This morning I happened to look at the clock and see that it was four minutes to when my son would need to start putting on his coat to get to the bus. Then I noticed that he wasn’t downstairs yet. That’s right. He’d crawled back into bed after breakfast. He had four minutes to dress, comb his hair, brush his teeth, and hear me yelling.

For anyone who’s ever seen “Finding Nemo”, this is the moment when we put our hand to our forehead, shake our head back and forth and say sadly, “Dude.” Recently went to Disneyworld and sat through “Turtletalk”, so bear with me.

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DH added a channel to the Roku for me and I’m really enjoying it. It’s “An American Homestead”, about two families (three generations) who move to the Ozarks to live as self-sufficiently as possible. It’s been pretty interesting and I’ll have to check out their website (just add “.com” to the name).

DD2 had sewing last night, and one of the teachers taught smocking. The project is to cover a styrofoam egg with smocked gingham. It’ll be really cute and DD is loving it. I tried my hand at it as well, but haven’t got the touch yet. I’m pulling the gathers too tightly. If her egg comes out well, DD plans to do a couple and put them in the fair. she can then do Christmas balls for next year’s fair and for grandmothers for Christmas. I’ve got plenty of beads if she wants to go fancy after practicing a bit.

I was going to place a seed order, but after going through what I have, decided that I could get by with just purchasing some asparagus plants and garlic sets at our local store. Those are now in the basement waiting for the snow to melt and the ground to be workable. I can add a second variety of asparagus next year. My husband and oldest daughter have developed a liking for it. It grew along the roads where my grandmother lived and I loved going out to hunt for it for her. I didn’t eat it – just found it and cut it. It’s all right and I could eat it (and should, to set an example for the other two kidlets), but am sticking to the broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots for now. I barely roast them so that they’re still crunchy. I do not like mushy veg.

I’m hoping to get more produce out of my gardening efforts this year. I protected the apple trees, the grapes should produce (one small cluster last year), and I have plans to try “three sisters” planting with popcorn and green beans – I haven’t decided on whether or not I’ll do the third “sister”. We’re not big on squash. The first two, if you aren’t familiar, are corn with beans planted to climb the stalks (plant when the corn is about 6 inches high). I’ve never tried to grow cauliflower or broccoli either. We’ll see what happens. Last year the popcorn went in a bit late due to a cold spring, then frost came before the popcorn was mature. I would love to get a grow table, but right now there’s just no place to put one.

I’ve been ordering books for home school and think I’m set for next year unless I need a literature book or two. I found teach-yourself algebra, Latin, and Chemistry books along with a geography coloring book. I didn’t see the geography book in person and am slightly disappointed in it (small maps, maps are a little busy), but it has some good information to compliment our textbook and has several flags as well as the maps. We’ll make it work. The algebra and chemistry books will be used alongside regular textbooks. The thinking here is that my daughter does well learning on her own, but a presentation designed for the self-teacher could help clarify more difficult concepts. The Latin is part of her high school veterinary training, so that’s the only book we’ll use. We have several other materials already and some of the literature I have planned is free on her Kindle, some was purchased through library sales.

Our latest library sale yielded a treasure for German class: it’s a sort of travel book on an area in Germany, and the left side of the page is written in German, the right side is in English. She’ll be learning about the country and practicing translation at the same time. It has beautiful photographs as well. She’s done some translating in her German text, but I think this book will need to wait one more year to give her more of a base in vocabulary and grammar.

Part of me would really like to start lesson plans for next year, but the school won’t publish next year’s calendar until May or June, so I’ll have to wait. I keep DD2 on the same schedule as her siblings.

I just got some material washed and it’s waiting to be cut into a shirt for DD2. I try to alternate who I sew for. I did a shirt for DD2, finished DD1’s skirt, now back to DD2. It doesn’t always go this way as sometimes one of them needs quite a bit at one period of time and the other might not need anything. This shirt, and a similar one for DD1 have been in the planning for a couple of years and keep getting put off as they aren’t necessaries. Time to make them a priority. My son mostly wants pajamas. I was about to start a new set for him, when he asked me to wait. He has two old pair on which the pant legs fall mid-calf, but he wants to completely wear them out. No big deal. Toward the end of summer I’ll check in with him. He’s grown about four inches since July and he’s going to need longer pj pants.

Time to go plan some more. I’m not “type A” at all.

