Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Today's Parenting

I'm a bit proud of how today turned out. I knew we had a lot of cleaning and sorting that needed to be done, and I knew that Katie and Maggie were not going to be happy about doing them, especially with all the new toys and gadgets to play with. So, I decided to make it a game.

I made a list of easy chores, cut them out and put them in one bowl. Then I made a list of the hard chores (clean play-room, clean out Sadie's pen, sort socks, sort puzzles) and cut them out and put them in another bowl. Then I started a list of fun things to do.

Katie and Maggie had to draw one chore at a time from the easy chores and get them all done before moving onto the hard chores. If they got through both bowls without whining or screaming, then we would do the stuff on the fun list. And, while they were working on their lists, I had to do my own mega-list, try to keep Natalie safe*, and give Lainie manageable chores, too.

So what did they get done? Laundry washed, dried, and sorted; dishwasher unloaded three times today; books picked up from all bedrooms, living room, playroom, and foyer; all beds made; both K and M/L's bedrooms picked up; bathrooms cleaned; and trashed picked up. They also played with Sadie, cleaned the poo out of her pen, sorted a huge stack of puzzles, and helped sort socks. Lainie helped me clean up and organize the play room, and helped with the dishes. And I got all the laundry put away, the laundry room cleaned, the kitchen cleaned, Christmas decorations (except tree) put away, and playroom really cleaned. No screaming and no whining, too! So, we made a Sonic run during Happy Hour, two girls got rainbow baths, and I painted everyone's fingernails tonight. Tomorrow, we will make some shrinky-dinks and do a Wii tourney, maybe even paint a picture or two. Best of all, our house is all ready for a New Years shindig.

*but the failure of the day was keeping Natalie safe. She tried to stand on the footstool that goes with our glider rocker, and hit the floor face-first. By her scream, I knew something was wrong so I picked her up and took her to the kitchen for inspection. (This is the part that makes me laugh.) She was snuggled into my shoulder, so I turned backwards and asked Jay if there was any blood. He said, "No, not yet anyway." So I turned her around and pulled her off my shoulder, only to see my shirt, her shirt, and her face covered with blood. So much for asking for Daddy's input! (In his defense, she was snuggled into my shoulder and hiding her mouth.) Long story short, she bit through her tongue in four spots, all pretty deep, but all stopped bleeding after a couple minutes. She didn't want to eat supper, but loved that slushy from Sonic.

No permanent damage, thankfully, unlike Lainie's nose-slam on Sunday. Did I mention that it's possible she broke her nose on a Sunday morning fall? It's not crooked enough to worry about a doc visit and it's not affecting her breathing or anything, but it is a lovely shade of purple.

So, yes, we earned 1 Parenting Point for getting the girls to do chores without whining, but we lose 2 Parenting Points for battle scars from the week. Maybe tomorrow's goal should be to pad the living room for the week.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Speak Up!

Natalie doesn’t say a lot; at least, she doesn’t say much that we can understand. But tonight she made herself perfectly clear.

We drove around town tonight to look at Christmas lights, and the big girls (Katie, Maggie, Lainie) were singing Christmas carols the entire way. If you know anything about kids and carols, you know that there is only one volume at which they sing: LOUD. Throughout the singing, Natalie sat silently in her seat, to the point that I thought she was asleep. But, after about 15 minutes, Natalie yelled at the top of her lungs, as clear as can be, “HUSH!” only it was more like


I laughed so hard, I had tears in my eyes. I guess she wanted a Silent Night after all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What a difference

I know it's a cliche, but what a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, I was recovering from thyroid surgery, working at K-State. Now, I'm healthy, still not needing thyroid supplement (the half left is carrying the load), and halfway done with my LPN degree. I miss many aspects of K-State, but I also believe if I had stayed, the job would have drained me and I would have drained those around me. I am happy and scared with my career change, and hoping the next year and a half go quickly and smoothly.

It was a big year for our family. Last spring, Jay was laid up with osteomyelitis. His foot doesn't hurt him now, which I think is amazing, considering how significant the surgery and infection was. I just think how grateful I am for my cousin, who convinced us to get it check out. The "what if's" if we had waiting another week or two or three..... I shudder to think.

Lainie continues to make big progress. When she started speech at K-State, she was 2 years 10 months and her expressive language was assessed at 1 year 10  months. Now, she at 4 years 7 months, her expressive language is at 4 years 2 months. She's worked hard to get to where she's at; we all have. Her articulation is still in the 6th percentile and will be the focus for the next few years. But, she's doing well and can now communicate with us, when she wants to.

Maggie has matured so much this year. She is still boisterous, exuberant Maggie, but she has learned how to control herself in most situations. She is still naturally loud, but can be quiet if need be. Her speech, too, has made incredible bounds. She can now make the s and sh and ch and th sounds on command, even though she still slips up in conversation. I continue to be amazed at the power of speech therapy!!

Natalie-new is almost two. She is onery, to say the least. She came in the kitchen the other day, mad at her sisters, with her little arms crossed and her lip out. She stomped her little foot and pointed. Maybe I'm grateful she's not talking, because she had nothing nice to say that day! She is talking, when she wants to. She skipped saying individual words and jumped right now 2 and 3 word phrases. I'm not sure if it's 4th-child-itis or a speech delay, but I think we have enough IEPs to carry us for now. Besides, as the story above shows, she communicates her wants and needs in her own way.

