this overwhelming task prior to beginning.  I drown in mess and clothes for a few days in the middle, and I spend hours smiling and gazing in clean drawers the week following my accomplishment.

I have one organizational friend that I whine to every single year.  She's no help really (ha!) but, she does know how to talk me out of the fetal position while laughing at my tantrums.  I have learned all I know from my amazingly organized mother and my organized friend.  I genetically inherited the color-coded label "make things pretty" gene, but it has been laying dormant since my last surgery. 

I digress.

Tips for clothing rotation--

--Be a good steward!  Clothing is so emotional.  Sometimes we feel out of control and so we compensate.  We feel that our kids need something and we buy it for them.  Often, we are buying when we need to do laundry and sort.  The problem with this philosophy is that buying more often just adds to the mess.  Stop buying without knowing what you have!  I promise you if you do all your laundry and organize your clothes, you will loose that panic feeling and be able to buy with purpose and reason.  

--Start sorting when you have just finished doing the laundry and before you (or your kids) put clothes away.  The stuff left in their drawers usually has some issues.  Get rid of it, figure out why they aren't wearing it, or just match it up into outfits for them.

--Store clothes by size.  I put a little sticker on a tub if it is the current size of my kid.  

Eve wears 3T and some 4T.  In my 3T box, I have 3T summer clothes and empty space where the clothes in Eve's dresser used to be.  I also pulled some 4T clothes out of the 4T box.  If they fit her now, I put them in her dresser.  If I think they'll fit her this winter, I keep them in a box of "Just a little too big" in the top of her closet.

--Keep a bag or basket in each kid's closet for "Too Small" or "Just A Little Too Big"  When you get your kids dressed and see something that has become too small, just pop it in that pile.  Clothes that they almost fit into can stay in the other bag for later in the season.  This is great because you will only have to go into your big tubs spring and fall.  

--Be the Laundry Gaurdian.  While washing kids laundry, take away things you don't want them to wear!! Just toss them right in the Goodwill bag you have hanging in your laundry room.  Keep the stuff for a couple weeks and then send it away.  Chances are your kids won't even notice.  
(This is Leah's armoir.  It is a bit empty because I do laundry on Wednesday, but you get the idea.  I put skirt outfits on top with sweaters or jackets, then two shelves of outfits including a shirt and pants, socks in a box, a drawer for tshirts and undies, and a drawer for jammies.)

(My three youngest girls share a room and they each have an armoir, from Ikea.)

--Match outfits!!  Don't put a pile of shirts, a pile of pants, etc.  When you wash laundry take a few seconds to pick outfits for your kids.  I do this for my age 8 and under kids.  It is SO nice.  They can keep their rooms, dressers, and closets all clean and tidy because they have a manageable amount of clothes.

--Buy Outfits!  Don't just buy shirts on sale.  Don't just keep clothes that people give you.  Be selective!  You can pick up a cute little pair of leggings and a shirt at Walmart or Old Navy for $8.  Kids don't need much, but they do need a few cute outfits.  I do laundry every week and my kids have about 7 outfits that they wear each week.  They look cute, but we don't have a ton of laundry or excess.

--While you sort, keep a paper and pen close.  Jot down the things your kids need.  Sometimes a new pair of black leggings and some lacy church socks are all they need to eliminate stress during their morning rush.  

--Keep good stuff that you like and give away everything else.  I promise-- too much is worse than not enough.  Honestly.  Stop buying so much and stop keeping stuff they don't need.  

People these days think they can't have kids because kids are too expensive.  They are wrong.  Kids don't cost much.  Fancy parents spend too much, but kids can be happy and adorable without being too expensive.

Happy sorting friends!!
How do you transition?
Please-- share your tips.
I sure love my day job.  :)

September 25, 2014

Running in place.

Just as soon as I'm done matching socks, I'll be sorting summer clothes out of my kids' dressers and closets.  I HOPE!!  (This is a job I dread but it desperately needs to be done.)

I wish I didn't feel the need to vacuum real fast to get ready for Ben's speech and physical therapists.  (They climb all around my floor making crumbs extra noticeable.)

I'm sure glad that Eve is down for a nap now.  I'm pretty sure Ben just woke up.

I was hoping for a whole day to sort tomorrow, but I remembered a meeting I had with 6th grade teachers for PTO.  

Next week is October, two surgeries (Anna and Ben), book group (I hope everyone is feeling well enough that I can go), and company for conference weekend.  We are up to our eyeballs in sports, drama, animals, scouts, and clubs.

I am often reminded of this quote--
"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" 
(The Red Queen to Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass)

I'm off to run just as fast as I can-- to get just about where I always am.  Almost there.  
Happy (oh so happy) to be able to run!!
Life is good.

September 23, 2014

Homemade Bread

(If you just want a bread recipe-- skip to the end.  I'm a bit chatty this morning.)

The sounds of morning surround me as I type.

"Do you know where my green shoes are?"  Anna asks.
Little girls are playing in the basement, I yell for them to brush their teeth.
Jakob's playing the piano.
Drew is reading.
Ben is happy because I finally handed him his own bowl of Cream of Wheat to eat.  (Little stink wants to do everything himself.)

Rocco is licking every drop Ben graciously throws to him.
Eve is still sleeping.
Todd just kissed me and thanked me for breakfast, as he eats a piece of homemade bread.
We searched for answers to the question "Who is Abinidi?" for a quick scripture time this morning, while I was helping Ellie finish up some homework she remembered about at 9pm last night. 

My home is tidy (oh how I love Tuesday mornings better than Monday mornings).
Leah did her own hair today and you can tell.  Good moms let second graders have messy ponytails (even as we cringe) because we know that will create 3rd graders who are independent hair stylists.

My to do list is long.  Ben is a huge mess.  Rocco just inherited Ben's whole bowl and spoon.  

Eve just woke up- cheerful and starry-eyed.  She hugged and kissed her brother with the announcement "Now I love Jakob!"

All is just as it should be.

I have learned that there is joy in creation.
I don't believe there is just joy in having-- there is joy in doing.
The joy does not come from having a clean house- the joy comes from cleaning your home.

The joy doesn't just come from having well-behaved children- the joy comes in teaching and serving your children.

When I was on bed rest, my children were well cared for.  I felt peace in that, but I missed the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from doing it myself.

Although at the end of the day I knew they were tucked into bed, I missed that end of the day accomplished feeling that is so naturally ours as hardworking mothers.

Making bread is more joyful than just having bread to eat.

Making bread is one of the most rewarding kitchen jobs.  It simply feels good and right.  Bread is filling and it costs very little.  (We eat homemade bread for breakfast or as an addition to soup for dinner.  I buy bread for sandwiches.)

Honestly, I am a bit wary of health trends that teach true principles of health mixed with an extreme way of thinking that almost paralyzes us as we try to feed our families.  I absolutely reject the idea that God has allowed the world to get to the point that we all must live off of coconut, baby spinach, and Accai berries (although all are yummy) in order to nourish our families.  I do not believe healthy eating in this day and age, must be so expensive that we have to choose between eating healthy, saving more, and serving others.

I believe that this earth is designed to feed the people.  Food that is inexpensive and abundant and natural must be good for our bodies.

I'm not judging you or your food choices.  Individual health concerns lead people to different food choices.  I have learned so much from people who have been blessed to learn different life lessons from me.

But as for me and my house, we will eat as healthy as we can for $200 a week on groceries, diapers, and household stuff.  That is a lot.  (I have friends with large families who spend $500 a month on groceries.)  I am not super frugal-- just moderately healthy and moderately frugal.  We eat good food, we eat like kings and queens.  

One of the ways we save money is by eating more oats, wheat, and potatoes.  We also eat a lot of apples, oranges, and bananas.  I love good food.  I love local food.

Sorry for that random food rant.  It is on my mind.  I just feel the time and energy and huge weight and financial burden that eating healthy places on so many mothers.  I hate that.   I also see the weight and drag and health burdens that eating unhealthy places on people.  That isn't good either.  

There is a place of peace.  We can strive to be better while at the same time feeling peace where we are.  Guilt makes me sick- literally.  

Peace comes when you live within your means not when you are finally able to acquire all you think you need or achieve perfection.  I have learned this lesson SO well these past two years.  Live within your means!!  Find peace where you are.

God can change your means.  God can bless you with health and money and wisdom and ability-- if He hasn't, it might be because you can do all that He needs you to do with the stewardships He has already given you.  Maybe you can serve and teach others better in your want than you could have in abundance.  Maybe God knows the lessons your children are learning as they are not given everything they see, are greater than those that they would be learning in a more luxurious life.  

As I read history-- almost every single person I admire, has endured poverty, hunger, persecution, and pain.  Perhaps that should tell us something.  

Haha.  It should tell us to make bread.  :)

I am not a direction follower or one who measures.  (I use a one cup measuring cup for everything I measure- including table and teaspoons.)  I'm good at bread.

Here are a few things I learned--

-Instant yeast is different from active yeast.  If you buy regular (or active) yeast, you need to start it in a bowl of warm water with sugar sprinkled on top.  When it is foamy, add it to your bread.  Instant yeast skips this step.  You just add it right to your flour and water and it's fine.  (I use instant yeast.)

