Monday, November 30, 2009

The cookie jar

We have... had... a Santa shaped cookie jar. I hated it. First off, it was ugly. Second, it had a sensor that made it say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" incredibly loudly if anyone so much as jostled the lid. Even with duct tape on the speaker and ancient batteries you could hear that thing go off anywhere in the house. And third, it was irregularly shaped both inside and out, with lots of little nooks and crannies that made it almost impossible to clean.

Today, as we were bringing the first of the Christmas boxes out of the basement, I broke it. I broke the hinge on the lid, and apparently I broke the electronics too. And Zoe cried and cried and cried when I threw it away.

I promised her I'd buy her a new cookie jar. A new Santa-shaped cookie jar that talked if we could find one. She was not the least bit consoled. She loves THAT jar. That hideous, annoying, plastic monstrosity of a jar. Sigh.

But I did not dig it out of the trash. I just couldn't. I will find her one that she loves just as much if not more. A nice quiet one with smooth insides that I can get clean so I don't have to worry about putting cookies in it after it's been in the basement for a year. And I will fill it with cookies. I promise.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life is pretty good today and I have much to be thankful for. I hope all of you are having a wonderful day, too.

Quinn changed his mind about the diapers, but he did have a few non-accidents and overall, I am happy with the progress. He'll do it when he's ready.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Literacy night

Last night the elementary school had their annual literacy night. We had such a nice time! Zaven and Caly were at their teen mentoring program, so it was just me and Scott and Zoe and Quinn. The kids and I ate first, because the school was serving chili which the kids won't eat (and I can't have because of my food allergies). So when we got there, we regitered for door prizes then the principal gave each kid a set of those plastic letterst that you put on your fridge. Then we went in and went to the book table. There were dozens of brand new books that they were giving away. It was supposed to be one per student, but they let Quinn pick one out, too. Then we went to the cafeteria. Scott got four bowls of chili since there were four of us. He hadn't had lunch and he ate ALL of it! THe kids and I snacked on raw carrots and cookies while he ate.

Then we went to the Scholastic book fair. Zoe spent her allowance (she gets only 50 cents a week but she saves it up). She had $5 and she bought a book about cats and dogs for herself and then picked out a sale book to buy Caly for Christmas. I thought that was so nice of her. I got a book too, a nice hardback picture book about bats playing in the library at night. I spent $16. Then we listened to a few stories being read.

The door prizes were getting ready to be announced and we didn't want to leave until then (just in case we won), so we walked around a bit. When we passed back by the table with the free books they told us that they had a lot left over and to come pick out any we wanted. So Zoe and I picked out more books. We got some for her to give to Zaven and Quinn for Christmas so now all her shopping is done.

Then they called the winners for the door prizes. We didn't win any, but then they said that a few winners hadn't been present so they were going to draw for those prizes again. Quinn won a $10 gift card to a local Mexican restaurant! I went ahead and gave it to Scott since it expires before Christmas, but I'm still counting that as Quinn giving a present to his dad, LOL.

All in all it was a great night. We only spent $21 (including Zoe's allowance) and got back a set of alphabet magnets, 10 brand new books, and a $10 gift card, plus all that free chili that Scott ate. And the money we spent helps earn free books for the school library.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Money -- wish I had more.

Financially, the last month has been good in some ways, not so good in others. All my Christmas shopping is done, I didn't go spend crazy at all last month, and I got back on track with my coupons. All in all, we made big progress on reducing our spending. On the down side, we didn't make nearly as much money as we did before Scott stopped teaching. So despite spending less, we're not saving more. :( On top of that I still sit here with a busted TV. If I buy a new one, I will not be able to pay cash. But TV is the one thing Scott really enjoys at the end of the day. I could live without it and just watch shows online. Scott hates that. So I think we'll be buying one soon. Thankfully, this is the time of year for good deals on TV's. I just hope it's a REALLY good deal.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm so impressed.

You guys won't be impressed. You have no idea how much of a mess my kitchen was before we started cleaning and even if you did, you'd probably just be disturbed that someone you know is that much of a slob. But I am impressed. My kitchen is so clean that it has an echo. An honest to God echo. Of course I keep noticing small things that didn't get done. And I should clean the windows and inside the microwave. But man it is SO much nicer than it was. Now I just have to do the rest of the house, LOL.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tired, but happy.

Today has been so tiring. Scott took Zoe and Quinn's to his mom's house this weekend so the bigger kids and I could try to get caught up on some of the cleaning that needed to be done. I spend a lot of time cleaning... but so much of the time it doesn't really get clean. Not like it should, at least. First off there's the usual business of trying to put things away with a toddler around. I pick up, but Quinn follows behind and takes things right back out. Then there's the fact that I am seriously allergic to dust. Housecleaning literally makes me sick. If I do too much at once, I have trouble breathing. Then there's the fact that there are six of us living here. That means that every day I need to do at least a load of dishes and a load of laundry just to keep up. That's not progress, that's just maintenance. Finally, there's the shopping, doctors appointments, errands, and extracurricular activities of a family with both teens and toddlers. I spend a lot of time in the car. So most of the cleaning I do is just trying to keep things from getting worse, not actually making them better.

But today... that was real progress. Zaven and Caly and I decided to pick one room (the kitchen) and spend the weekend on it. We picked the kitchen. Today we cleaned out the fridge, the freezer, the deep freeze, the top of the dryer (where for some reason all the odds and ends collect), under the table (where we tend to shove stuff to get it out of the way), and the pile of laundry in the corner. The kitchen ISN'T clean yet. We still have more laundry to do, a few more dishes to do, the stove top, and a few boxes in the corner. But man it is SO much nicer. Plus I now know exactly what's in the freezer. I have it organized and we got rid of some things that had been in there forever.

So I'm really tired, really happy, and not so exhausted that I can't finish it up tomorrow. Sure it's just one room. But by the end of the weekend it will be one really clean room. And since it was the worst mess of any room in the house, it feels really good to finally get it the way it should be. Hopefully it will be progress that we can maintain and build on.

Meanwhile, things seem to be going well with the meal planning. Weekends are harder to plan for, but I'd expected that. We tend to juggle our schedule a lot on the weekends, so we've not stuck to the plan exactly. But weekdays have been pretty successful. The only weekday that we didn't stick with the play was Thursday. The kids had picked that day for Scott to make a Pork Roulade, mostly because Zaven and Caly knew they'd be at their Teen Mentoring program during dinner and they wouldn't have to eat it. The both tolerate it, but they don't love it. Scott and I think they're nuts, LOL. Anyhow, Scott and I were both super tired Thursday, plus we had a fridge full of leftovers. So we decided to save the ingredients for later and just finish off some of the things in the fridge. Since I'm new to the planning, I forgot to have a day or two each week for leftovers. I'll remember next time. The one thing I really like about the meal planning is that it makes shopping simpler. I can take a copy of the meal plan with me to the store and make sure I have all the ingredients for the next week. Hopefully it will soon mean fewer shopping trips as I'm able to stock up on sale items and save them for the upcoming dinners. That would be a huge plus to me. Another good thing is that because I posted the plan in the kitchen, Scott, Zaven, and Caly are all able to go ahead and start dinner if I'm busy with Zoe or Quinn. We're getting dinner done a little earlier than we used to this way, and we're definitely eating a more balanced diet.

So probably none of that was of any interest to you guys at all. But I promise some really fun pictures of the kids soon. Quinn was dressing up the other day. I got the best pictures, but I haven't loaded them onto the computer yet. I will though. And they'll be worth the wait.

Friday, November 13, 2009


It worked! The car is working again! I just love my husband. He's so wonderful.

