"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet

This is how costume making went this week. The fabric on the floor was just too tempting.

And so, it wasn't any wonder that I was late getting to the school for Friday's Halloween parties because of finishing touches during a much needed nap.

I flew to the school with that panicked feeling in my chest. Visions of distraught children in my head, awaiting their routinely tardy mother to arrive with their costumes for the pre-party parade.

I even threw my car into park in the middle of the bus bay blatantly ignoring the rules. Frantically searching the line of kids streaming from classrooms, ready to circumnavigate the schools exterior. I desperately searched for two lost souls amongst the costumed extravaganza. My eye caught them immediately. They seemed okay, no tears, no frowns, and as I pulled them out and rushed them to the bathrooms for a quick change full of apologies, they sighed and shrugged and hurriedly dressed to rejoin the parade.

Later, a room mom who'd been assigned to aid in the changing, expressed her relief that I'd finally made it. She mentioned how surprised she'd been at the acceptance in my children. That there'd been no real frustrations or upset, just the acclimations of "She'll be here ... eventually." She said she'd been surprised, for had it been her child there would have been panic and falling to pieces. And what could I say? I guess being late to every event of their entire lives has it's benefits. Notoriety creates level heads and there are no surprises.

Keep their expectations low and you can only go up from there.

Janie, Our Cat in the Hat

Grant, Our Mummy

Eliza, intimidated by all of the merriment whilst wiping a sucker covered face on my pants leg

Thursday, October 28, 2010


When we were kids, we loved to scare our mother. Was she an easy target? Probably. She had a lot of laughable psychoses.

For example, we lived out in the woods and somewhere in her mind she always thought some escapee from who knows where would sneak into the back of her car and wait to kill her. One night, in particular, she tried to slip out of the house in the autumn darkness to pick up a sister from dance class. Anytime she left to go to town, there were always those begging to tag along. This evening, however, she just wanted to make a quick trip and silently disappeared to the van without the help of porch or corner flood lights since they would surely alert small children to her departure.

She got in the car, turned the key, put it in reverse and said to the darkness simply to ease her conscience "Well buddy, if you're in here, I guess were going to Florida."

And then, as she turned her body to look out the back window of the car to pull out of the driveway, she came face to face with our long haired tabby cat perched on the driver's seat shoulder. Fond of escaping the cold by making a fast break into the car while exit-ers weren't looking, he chose that moment to "merrow" at her and we could hear her screams all the way in the house. Porch lights on, flood lights on, we all came running and the jig was up. Now we kids knew all, including the best way to "get" our mother.

Her life was never simple after that. Rubber snakes in her bed. That guy we made out of the broom and a coat left in her shower with the curtain pulled closed. Boy, was she fun and she could dish it just as well as she could take it.

It's probably because of her that I'm not really scared of much.

Nowadays, I get a kick out of watching my husband make his way down to the basement. Throwing out a quick "Are you afraid? Because you should be." as I close the door on him causes his scramble back up the stairs. It is so hard to resist.

It's probably because of me that my kids love the scary side of Halloween.

Enter stage left -- "Freddy". Freddy was the creation of a Saturday's boredom and avoidance of delegated chores. He has really gotten around. Celia found him in the games closet. Took ten years off her life. Grant ran to use the bathroom and found Freddy already using it. He'll probably never be the same. Freddy surprised Annie and Janie by watching a movie in the basement when they were sent to turn the lights off. They aren't exactly fans. But the best was getting the creator with the creation -- Christian.

Christian's had it coming. See here if you don't believe me. I've had to soothe more children for his scare tactics. And Freddy's ramblin' ways have all been his doing. Time for a little comeuppance -- that's a word my dad taught me, never thought I'd use it.

Celia, having had it up to here, simply put Freddy in Christian's closet and forgot about him. Darkness, bedtime, and a search for pj's in the closet brought screams, peals of laughter and tears to all of our eyes. It was good. Mean but good.

I know mine's coming but it's the nature of the territory. Only the fittest can survive in our environment. I'm sorry it's that way. No, really I'm not. Because it's a small part of growing up. What would childhood be without a sibling around the corner, silently anticipating your emergence from the bathroom? Just a little too quiet, I'd say.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Today it just hurts, how badly I don't want her to be our last.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Remembering why we do it

Monday night is family night. That's supposed to mean a spiritual lesson, fun songs, exciting games, yummy treats.

I received a stack of magazines in the mail. They've been sitting on my kitchen table. The cover of this one in particular, which is nothing but a catalog, has been staring me in the face.