-I'm not a big bread kneader.  Kneading the bread too much, in my experience, makes the dough sticky and too hard to work with.  I will knead the dough BEFORE I add all the flour, but not very long after I add all the flour.  If I'm completely honest, I hardly ever knead bread or rolls much longer than it takes to actually mix the dough.  Maybe I'm missing something.  But, my rolls and bread are light and fluffy (depends more on the recipe than the kneading) and I make dough a lot.

-Think "easy to clean".  In my opinion, making bread is SO easy.  Basically, you are just adding liquid (water, oil) + powder (any type of flour, yeast, salt, and dab of sweetness) to create a dough.  

Think of it as two steps-- first, mix all your ingredients together using only one or two cups of flour (your making a thick soup) then add more flour until it forms a dough that cleans everything up.  If you have made a huge mess-- you need more flour.  Don't look at your recipe, look at your dough.

-Clean your kitchen before you begin.  Keep your kitchen clean as you go.  I like to gather all my ingredients on one counter-- (I'm sorry I don't take better pictures for you.  iPhone pictures are my life these days.)
As I add them, I move them to another counter so they are easy to put away later.
(See the ingredients over by the stove waiting to be put away?)

The hardest part of mixing bread is the beginning.  You want to add a little flour and a little water so it doesn't splash all over when you mix it-- like this
Don't ever add all the flour it calls for all at once.  Just add enough flour to keep the water from splashing around.  Once you get all the individual ingredients mixed, mix for a few minutes (this is my kneading part).
If my recipe calls for 8 cups of flour, I add about 8 cups of whatever I want to add. 
You can add different kinds of flour, flax seed, wheat germ (I love those B vitamins), oats, cinnamon, etc.  As long as you start with a basic recipe of water, fat, and yeast-- you can be creative with the dry ingredients.

I like to use just a tad of dark brown sugar, and cinnamon.  (My friend, Ines Erickson, always put cinnamon in her bread and it reminds me of her.)  Wheat bread with cinnamon just feels more yummy than plain wheat bread.

And-- don't forget the SALT!!  Unsalted bread is just really missing something.

(Sorry if I'm being too obvious here.)

Once all your ingredients are mixed you start adding flour until your dough clings together and cleans the edges of the bowl.  I like my bread light, so I don't keep adding flour after my Bosch is all cleaned, but you could.
See how the bowl is white?  
Making bread should not be a gooey, messy experience where the dough gets all stuck to your rings, your arms, and your sponge.  
I did it that way many times-- it means you haven't added enough flour.

I knead the dough while I'm getting out my bread mat and then I just dump the dough out.  It should come easily.  If your dough is a little sticky, spray your hands with no stick spray.

Ask for a Tupperware mat for Christmas. It makes bread, rolls and pie crusts beautifully.

Most recipes call for two rising times.  So, I'll just dump the dough into a bowl with a little oil in it, spin the dough so the top gets covered in the oil, cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let it sit on my stove to rise.  This recipe only rises once, so I just put the dough right into loaves.

See how clean the bowl is?
Forming the loaves is about stretching the tops and folding the edges under.  I'm pretty careful to form the loaves quickly and not be too particular.
I am absolutely not a perfectionist.
I almost always make 6 loaves.  
That's how many fit in my oven.
I started this batch at 2:15 and it was in the oven just as my kids got home from school AND we had unexpected friends stop by from Oregon. Thankfully, I had started chicken soup before the bread.  My kitchen was clean and I could wash up the dishes in two minutes so it wasn't this huge ordeal.  Just a perfect, cozy afternoon.
Anna found our first red leaf!
This recipe is really good.
Nothing beats talking about our day and visiting with old friends, while drinking cider and eating warm bread.
OK-- here is the recipe I used (from my friend Ines Erickson).
I have two other recipes I love-- but start with this because it's good.
(If you want, you can buy gluten, flax or chia seeds, and wheat germ at most grocery stores.  I found mine at Walmart.  I still haven't found vitamin C to add.)
Really Good Bread
(Takes 45 minutes and makes 6 to 9 loaves)

6 cups hot water
3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup dark brown sugar)
3/4 cup gluten (you can make it without gluten, it will just be more dense)
1/2 tsp vitamin C crystals (from Trader Joes- optional)
3 cups flour (any kind wheat, rye, white- I add wheat germ and flax seed with my flours)
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup yeast
Cinnamon (optional)
1 Tablespoon salt (Don't forget!!)
2 cups oatmeal (can add more flour instead if you prefer)

Mix 1-2 minutes
Add 2 cups flour
Mix 5 minutes

Add remaining flour (about 4 cups) until dough pulls away from the edges.

