Monday, February 25, 2013

Greatest Hits

In bullet point fashion, here are the highlights of the past couple of weeks:

*Sitting in Pizza Hut, watching the boys sit at their own table with high chairs, and suddenly having a vision of them all sitting around together chatting at a teenagers...

*Learning about rocks, learning about commas, doing math.  There are days that I want to do my own thing, for sure, but I feel so privilaged to get to be home with my kids- teaching them and learning at the same time.  And I am learning a lot more than tidbits from their books.  I am learning a great deal about giving up my own wants, looking at the bigger picture and constantly trying to find balance. 

*taking the boys tubing at a local hill.  Yes, paying to go tubing is kind of a rich suburbanite kind of thing, but it was fun and a good "once a season" experience.

*Playing a new game called "Pandemic".  It is a collaberative game, which I normally hate, but I actually enjoy this one!

*Making our e-meals.  Lets see, we have been eating stuff like apple/coconut salad, cherry/pecan compote , basil coconut chicken alfredo and stuffed peppers.  All of the recipes have been really good.  Eating a paleo diet is expensive, I will say that, but for now it is ok to be spending a little more.

*Trying to get caught up on photo books for the kids.  It is an ambitious project, but I am hoping by the end of the summer I will be caught up.

*Accepting holidays from work.  I got to stay home a couple of shifts in the last month, and that has been priceless for maintaining my sanity.

*Practicing for standardized tests. They stress me out. A lot.

*Running on the treadmill.  Noah and I are both running, getting ready for a race in April.  Today we start a "family vacation to Cairo" through our Y.  No, we are not really going to Cairo, but we have 5 weeks to put in miles toward our destination.  We have over 6,000 miles to go.  Thankfully the walking/running miles count as 33 miles each, but are still talking about 35-40 hours of running/walking a week (we can get points for other things as well, but they don't add up as quickly).  The boys are participating as well, and we made them each put a mile in tonight.

*Watching Deacon and Roman take a water sports class in which they had to participate in a synchronized swimming routine. Priceless.

* Rockclimbing!  I got to go out with some friends for a night of climbing.  It was great fun and inspired me to take the kids climbing at the Y a couple times recently.  I would like to take them more regularily and I would like to try to climb more myself.  What a great workout and a fun challenge.

*Coaching basketball.  Well, Noah has been coaching Lincoln's Kindergarten basketball team.  They are both so cute out there :)  Deacon has made huge improvements over the last few years, and it is fun to see him develop his game.

*Cheering on the boys as they made their first stop motion video with the help of their dad.  They are so proud!

*Sledding down a neighborhood hill.  We got in the van and ROMAN said "That was really fun, even if I did have to pee the whole time."  You have no idea how huge of a thing it was to have Roman voluntarily be positive!  Totally a winning family activity day.  And I can not even begin to tell you how impressed we were that Deacon could consistently make it down the hill upright and on his snowboard, that Lincoln determined to go over every jump, and that little Ba carried her own sled up that hill, one tiny boot step at a time.  Everyn only cried when I accidentally tipped over her sled and she got snow on her face.  What a trooper :) 

*Contemplating spring, yard plans, new wardrobes and a running wheel for the Burley!  I've been dreaming about my roller blades and can't wait for the warm weather to hit!

Well, time to get banana bread out of the oven and get a little sleep before a new day starts!

I have a lot of "QOTDs" to share...maybe tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flat Tire and M&Ms Part 3

When we last talked, I was in a Walmart parking lot with 5 children on a cold day in January.  I had a flat tire.

Well, I did the first thing any girl would do.  I called Noah.  Of course, he wasn't at his desk and so I got his voicemail, the voicemail message that I always hear when I have a crisis.  Somehow or other he is only at his desk when I call him about something mundane like a child vomiting or throwing things.  Never-ever is he at his desk when I am lost or have a flat tire.

(This is untrue.  More than once I've guided her in real time like a spy movie - her driving the van, me navigating the satellite images on Google Maps. -NB)

After that I did the next thing any girl would do, I called my Dad.  As I dialed the phone I realized something: Walmart has an automotive dept.  Yes, it was at the other end of the parking lot, but it was there.  I talked to my Dad and got the number for Walmart's automotive dept.  My mom was willing to drive up, but just getting the tire fixed sounded easier than waiting for her and moving carseats around.