Yesterday, I thumbed through it while feeding Eliza lunch and contemplating what our own evening would hold. The sarcastic side of my brain snorted, "Yeah ... that's what I thought it would all be like".

Our Monday night usually entails:

Harassment to bring everyone together
Arguments over who's turn to do what
Arguments over who forgot to rotate the job board
Pouting over Dad's delegation of the assignments
A giggly prayer
Recitation of an Article of Faith -- actually a favorite part!
Lots of songs that get sillier by the minute
Lots of hand motions to accompany the songs and entertain the baby leading to giddiness
A lesson
Adolescent eye rolling over a topic chosen specifically for their individual "needs"
Reminders to sit down
Slouching and hanging upside down on the couch
Frustration over those who think they need a drink and a bathroom break during a 15 minute lesson
Threatened punishment followed by testimony
Another giggly prayer with half of the participants eyes open
Tattle telling over who's eyes were open
Accusations to the tellers for having their eyes open to tell.

It's actually a highly anticipated night, believe it or not.

Because, despite it all, the treats bring us back together.

Especially when it's a rarity like roasting marshmallows over the fireplace on the first really chilly night of October.

“Do not let your children out to specialists … , but teach them by your own precept and example, by your own fireside. Be a specialist yourself in the truth. … Not one child in a hundred would go astray, if the home environment, example and training, were in harmony with the truth in the gospel of Christ.” Joseph F. Smith

I'm counting on that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday School -- at least we're larnin'

"Sister LeFever says that when we die, our spirits won't need to eat" says Grant in our weekly after church review.

"Really ... " I said distractedly making sandwiches.

"But ... what if Jesus gave me a hamburger?" he continues as I half way listen.

"Well, I guess you wouldn't really need to eat it if your spirit wasn't hungry, then, huh?" I ramble, eyes down on the lunch at hand.

"Yes, I would." He says, "Because I love Jesus and I love hamburgers. We always do what Jesus asks."

Duh, Mom. What church do you go to.

Whole wheat honey brownies with maple walnut ice cream

This is the week of sugar overload. It's hard to ignore.

I'm aware that as far as the glycemic index goes (and carbohydrate, for that matter) honey is not all that much better than sugar. But it does cut out the refined part. For kids that were once addicted to those Little Debbie brownies, this makes a family night treat that they claim is so close, there's hardly a difference. And they are my toughest critics.

Honey/Whole Wheat Brownies

Taking a hint from blender pancakes, combine in a blender:

1 cup of whole wheat kernel
1 cup of milk

Blend until really smooth. I usually hear a change in the labor of the blender indicating I've ground those wheat berries to bits. The longer I blend, the less wheat germ or hull will be detected in the brownie itself.

Add while the blender is running:

2 eggs
1/3 cup of cocoa powder (dutch chocolate from the health food store has the most nutritional value)
3/4 cup of honey

I continue to let the blender run with all of this as I melt a stick of butter.

Add the melted stick of butter
1 tsp of vanilla
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp of baking powder

Turn off the blender and let it rest for just a second while preparing the baking dish. I pour the batter into a greased and floured (yes, I use a scant portion of white flour here because I'd rather not use whatever is in that non-stick spray) 9x13 glass pan. For thicker brownies, make in an 8x8.

Bake 350 for 30 to 35 minutes until done in the center. Baking times may vary per oven.

Cool completely before cutting. They are great immediately but my kids say they are better (more densely fudge-y) on the second day wrapped up in their lunches. Could just be the joy of having a treat in their lunch, though.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

I have an ice cream churn with a freezer bowl. You can find making ice cream without a churn here.

For the ice cream, I put everything together in a blender first:

2 cups of cream
1 cup of milk
3/4 cup of 100% real maple syrup
1 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of walnuts

Quick blend until the nuts are broken up to the consistency I want and to infuse the ice cream mix with that nutty flavor. Be very careful not to blend the mix to butter. Pour into the frozen ice cream bowl and I start my churn.

We serve the ice cream on still warm brownies.

Okay, not low fat, not low carb, not sweet free, but all natural ingredients and completely organic.

Credit: Me. I worked this recipe a dozen different ways over the last two weeks until my kids gave it a thumbs up. Brownies are a staple. And thanks Meg, for the whole blender idea.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall break -- let the fun begin

Matter unorganized is chaos and idleness is of the devil. Yep, my lament yesterday as a result of a sudden veering from our usual schedule resulting in discontent and a lot of refereeing is none other than my own fault.

I don't love the "entertain me" expectation of some kids. But, fall break will only work if I'm a mom with a plan. So, when chores are done, we are rewarding ourselves with some fun outings.