Cross your fingers

It looks like Scott's car may be an easy fix. Well, I say that because I'm not the one fixing it. So let me rephrase. It looks like Scott will be able to fix his car without spending a ton of money. He found a $10 part that's broken. It's job is to not let the car start unless it's got the clutch depressed. The sensor is messed up so that it always thinks the clutch isn't being pressed so the car can never start. Hopefully, that's all it is. Of course it took him 2 and a half hours to find the sensor, but you have to love a man that knows how to fix things. It would have cost a fortune to pay a mechanic. He says that it should be easy to reassemble now that he knows what went wrong. So once the part comes in (this afternoon) he should have it up and running pretty quick. IF that was the only thing wrong. So cross your fingers, folks. I need the luck.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The good and the bad

First for the bad news. The TV isn't worth fixing. The part needed costs more than a new one. So that pretty much means we won't be watching much TV the next few weeks. I do want to get one, and I do want a nice big expensive one. If I have a big one, I'm less likely to go to the movies. Taking a family of six to the movies every other week for a year would cost over $1000 just for the tickets. Add in popcorn and sodas and gas to get there and the price skyrockets. I'd rather take that same money and buy a TV, pay for satellite service, some redbox rentals, and some popcorn I popped on the stove. But it's gonna bite having to come up with the money.

The good news is that Zaven got his ACT scores back and he did quite well. I'm not gonna post them here because they're his to brag about, but I'm happy and proud of him. Hopefully, this will mean the chance to go to a nice school and maybe get some scholarships to help pay for it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I must be jinxed.

Last week our television quit. It suddenly went black right while I was watching. It still had sound, but no picture. Of course it is JUST out of warrantee. I've called the local repair place but haven't been able to speak to an actual person. Maybe the guy who runs it is busy making repairs? But no luck even on getting an estimate of how much it would cost to fix.

Then today, I had some errands to run in Lexington. It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day. Perfect weather. Scott had wanted to take the kids to his mom's house so we traded cars. His car doesn't have enough room for all four of them. He headed south, and I headed north in his car. I did all my shopping, then turned around to head home. And at one of the intersections his car stalled and died. And it would not start. Of course the traffic was flying up behind me and swerving at the last minute to avoid me and scaring me to death. Finally someone stopped to help me push it out of the road. There was no way I was going to try and push it out by myself since that would have meant standing beside the car to steer while pushing. The traffic was way too scary for that. I had my cell phone and called Scott. He was of course at his mom's house, hours away. But he called a friend who came to pick me up. Then he called a different friend who had a roll-back truck that could carry the dead car home. We still have no idea what's wrong with it. I hope it's cheap to fix, though. If not, we won't be able to afford it.

On the plus side, if I had to be stuck at the side of the road for an hour, it was at least a nice day to be outside.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Meal planning

Well, I've never been a big believer in meal planning. At least, not for our family. In the first place, our lives are very unscheduled. I try hard to keep things organized, but Scott doesn't work a nine to five job, and even when he did he always had a variety of other obligations that meant that I never knew exactly when he was going to be home at the end of the day. And even more difficult than that to overcome is my crazy 3rd-grade taste buds. I have the dietary cravings of an 8 year old. I want the same lunch every day (and HAD the same lunch every day for about 12 years or more), don't like veggies at all, can't stand my foods touching each other... It's nuts. I'm trying hard to expand my choices, and over the years I've been somewhat successful. But even so, I am insanely picky. Add to that that I have a four page list of foods I'm allergic to and you have a real problem with menu planning. So when I look at the monthly meal plans you see in magazines, they're always filled with things that I can't imagine ever wanting to eat.

Of course the problem is that I have a family and even if I can't stand a wide variety, they need it. Scott will eat anything. ANYTHING. 'Possums, skunk, groundhog, rattlesnake, alligator, buffalo, octopus... the list goes on. Whenever our kids were scared of monsters, we'd always reassure them that if a monster did show up, Daddy would put a pat of butter on it's head and swallow it whole. And they always accepted that as a reasonable solution to the problem. Problem solved. Daddy will eat the monster. He eats everything else, so why not?

The kids don't eat quite the same variety that Scott does. Who does? Yet they're much more open to new foods than I am. But whenever life gets hectic or I get sick (and I've been sick all week) somehow we end up having spagetti every night for dinner. It's the fall back food. Zero variety.

So last night I finally caved. I made a list of everything that I like to eat. Then I had Scott and the kids add anything else they could think of to it. I was surprised to realize that there is a lot more variety in our diets than I realized. The problem is not that we don't have any options. There were dozens of things on the list. The problem is that we don't keep the ingredients for those options on hand all the time, or we run out of time to shop or cook. Spagetti is fast. Dinner is ready in 15 minutes. But with a tiny bit of planning we can have other things ready nearly as fast.