Spray loaf pans and shape dough into loaves.  Mine made 6 loaves.

Place in oven warmed to 170* for ten minutes.
Then change the temp to 350* and bake for 20 minutes.

Mmm.  It's good.
45 minutes start to finish.

I use a Bosch with a dough hook.
I'm sure you could mix this by hand though, it would just take some elbow grease.  If you make this bread, take a picture and tag me in it on Facebook or Instagram.  I'm sure you'll love it.

Boy-- what a ridiculously long post.
Have a great day!
Life- with bread- is good!

September 21, 2014

Planning October.

::When we left Ford to go back to school years ago, a friend stitched this quote for us- (Anna decorated her locker with it last year)

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go with others.

I believe this is truth.
Sometimes I wish my life was faster but oh, how far we've come.

::Here is the PTO bulletin board I decorated.  It made me miss my former life as a quilter.
::Here is my favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.
I cut out all the white sugar, use while wheat flour, and dump in some flax and chia seeds that I got from WalMart.
Let me know if you want the recipe but can't read it.

::The key (in my non-cookie expert opinion) to good cookies is this...

If you soften or melt the butter in the microwave, it's too soft and makes flat cookies.
Straight from the fridge- too cold.
And, only people like Martha Stewart actually use unsalted butter and remember to let it sit at room temperature prior to cookie making.
(If you are one of these people, I bet you are not even reading this silly blog.)
Anyway-- here is the secret you have all been waiting for---
Yup-- just cut up your cold butter and it will blend into perfect cookies.
Try it.
It might make you so excited you decide to make cookies 4 out of 5 days in one week.
It might be so good, that your kids eat your cookie dough and you might cuss (just a wee bit) at them.
The next day, your 3 year old might feed a batch to your dog.  (You won't cuss this time, because you learned your lesson.)

You might forget to 4 times the butter on one batch which might create round granola bars instead of cookies.
That's ok-- they actually work great as breakfast/teething toys.

And finally-- on Sunday night, you might make a perfect batch of cookies.  Which, your helpful husband might actually put in the FREEZER before you have one bite!

Sigh.  That's just the way the cookie crumbles.
::I love onions-- my kids don't.
I've been blending them and then sneaking them in stuff.
It makes me happy.
::Eve used Ellie's nail polish to create this masterpiece.
I scrubbed her little face and then smiled at my nail polish speckled soap, that Ben tried to eat.
::we made calzones for dinner Friday night.  They were fun, but a little gross.
::we fried our Sunday quesadillas-- they were so good.
::Todd and I just figured out our week schedule and worked on our October budget.  It's fun to plan October.  Our money is tight- it takes negotiation and faith to figure things out.  As we finish up and our budgets have a $23 balance not a -$575 balance, Todd squeezes my hand and tells me that he LOVES spending time planning with me.  And I'm glad-- because we will have a lot of Sunday nights from here until eternity.
::beautiful soccer games
::I wish my house was fall fabulous as opposed to kid dominated.

And, that's all
Life is good.
I'm pooped.
(My father says that to Eve one afternoon and she looked down at his pants in horror asking "You pooped Grandpa?!")

Enjoy your Monday 

September 18, 2014

A Cookie Monster

I'm a teacher by genetic programming.
I think, analyze and teach.
I especially love to watch myself and others trying to teach a principle to see what we are ACTUALLY teaching.

My favorite teaching moment was watching a teacher of two year olds holding the plug of a tape deck up to her mouth as she explained, with her tongue out- "Do not put this cord in your mouth! No licking the cord!  No touching the cord!"  Yes- she taught them.  Silly kids- they were all quite interested in the cord after that lesson?!!

I have said it before, but I absolutely think the most important thing we can teach our children is- to be kind and respectful. Every day we are teaching our children how to handle conflict in their lives by how we handle conflict in our lives.  

In a day and age where people struggle with mental health issues, as much as we struggle with physical health issues, I am so aware of the mental health example I set for the little sponges in my home.
The feeling of my home is more important than the appearance of my home.  Although, sometimes I find both aspects to be SO very correlated.  When my home is in order, I am also at peace.

Ralph Waldo Emmerson said, "What you do speaks so loudly that I can't hear what you say."

This isn't something to beat ourselves up about.  Most normal human mothers have all heard themselves yelling "Will you just TALK NICELY!!" Or we have felt the urge to bite or hit a child that is biting or hitting us.  Acting like a 3 year old at times should only give us some empathy for them as they try to figure out their little bodies and big emotions.