I got connected with the service center and told the girl that I had a flat tire in the parking lot, and was there anyway that someone could come out and put air in it or something?  I mentioned something about how bad could it be just to drive on it across the parking lot?  Clearly I don't understand the destruction driving on a flat tire can cause; I could tell that from the horrified expression in her voice.  Clearly she doesn't understand that in situations involving 5 children and a flat tire, I care very little about cost or destruction, I just want things fixed as painlessly as possible.

The lady assured me that she would send someone out to assess the situation, and I gave her vague directions to my car.  And then we waited.  And as we waited, we ate those orange circus peanuts.  And yes, they still sell them.

It took a long time, but finally someone came out to the car with an air tank.  We looked at the tire.  We could see a large metal thing protruding from the tire, and we could hear the hiss of the air escaping.  I said, "it is not fixable, is it?"

He answered, "no", but was pretty confident that he could fill it with enough air so that I could drive it to their garage.  And so he did, and then he told me to drive around the back, and warned me not to waste time.

We got to the garage without incident, and the kids and I all went into the waiting area.  I told them just to put a new tire on it or whatever they had to do, since it seemed to be unrepairable.  The tv wouldn't turn on, the fake flower arrangements were tippy, and the bunches still had their price tags attached.

The girl quickly returned and asked me where I got the tires. I told her and she said, "well, they look practically new.  You have a warranty, right?  You really should just put your spare on and go over there and have it replaced for free."

I explained that was all well and good but I don't know how to change a tire, and I just needed it taken care of.  Let me pause here and say something.  I am a frugal woman.  A very frugal woman.  But there are some times that I will not hesitate to spend money, and this is one of those situations.  $500 to put new tires on and get me on my way?  Ok.  $200 for someone to help me with my spare?  Ok.  No problem.  When I tell this story to any of my friends with 3 or more kids, they are right there with me - just please let me take my children home!

The girl sympathetically told me that they would put my spare on, and Deacon not so sympathetically informed me that I should really learn how to do some of these things.  And so we sat down to wait.  And wait.  And wait some more.

What were they doing?  My van went up, my van came down.  People were looking at it, then doing other things.  Then it went up again, then it came down again.  Kids getting antsy, flower arrangements knocked over again, Deacon asking me too many questions as he pages through PEOPLE magazine.

Finally, a man comes in. He explains that they can't get the spare unattached from the bottom of the car. He says things can get corroded during winter, and if it hasn't been used for a while, it can get stuck.  He put some spray on to loosen it up, but he told me it could take a couple of hours.

Well, we had already been in the waiting room for an hour, and everyone was pretty tired of it.

He told me that the tire hadn't really lost that much air, so they were going to fill it back up and then send me on my way to Discount Tire to get my replacment.  Seriously, these people really didn't want me to spend money, because let me tell you, once again, I would have paid for four new tires if that was what it would take.

They filled it up and told me to get the kids ready, so we could be on our way quickly, since we didn't really know how much time I would have.  We all went outside and got ready to hop in.

Only the van wouldn't start.  The battery was dead.  No really.  Dead.

Now, this is a common thing for our van. The battery drains if certain doors get left open for too long.  It always happens before we leave on vacation if we have spent too much time loading up the vehicle.   Apparently it's a Chrysler/Dodge thing.

The guy who is trying to start the van looks at me like I am crazy as he headed to get the jumper cable things.  The manager said he had a similar van with a similar problem.  He explained to me how he solved it.  We all filed back in.  Walmart charged me nothing for any of their services, and for that, I did not call back and complain about the M&Ms.

Finally the van was running and the tire was full (for the moment).  The guy said to me, "you better get moving.  You have a bad tire and a bad battery."  Thank you, Sir.

We said a prayer and started on our way.  I called Noah and told him what was going on and asked him to leave work and to meet me at Discount Tire, because I didn't even really know if they would have time to fix it- it was nearly the end of the day.

I stopped at a gas station once to look at the tire, and it seemed ok so I continued on.  Finally we arrived at Discount Tire.  I hauled all 5 kids , the gallon of milk I had bought at Walmart and 8 yoplait yogurts into the building.  I briefly explained to the guys what I needed (have I ever told you how much I love the guys at Discount Tire.  Maybe it is their handsomeness, or maybe it is their charming personalities.  Or maybe it is their particular skill set that will soon allow me to TAKE MY CHILDREN HOME!)  After that, I took the kids to the bathroom, gave the baby some milk and told the older ones that they could eat all the yogurt, I didn't even care.  Of course, we had no spoons so they were drinking the yogurt.  One of the D.T guys gave me some spoons from their break room.   Did I mention I love those guys?