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Musings on our Blessings

Yesterday a young man on our street forgot his backpack on the bus home. Not such a calamity in itself until you know that his house key was inside the bag and his parents work until 6pm – the bus drops them off at 2:45pm- and it’s stinking cold outside right now. Fortunately, my oldest daughter walks from the bus with the young man and invited him to wait in our house. I was very glad that she did so as it’s too cold to wait outside one hour, let alone three and a half. It made me realize yet again how fortunate my family is in many ways. This day I was reminded of the blessing of not having to work outside the home. Four out of the five school days, I’m here when my kids get home. The fifth I’m home within an hour at the latest, depending on how my writing students are performing(our home school co-op runs later than public school).

My husband and I have never had to wonder how we would pay the bills or put food on the table. We’ve had debt, but were like minded in paying it off as quickly as possible. My paychecks in those first years went to pay extra on those debts until they were gone. I remember celebrating certain milestones in the savings account that to many would be too small to celebrate. We still prioritize our spending. After twenty years of marriage, we’re just now seriously looking to purchase bedroom furniture for ourselves. Currently, we have a water bed that DH purchased shortly after college, and we have the dresser he grew up with, which is not in wonderful shape. We didn’t do anything previously because we do have something to sleep on and to put our clothing in. The kids didn’t. We had a couch that was held up with a couple of two by fours to make it last until all of the kids were potty trained. I think that reason is self explanatory. So, we do have to consider our large purchases, but we aren’t poor.

We’ve been through occupational therapy with two kids and extensive speech therapy with one, but DH’s employer covered these at 85%. We’ve had counseling sessions for five and half years with our sensory child, but there was some insurance coverage on that, too. Two of the kids have been through braces, and one is yet to have them, but there is a small coverage on those as well as a discount for multiple kids. Everything helps. We’ve been able to pay for these needed services, and it helps that they seemed to stagger a bit. DD2 was able to wait to get braces until after DD1’s were paid off. DD2’s are now paid off before our son is ready for his. DS ended his speech therapy just before DD2 started occupational therapy.

We are in a wonderful church. It’s like going to a (good) family reunion every Sunday. This church body is ready to be there for each other when need arises. That can mean taking a meal to someone who’s ill, cleaning for someone recovering from surgery, helping someone move, praying for each other, and when families have had great need there have been anonymous collections for them. It’s a family by choice, and you can’t help but feel the love. I grew up in a church that was fairly cold, so I do have a frame of reference.

I grew up in a two parent home and so are our children. That’s becoming harder to find. Our family isn’t perfect, but show me one that is. Instead of sending the kids off to summer camps, day or regular, we put the money toward family vacations and have been able to create fantastic memories together. I love seeing new places, but seeing them with the kids seems to make it better.

Our kids have tender hearts. They care about the people around them and each other. No amount of money can create that. They are also not materialistic. Of course they ‘want’ the current gadgets and such, but they don’t beg or whine for them, and don’t complain when these items don’t appear under the Christmas tree. They are truly happy with a stack of paper. One year my son was given a bunch of cardboard for his birthday from my parents (yes, they had asked for ideas and I told them this would be a hit). Mom saved round pieces from frozen pizza, boxes of all shapes and sizes, and added a bit of tape. She had been a little hesitant, not fully trusting that this would be a winner, but the reaction they got proved how much it was appreciated. This crew of mine is truly thankful for the things they have and receive. They also have wonderful imaginations and use them frequently.

Many times I am thankful that we no longer live in the big city areas. It’s good to be in a smaller town with a half acre lot. We’re on a friendly cul-de-sac and our kids can ride their bikes without us feeling the need to watch them constantly. I miss being in the country some times, but never the cities. That was fine when it was just DH and I, but not with a family.

It’s just good to be reminded of the blessings in our lives, big and small.

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It Doesn’t Take That Much More Time

I’ve heard this phrase many times in the past few months and it’s starting to annoy me. I know, it’s hard to imagine me getting annoyed, but just go with it for a minute:)

This worn out phrase is usually spewed out when referring to cooking something from scratch instead of a box/can/packaging of choice. In many cases, it is indeed true that scratch is only a few more minutes. The big BUT here is that the phrase is most commonly being used in the argument to eliminate processed foods from your diet (to be healthier, more self-sufficient, etc.), so you’re not talking about one or two items a week now being made from scratch, but shifting the balance to doing the majority of your cooking and baking from scratch. Five minutes here and there add up quickly.

Plucking a box of frozen waffles from the freezer section of the grocery store takes seconds. My family loves waffles and I started making them from scratch and freezing them three or four years ago. It takes an hour to make one batch, and I’m not consulting a recipe card any more. There are days when I dread that hour, even though I know the waffles are healthier, cheaper, and tastier than those from the store.

Making pizza (with my recipe) includes an hour and a half for the dough to rise, plus the time to make the dough and prep the toppings. That’s much more involved than calling your favorite pizzeria.

Some of my bread recipes tie up several hours. Even quick breads can take an hour or more, prep plus bake time.