Last night I was making dinner and I whipped up a double batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, I wanted to freeze half.  (I leave out all the white sugar and add chia seeds.)  I had to run to pick Jakob up from soccer and when I got home my big kids were in the bathroom eating the dough.


This was a great teaching opportunity.
I got SO upset that I'm certain I was teaching something- I'm just not certain I taught the lesson I felt they needed to learn.

I yelled.  I cussed. (Something about the nerve they had to hide and eat my damn dough.) sigh.  I was so mad and I didn't even want to chill out and make things right.  I kind of sat there in my anger justifying my immature behavior.

Perhaps my children felt remorse.
They certainly didn't show remorse.
Perhaps they realized how wrong they were for sneaking cookies.
They already knew it was wrong-- that's why they hid.

Ultimately, I think they just learned that if someone does something you don't like, you are justified in throwing a temper tantrum.  Nice.
I hope they learned from my example how NOT to teach.

When Todd comes home, we are usually all sitting at the table ready to start dinner.  He will smile, kiss me, and say "Thank you honey, this look good.  There is such a good feeling in the home."

Yesterday, we were waiting for him at the table.  (He texts me as he leaves work and so I know I have 20 minutes to get dinner on the table-- we have to eat fast because we have activities later that the kids need to go to.). Everyone was quiet and I did not tell him anything that had happened moment before he arrived.  I was waiting to see if he would say "There is such a good feeling here."  So I could roll my eyes.

He did not.  He sat down and asked with concern if I was OK.  I said I was fine.  (Smoke blowing out of my nostrils.)  He kept saying "Tell me about your day.  How are things going?"  He felt the palpable difference in our home.  It made me smile even in my contention.

We had stroganoff for dinner.  I usually make my own sauce out of cream.  I had a jar sauce that  I used last night and I was waiting for the kids to complain so I could compliment myself on my usually good cooking skills.  I laughed again, to myself, as every kid raved about dinner.  They didn't even complain about the veggie and beans I snuck into the sauce.  My favorite. Moment was-- "Yeah Mom, I thought this would be gross.  But, it was surprisingly good."
Nice.  I did NOT tell them I had used Alfredo sauce from a jar.

On the way to church last night Todd told one of our daughters "Someday you will have children and you will appreciate all your mother does for you."

She replied, "Yeah, and then I guess I will cuss at my kids like Mom cusses at us."
Yes- that's exactly what I thought she was learning.

Today I am resolved to do better.
I will apologize for my cookie tantrum and try again to teach my children two lessons--
1- Thou shalt not steal cookie dough
2-  Thou shalt love in word and deed

If we can't teach with love and kindness we are still teaching- just not teaching the lesson we want to be teaching.

I have learned--
If I can't teach kindness AND responsibility, I pick kindness.
They can learn responsibility another day.

I have learned that in most instances.  
But don't you DARE eat my cookie dough.

The best part of parenting is that there is always tomorrow to try again.

And, luckily I have a (small) plate full of cookies to drown my sorrows in.

Tomatoes on Tuesday

I made 20 quarts of tomato sauce yesterday.  I still need to mop my sticky floor.
Ben and Eve played while I worked and listened to talks.
I love having chickens to eat the tomato skins and seeds.
All the kids took a turn helping.
They migrate in and out as I work.
Lily cut her finger a tiny bit, right after she insisted she was old enough to help without cutting herself.
Cute girl.
I kind of love those "Maybe Mom is right" moments.
We paused for a trip to the school to watch Jakob's soccer game.
It was a beautiful day.
I had one million things to do, but was glad I took a minute to be there in the stands for one of my favorites.
It was a great game!
We're still quite a spectacle here in Tully.  
Little Ben hit his chin on the bleacher, right beside me, twice!  Ugh.
This little guy is going to be busy and feisty!  I'm telling you-- he's a big spirit.
We has spaghetti for dinner and noticed the sauce was SO good, but a bit spicy (I added too many red pepper flakes).
So, we mixed two batches together before we started canning.
(Jakob laughed at this sauce and asked me if I could tell the shape of the heating unit under the pan.  An oval.  I love how his brain works.)
I don't even have a picture of the sauce all finished.  Here is me and my tomato splattered shirt.

I laughed to read this sign in my kitchen--
Things started out orderly, but got to be quite a mess in the middle.

Late last night, I fell asleep on the couch while Todd loaded the next batch of sauce into the steamer.
I really don't know where I'd be without that guy.

Today I'm cleaning counters and floors and walls-- everything tastes and smells tomatoey. 
And, it is good.
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