The place was pretty busy, but they said they would be able to get to us soon.  Deacon mentioned the hill out the back door and asked if they could go sledding.  It's really more of a ditch.  I blew up their penguin sled that was in the back of the van, and down the hill they went.  And that is how Noah found us.   All hanging out on swivel chairs, watching men work on cars, with an occasional spin down the hill.

They finished up the replacment, I paid my $15 to warranty the new one and we were on our way, slightly emotionally drained, but other than that, no worse for wear.

We made it to church just in time for the meal.  The boys missed choir.  My friend Renae heard my story and offered to take my Awana group if I would go home, put the girls to bed, and relax.  And so I did.  She is awesome.

My boys were great through the whole thing, I was really proud of them.  The girls were troopers, and did pretty well for people of their age.

I have to admit though, that I am traumatized enough that I start getting a little nervous everytime I approach my car in a parking lot on a cold day...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I will get to the third part of the great flat tire saga at some point- just not tonight.  Tonight I must talk about food.

Cooking meals is not my favorite thing in the world.  Scratch that.  I actually really dislike the hold that meal prep has over my life.  If I were to list in order of preference, even cleaning toilets comes before cooking.  Granted, most of that has to do with the fact that toilet cleaning takes less time and doesn't have to happen 3+ times a day, but still, it says something.

Breakfast is a fairly simple affair, if anything can be simple with 5 kids.   Roman has 1 piece of toast with cinnamon sugar and a couple bowls of cereal.  He can manage his meal himself.  Deacon has toast, which he can do himself, although I usually help him with it if I am in the kitchen.  Lincoln has toast as well.  Berean has toast or cereal or a banana.  She is not a big breakfast girl.  Everyn eats toast and bananas.  I eat toast.

Not too complicated, but that is a lot of toast to decorate.

For lunch we have mac and cheese, french toast, pancakes, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, pizza, dutch babies, waffles, eggs, quesadillas.  We have fruit, yogurt and applesauce for snacks. 

But supper is so daunting.  After we finish up school for the day, and I tidy up the house and take care of any other random things that need to be done- the absolute last thing I want to do is make supper.  Especially since I usually don't have a plan.

I do make freezer meals, but Noah doesn't like to have those every night of the week, and it does take a fair amount of time to make them all at once.  We usually eat one freezer meal a week, and I think that adds a nice balance.

I have tried to plan the weeks menu and make up my shopping list, but I will be honest with you: it doesn't happen.  I may plan the menu but not get the list made, or I may not ever get to either, or I may miss my opprotunity to get to the grocery store and end up sending Noah without a list because of a time crunch.  Even if I get to the store, I gotta make sure I have the recipes and that I prep what needs to be prepped and often all those things just don't come together.

All of this food drama leads to multiple trips to the store, random meals, pizza all accompanied by a lot of mealtime stress.

What to do? What to do?

Last month I joined emeals.  (this is in no way an endorsement for emeals, they don't even know I am writing this.  This is just me saying what I am using for meal planning right now).  I signed up for the Paleo family plan and now once a week they email me the recipes and a grocery list for 7 paleo-style meals. 

I don't make 7 suppers a week, so when I get the email, I print it out and glance over it. I highlight the 4-5 meals that I am going to make and cross the items off the grocery list for the meals I am declining (this is super easy because the grocery list is all numbered by which meal it goes to).  I see if I have any of the items in my cupboard or freezer and cross those off too. All this takes approximately 10 minutes.

I set the list aside and grab it or give it to Noah when one of us has a chance for the weekly shopping trip.  Come home from the store and pin the recipes to the refridgerator.  Whoever is home to make dinner can just grab a recipe, knowing that all the ingredients are in house and ready to go.

Some of the meals are crockpot, some need to be marinated before hand, but on the Paleo diet everything is pretty simple and healthy.

The picture above is part of our supper tonight (isn't it pretty?) We are eating lots of veggies, but they are prepared well and have been delicious.  There is usually enough food for Noah to take for the lunch the next day, and the boys have been no more whiny than usual.

Yes, I am taking time to prepare meals but I gotta tell you, the stress is (for the most part) gone.  I am finding that I actually dislike it a lot less when I actually have everything right there and I don't have to go hunting or discover that the can of beans I thought I had was really corn. 

I am hoping that I don't just love this for awhile and then get tired of it, I am hoping that it inspires me to be more creative in the kitchen, to make healthier meals and to get my kids to be more adventurous!