I'm also a mom with very little time while kids are home. So here are a few from our trip to the local fall festival this week. At least these happy faces will remind me when they are fighting that there actually are times when I'd like to squeeze them tightly in a good way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Can't we just keep going already?

I love the freedom of summer. It's a great chunk of unscheduled whatever.

But once school starts, I so value the nature of a planned out life. And my plan is to accomplish a full weeks worth of unfinished projects, reorganization, and behind the scenes management of this business I call running a family. That's why I don't home school, though I solidly admire home school families.

This is how the school year has looked so far:

august 16 -- all kids finally in school after three staggered starting dates
September 6 -- two great full weeks and then everyone home for Labor day
September 24 -- we already need a teacher work day??
October 8 -- and a development day??
This week -- October 18-22 -- fall break (a break from what?)

and coming soon:
November 5 -- another work day
followed by Thanksgiving with Christmas right around the corner.

Looks like teachers need as much of a break from kids as I do and I get it. Boy, do I get it.

Can I just send them anyway to keep the routine going? Much as I love having them around.

I'm trying to quell their enthusiasm over days off from school by turning them into my personal cleaning crew on those days. That'll teach 'em to get excited for a freebie.

Wow, am I valuing teachers all the more today.

Looks like I crave routine every bit as much as the kids do. They need to go to school and sometimes, I just need for them to go.

Happy fall break!

Friday, October 15, 2010

We love Halloween

It's a year round obsession here. Most commonly heard on any Saturday morning is "What should we do today?" answered by "Let's turn the basement into a haunted house."

If I remember correctly, I think my children were discussing costumes as we were buying pencil boxes in September. Maybe it eases the pain of school starting. I don't pay attention to such banter because those decisions endlessly change until midnight on the 30th (or in this year's case, the 29th).

Nothing thrills my kids more than a trip to the Halloween store. Does it concern me that they get such a kick out of the frightfully scary and gross? A little. I do worry that they are all serial killers at heart and that I should be sleeping with one eye open.

I, on the other hand, love fall. I so miss the bright colors of the NC hills this time of year but still revel in the seasonal change. Fall is full of memories. I remember going with my mother to various fall festivals to look at crafts for great ideas in homemade holiday gift making. She could recreate anything.

Halloween comes and goes so quickly and with Christmas on it's heels, I've never sunk much cash into fall decorations. Most of what we have is homemade simply because I saw it somewhere and thought it cute enough to be recreated. These few touches coupled with an apple pie spice candle burning in my kitchen and some branches of dried colorful leaves stuck in with my plants, just make the season cosy.

A few of my favorites:

These guys across my fireplace mantle. My girls made them at a church activity out of craft sticks and ripped linen. I think I need an entire family of them.

I get reeled in by the sights and smells of Jo-Ann's Fabrics every time I go through their doors. I love their holiday pillows so I grabbed some really cheap felt and used left over batting from my basement to make some for my couches and chairs.

And our favorite accessory:

I saw these cute holiday "pillowcase" dresses at a boutique this week. Just had to whip up a few. I'll post more on them later but man alive, she adds the most festive touch to our family. The girls proclaimed her the "greatest toy ever" last night. She's sure making their halloween fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homemade baking powder

This is the season for baking. I can't help it.

We're still trying to keep it organic and by that, I mean trying to only use food substances that are completely in their purest and natural forms ... or as close as I can get. And, while we are at it, we are working to eliminate any and all corn. Corn rules the world and we are bringing it down. That is unless your a kernel of corn on a cob ... or a hard kernel waiting to be popped. We are a little weak.

Anyway ...

Baking ...

I took a look at my baking ingredients. Did you know that most store bought baking powder is a combination of:

1) Cream of Tarter -- a natural derivative of grape juice.
2) Baking Soda -- sodium bicarbonate which is a natural or chemically produced salt. It can be gotten in the natural form at a specialty shop which cuts out the chemically produced part.
3) Corn Starch for shelf life
4) And some have Aluminum

Wow. That sounds like more than I need.

Here's how to make baking powder which is essential to the rise of baked goods by the deposit of carbon dioxide in the heating process.

2 parts cream of tarter
1 part organic baking soda

Mix it in a ziplock baggie. Use it as you would baking powder measurements in a recipe.

Period. That's it. Be it TBLS or tsp, it's a a 2:1 ratio. Just cuts out the corn folks. And the aluminum.

Which seems pointless.

And a little dangerous if you ask me.

Now, time to bake something to make my kitchen smell fallish.