Okay – now the argument will come up that you can work on something else while that bread is in the oven, or rising, or while the waffles are in the iron, etc. This is true, but you still answer to the timer, and you have to plan more. You have to either know the recipes decently, or read ahead to know your time frames for prep, rising, etc. then plan accordingly. As a new or expanding scratch cook/baker, you have to learn/hone planning of your tasks. Again, this takes a “just a few extra minutes.”

I do think we Americans eat too much processed food these days and I count myself among the guilty. We don’t yet know the health consequences which are developing from this as it’s a relatively new problem. Those born in the fifties, and part way into the sixties, were still raised with kitchen gardens and scratch cooking. My parents remember that the grocery stores only had produce according to season and canning was huge in their mothers’ kitchens.

I guess the phrase bugs me because over the past few years I have been increasing the items made from scratch and I know how much less time my days have. I would hate for anyone to feel that doing more from scratch is too intimidating to even start, but please don’t trivialize the extra time that will disappear. Many families today hit the drive thru a couple of times a week (I’m being generous here- I know there are some families eating out four or five times a week due to crazy schedules), and cooking anything could be a big change.

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A Disney World Resort Review

We are home after having a wonderful time in Walt Disney World. These people are masters of creating an experience. This is the second time we’ve stayed in a Disney resort. The first was the All Star Music family suite (sleeps six, small kitchen area, two bath), and this time we went with Port Orleans Riverside. We made our choice based on being able to put five in the room and on the lower end of the price scale. After all, we go for the parks, not the hotel experience. The room is just a place to sleep. Plus, staying in the Disney resort adds several perks. This time around we relied on Disney’s transportation, and being a slower visitor time frame it worked out fine.

We were in Alligator Bayou, and the room fit the theme well. Being people who normally sleep with a fan, the ceiling fan was appreciated (not in all of the hotels – probably in this one to fit the theme). The bed which pulled down from the wall was clever, but it only had sheets so we had to specially request a blanket. That was odd to us as the room is made to sleep five, has the extra bed already built it, and we had booked five people in the room. There are drawers underneath the bed which would be perfect for storing that blanket.

Housekeeping let us down. We had five glasses the first night along with disposable cups by the coffee maker. We used all five glasses our first morning there, but only three were replaced. Okay – we used disposables the next day. They weren’t replaced either. We had returned to the room close to midnight after a long sore day at the Magic Kingdom and the last thing I wanted to do was to walk to the front desk. It’s a short hike and my feet were killing me. We probably would’ve just called if something else wasn’t there to report: housekeeping had left a used cleaning glove on my son’s suitcase. So I trekked down to the front desk at midnight, was given disposable cups and asked if I wanted someone to remove the glove. I replied that my son had already thrown it away. I was told this would be passed on to housekeeping, but the word “sorry” or anything close to it was never uttered.

Housekeeping never did take our glass number back up to five, nor did they replace any of the cups. They also moved my husband’s suitcase clear across the room. We stay very contained and picked up in hotels. We even put all of the used towels in a pile. There’s no need for anyone to have to move our things to clean, and when I briefly cleaned rooms for a hotel I was told that you only touch the customer’s items when you absolutely have to (they left something on the bed and you have to make it up), and when you have to move something to clean, you put it back when you finish the task.

Cups may seem like a small issue, but my family members (major sensory issues at play here) have to have cups for brushing their teeth, and it’s a standard thing that I don’t want to have to worry about when we’re only in the room to sleep a few hours then get up and do another park.

Another note as to how well housekeeping does their job: major dust was in the corner of the shelf near the bathroom sink, and an orange soap wrapper was left in the corner between the sink and the bathroom until I picked it up three days after I saw it (again – we make sure our trash gets into the cans, and I was the one unwrapping the soap. I purposely left it until the last day to see if housekeeping would do their job.

At the end of our stay, when we would normally decide how much of a tip we would be leaving, I instead left a note explaining why there was no monetary tip. Tips are for jobs done well. This person didn’t even meet the minimum requirements. Fortunately, we weren’t there for the hotel experience or the disappointment would have been much greater. Save your high expectations for the parks.

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Our house is in waiting mode. I think all of us are a little bit on vacation already, reliving our last trip to DisneyWorld in anticipation of this trip. DD2 is, fortunately, two days ahead on schoolwork, so she is currently doing the work for the two days we’ll be gone. DD1 got her math make up work done, but that’s all she’s been given thus far. DS hasn’t been given any assignments to do ahead, so it will be fun to catch up. He hates homework.