So I typed our list onto a spread sheet and broke the foods down into the basic food groups (plus an extra list of casseroles and one course dinners), then printed it off. I also printed a blank monthly calendar and we've spent the past couple of evenings picking out dinner for each weeknight for the next month. Right now, I'm not bothering with breakfasts or lunches because usually that's just Quinn and I. The older three kids all eat at school and I never know if Scott will be home for lunch. Plus Scott is a great cook and more than able to whip himself up a better lunch than I can manage. I'm also not making any weekend plans because I never know if we'll even be home on the weekends. Our extended families both live in the same town about an hour and a half away. We never know which weekends we'll be visiting until the last minute so I feel like it's OK to wait on those plans until we have a little more info.

All in all, I'm happy with the progress. None of the meals are very fancy, and right now I'm happy if there's at least one veggie served and I'm not worrying about keeping it perfectly balanced with low saturated fats and whole grains and organic foods. Anything's got to be better than spagetti 4 nights in a row, right? For me, the goal is to just try to do a bit better than we have been. The rest will come in time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My minions

Caly recently started calling Zoe her minion. I always thought of a minion as the follower to an evil leader, but when I looked it up for her, this is what I found:

minion  /ˈmɪnyən/ –noun

1. a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power.
2. a favored or highly regarded person.
3. a minor official.
4. dainty; elegant; trim; pretty.
5. a dependent
6. a darling

Word Origin & History

1501, "a favorite; a darling; a low dependant; one who pleases rather than benefits" [Johnson], from M.Fr. mignon "a favorite, darling" (n.), also "dainty, pleasing, favorite" (adj.), from O.Fr. mignot, perhaps of Celt. origin (cf. O.Ir. min "tender, soft"), or from O.H.G. minnja, minna "love, memory." Used without disparaging overtones 16c.-17c.

What does this mean to me? Well... it looks like I can honestly claim to have minions. At least four of them, anyway. I've always wanted minions.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

We had such a lovely weekend. The weather didn't want to cooperate. It had rained all Saturday morning. But it cleared off in time for trick-or-treat. We had to have the kids wear some extra layers under their costumes, but it all worked out.

This was an exciting year for our kids. Zaven was away for the weekend with Upward Bound. They went to Columbus, Ohio for two days, to an amazing science museum, and to a live production of Young Frankenstein. Zaven was excited to see the musical because the movie is one of his favorites.

Meanwhile, the rest of us headed to Somerset to visit with relatives and trick-or-treat there. Scott's sister was visiting with her family, so Zoe was thrilled to be able to trick-or-treat with her cousin William, who is just a few years older than she is. It was also a treat for Caly because William's older sister Heather was there. Heather is 20 this year and she and Caly have just started to make a real connection. After they'd helped take the little ones trick-or-treating, we let the two girls walk downtown for some festivities going on there. Caly was really excited to be off on an adventure on Halloween. Because we so often trick-or-treat out of town, she doesn't get to wander with friends and she's missed that feeling of independence and playful mischief that so many of us associate with being a young teenager at Halloween.

Of course the biggest treat this year was Quinn's first fully-aware Halloween. He's dressed up every year but he didn't have any idea what it meant or that there was candy involved. This year he knew that people were doing unusual things and that he was wearing a costume, and he was able to say trick-or-treat and understood that doing so got him candy. He was in seventh heaven. He was not the least bit scared of all the costumes and decorations, and he loved the walking at night and going door to door. He was even patient about waiting until we'd gotten home to dip into his pumpkin basket of candy, and he only took a little prompting to say thank you at each house, although sometimes he said it in Chinese (a trick he learned from the TV show Ni-hao Kilan). At one point in the night he started shouting "Awesome!" after he got his candy. But the kicker was today. He came to give me a tight hug and then stopped to look in my eyes and told me, "I love." Then he hugged me again. "I love." Then he hugged me one more time for all he was worth, stopped and looked in my eyes, "I love Halloween."