(Credit: About.com)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's like pulling teeth

Nobody likes shoddy service. But when that happens, I do try to think of the unseen circumstances that might be playing out in that person's life. I mean ... I was a waitress once. Days where I was a crummy waitress were usually a result of a sudden overwhelming influx of tables, failure to be able to keep up, a preoccupied mind or even exhaustion over the menial nature of the job.

Let's take my friend the Tooth Fairy for instance. I'm callin' it like it is .... she's lousy. But maybe she's got good reason.

She started out great around here. She was prompt with the cash and topped the deal off with gum or mints. Those were good days. Then her gum stash depleted.

There followed the days where it became necessary to make excuses for her tardy behavior.
  • Weekends are busy times.
  • She doesn't work on Sundays.
  • It might take her awhile to find our new house.
  • You kids hadn't gone to bed before she made her rounds through our neighborhood.
  • Maybe old age is limiting her ability to carry so many teeth in one night.
  • It could be a vacation day for her, you don't know.
  • Perhaps she had too much to drink last night at a party inhibiting her ability to gather teeth ... followed by a rant regarding the dangers of parties and drinking as a distraction in another direction.
I've quit making excuses for her pathetic work ethic.

Poor toothless Janie. She lost a tooth six weeks ago. It's been on her bedside table for the last little while because she was afraid the Tooth Fairy had been struggling night after night to find the little thing under her pillow. Three days ago, she lost another and it joined the first on the night stand. I offered to save her the trouble and buy them off her since we all know the Tooth Fairy is a lush.

She wouldn't have it.

Last night, as I understand it, the Tooth Fairy had a dream. She dreamed she was waking up in the dark of the morning, swung out of bed to start her day and headed into the bathroom. She flipped on the light and there taped in the middle of the bathroom mirror was a bloody molar.

Nothing like a nightmare to bolt one upright in the dark of the night and send them scrambling with a fist full of cash from the change can on the dresser.

Poor Tooth Fairy.

Maybe she should write reminders on her hand so she will remember as she washes her face before bed at night. (Pay no attention to her dry, chapped hands. She spends her days scrubbing the floors of her molar castle in a very dry climate.)

Then again, maybe she won't see the reminders because she, in reality, is not blinded by drunken partying but rather by exhaustion from science fair projects, relearning algebra, dinner and it's dishes, folding that last load of laundry, helping edit a paper, ensuring that shoes, jackets and backpacks are properly stowed, assembling the next morning's lunches ....

Let's just give her the benefit of the doubt, shall we? Janie sure has. She stopped looking for Tooth Fairy cash about three weeks ago and had to be reminded to check this morning. She said she'd figured the Tooth Fairy was lying dead in a ditch somewhere.

I should have run with that.

I guess now, all that's left is to lower even further the expectations of the remaining children. One who has not lost any teeth yet and one that's only just begun to grow them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Snail Trail

How do you know there's a teething toddler in the house?

Every surface from the knees down has slime and grime across it. It's a cleaning battle I just can't win and a stage that will be over all too soon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What's been keeping me busy lately?

We are volunteer-ers.

Well, actually, I usually just get volunteered.

I've been wanting to teach my oldest daughter to sew.

It's been in my head a long time.

Just not on my calender.

I've tried in the past but when I started, all of my girls wanted to learn and that became chaotic because the younger ones are more challenged and needy than the older.

I'm aware that doesn't sound very nice ... but it's still true.

So, inside, I was at least a little glad when she volunteered me to teach her group of girls at church to sew skirts. Easy enough (0r so I thought).

Four weeks of sewing and sewing and sewing lessons, all of these girls (and those not pictured) successfully had a skirt to wear for their "Modesty Fashion Show" held last night.

The older girls were makeup artists. Some really talented mom's did fabulous hair.

On the way home all she could say over and over again was how pretty she felt and how good it was to have great friends say so.

Does this mean I'm usually too busy helping others to tell my oldest daughter how beautiful she is to me?


I'm so glad these girls know exactly what it takes to be beautiful inside and out.

They put in a lot of hard work and did an amazing job. It was fun, even though I had that frustrated moment when that one tossed her skirt at me mid-construction and announced she was "so over this".

Would I do it again?

You bet.

Last night, as I lay in the dark drifting to sleep in anticipation of a free-er schedule for the next little bit, the man beside me decided it was a good time to speak up.

And inform me that while I was taking pictures of these pretty girls, he volunteered my yard to the scouts for a camp out next weekend.

And volunteered my dining room and cooking skills to the EQ for a dinner party then as well.

I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Because apparently, there is no rest for the wicked.

And I've got a long way to go.