DD1 is delivering a literature opt-out form to her teacher today. There is more for us to do with it, but the teacher has to put her say on it first. The class is American Literature and the approaching book is The Grapes of Wrath. I had read it twenty years ago (after college) and had already prepped DD for the ending (Rosasharn allowing a starving man to nurse). Then I started to re-read the novel to make sure that was all. I read most of the books that will be assigned unless I know them well. The book is full of foul language and sexual references. I got half way through chapter ten and pointed some things out to DH. We both concluded that I’d read enough. I quoted three parts on the form, which took up a little more room than I was supposed to, but I wanted to be clear that I’m not just an overly conservative mom. I ended by pointing out that according to the school’s handbook, a student could be disciplined for uttering the dialogues I had quoted. I’ve asked DD to let me know if the atmosphere from the teacher toward her changes. This wasn’t her decision and it’s not her fight. I had initially said I didn’t mind DD being in the class discussions as the broad topic of the dust bowl era is a worthy one to explore (and I trust they wouldn’t be swearing, blaspheming and talking about sex), but apparently if you opt out of the physical book, you’re shunned. We’ll see what happens.

I’m trying to decide which novels to put together for DD2 next year. It will be easier if I can find out if she wants to do American Lit or Brit/World Lit for English class. She’s not enjoying Great Expectations, so I think I’ll skip Charles Dickens when we do Brit Lit. She also read A Christmas Carol last year, so she’s been exposed. I’ll admit that there are only a couple of his books that I truly enjoyed. She already knows that her American Lit class will not include The Great Gatsby (one big drunken party) or The Grapes of Wrath. I try to have her read what her sister is assigned in public school, but only to a point. There is so much truly good literature out there that there is no need to waste time with trash.

The goals for the year are coming along slowly, but they’re still alive. I put new elastic on two fitted sheets for the girls. The material on the sheets is still good for a few more years, so I didn’t want to just pitch the sheets. I rummaged in the scrap fabric and made casings for the elastic, then rummaged in the elastic stash for the 1/4 inch elastic. They have other sheets on which the elastic wore out, so depending on how these re-done sheets fit, I may go ahead and give them all new life. I hate the thought of throwing them out when the material itself is still in decent shape. It’s too wasteful. I need to make myself one or two dress shirts (I found a pattern I like), and I promised shirts to the girls a while back.

I got my beads more organized. I took advantage of a JoAnn’s coupon and bought plastic bead containers. It didn’t take care of all of my stash, but helped tremendously. If I’m going to continue with beading, I’d better get organized now while the amount isn’t overwhelming. DD2 wanted to do the organizing, but that was part of the fun for me. She has a whole room full of stuff that could be organized.

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Day to Day Things

It was so wonderful to get things back to normal last week with school starting again and DH back to work. I need my routines. The biggest cleaning thing I’ve done so far (other than daily needs) is to go through the home school cupboard. I purged a bit more than a grocery sack’s worth of books. Some were subjects I had multiple books for, some I just changed my mind about. Those went back to the library for their next sale. Yes, I’ll be attending the next one as there are several literature books still on my wish list, and I’ll scan for interesting text books to make available for electives. DD2 is reading through a college oceanography book this year. I don’t give her any assignments from it as it is an elective, and my philosophy is that not every extra has to be graded. I want to keep her spark for learning from dying out due to too many ‘end of chapter questions’.

I took some time to try a new beading project. DD2 and I got some interesting craft books from the library last week (I know – too many interests!), and one bead book had a butterfly made with a brick stitch. It was so much fun to make, and my sensory side liked playing with the wings before I put it together. I strung a simple necklace and attached the butterfly to it. It will be a fun accessory for our Disney trip and I won’t care too greatly if it breaks or something else happens, as I can make a new one. I may make similar items for the girls for Christmas next year. The butterfly would look great on a barrette.

I’ve also been doing a little sitting on the hind end. I’ve been tired. It could be recovery from the holidays, fighting off the ‘crud’ that’s running around town, my thyroid (just got a higher prescription two days ago), or just plain laziness. There are many days on which I feel good to get the laundry, dishes, and food taken care of. That takes a lot of time right there.

We’ve tried out a few new recipes and have more scheduled into the menu. I’m also trying to fit more breads in to the meals as my kids’ appetites are befitting these growing years. My oldest has been trying new things and now loves cauliflower and broccoli. I don’t like cooked vegetables – too mushy – but I toss these two with carrots and sometimes asparagus and olive oil, salt and pepper then bake for just a few minutes. The greens brighten and the veg’s are still crunchy enough for me. The younger two won’t try this yet, but maybe after seeing it on the table several times they’ll start to cave. We’ve tried several root veg and some squash, but none of us have really loved any of those yet. We’ll just keep trying new things here and there. It’s hard for me to do, but with at least one of my kids asking to try new things it’s a little easier.

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