And Katie...my little girl is becoming a pre-teen. Someone told me that adolescent girls where high-heels in the daytime and cuddle their teddy bear at night. That pretty much sums up what stage she's in, half-little girl, half-grown. It scares me to realize how quickly she's grown. SLOW DOWN, I want to scream. But time doesn't slow, so I best make the most of the time I get with her. It feels like if I blink, she'll be too old to bother with annoying mom anymore.

What else happened this year? Buster, our chocolate lab, died. A few months later, we got Sadie. She has been a really good dog. She still jumps, but that's to be expected out of any 5-month-old dog with lab and weimaraner in her. We also finally managed to keep some cats around, with four yellow cats taking up residents near Sadie's pen.

The garden business continues to grow, literally and figuratively. Jay bought a greenhouse and has it mostly installed; it's just lacking one more set of supports and plastic. That brings the total to 1 greenhouse, 3 high tunnels, and 2 mobile high tunnels.

And I'd say that about wraps up my version of a Christmas letter this year. Some day this week, I hope to get the girls to sing a Christmas song, but since I lost my camera, that might be a bit trickier than usual. You might have to settle for their picture, instead.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Roberta's Sloppy Joes

Since I got to do homage to my Grandma Pete in the last post, I thought I'd honor someone else's mom in this one. No, it's not my grandmother-in-law, Roberta, although she's sent me some fabulous recipes. This recipe comes from my August-Mom friend Sue, straight from her mom's recipe cards. And every time I make it, someone asks for the recipe. Super easy, super yummy, super sloppy. :)

Roberta's Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pound ground beef
3/4 cup ketchup
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry yellow mustard
1 bag frozen corn (that's my mom's addition...gotta have corn in sloppy joes)
Hamburger buns

Brown the beef and drain off any grease.
Add all other ingredients and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for 20 minutes and serve -- OR -- spoon the meat mixture into a crockpot and cook on low for 2-4 hours.
Serve on hamburger buns.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Broccoli Soup

Well, after that last post, there was a fight in our fridge. Seems that broccoli felt a bit bent out of shape and cauliflower getting all the attention. And so, to make peace within the cruciferous family, here is my absolutely favorite broccoli recipe, via my never-forgotten Grandma Pete:

Grandma Pete's Broccoli Cheese Soup 
(makes enough for 8-10 people)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 Tablespoons onion, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 12-oz package frozen broccoli OR 1 head fresh broccoli, chopped and steamed (I use the Ziploc steam bags)
  • 8-oz package wavy wide egg noodles
  • 6 cup milk
  • pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound Velveeta, chopped
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Add onions and saute until translucent.
  3. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli:
    • If using frozen broccoli, add it and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. 
    • If using fresh broccoli, steam it in the microwave.  Add it to the saucepan and immediately go to the next step.
  6. Add the milk, pepper, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Add the Velveeta and cook until cheese is melted, stirring occasionally.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cauliflower Soup

I'm borrowing this from Pioneer Woman. I haven't tried many of her recipes, but if all are as good as this one, then I'm game!

FYI, if you want some fresh, locally grown cauliflower, carrots and bok choy, you can order it through our CSA at http://www.rvp.locallygrown.net/

Cauliflower Soup
  • 1-2 heads cauliflower, chunked
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks bok choy or celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablepoons dried or fresh parsley
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 4 (more) tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter or margarine.
  2. Add the onion and stir until translucent.
  3. Add the carrots and bok choy. Stir for 2-3 minutes, until they start to soften.
  4. Add the cauliflower and stir together.
  5. Add the parsley and (again) stir.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to simmer.
  8. In a separate saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter.
  9. While that is melting, in a separate bowl, whisk together milk and flour. (I used my salad dressing mixer and it worked great! Just don't forget to relieve the pressure after mixing it; otherwise the lid pops off the top and across the room. It was pretty cool, but... back to the recipe)
  10. Add the milk/flour mixture to the melted butter, making a white sauce. Stir constantly while it thickens.
  11. Add half-and-half to the white sauce.
  12. Pour the white sauce into the cauliflower pan and stir until well combined.
  13. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two meals in one

With our crazy schedule and limited income, we are all about re-using leftovers in some creative way. Some of them don't work and end up being dumped. Others, like these three recipes, are definite repeats.

Day 1: Pork and Beans
  • 1 pound ham hocks
  • 1 16-oz bag pinto beans
  • 6 cups water
  1. Add all three ingredients to a very large crock pot. (Keep in mind the beans will more than double in size while they cook.)
  2. Turn on high for 8-10 hours, until beans are soft.
  3. Serve with warm cornbread... at least that's how we do it in our house.

Simple, right? Now, expect leftovers and use them in this recipe:

Day 2: Taco Soup
  • 1-2 cup leftover pinto beans with ham pieces (be sure to remove any bone)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 package Taco Bell taco seasoning
  • 1 bag frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips, optional
  1. Cook the ground beef thoroughly.
  2. Mix together, in a large saucepan, the beef, beans/ham, taco seasoning, corn, and bell pepper. Cook on medium heat until the corn in cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  3. Serve topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips.