Snapshot of a Not-So-Fall Week

7 Oct

Recent days have been far too busy, but I’m not complaining…much. I am always amazed at how Fall makes me want to slow down, but life seems to get busier than ever. That’s usually when my husband inconveniently reminds me that maybe I shouldn’t volunteer or overcommit so much (School Halloween carnival…cough…cough). Despite our delayed reaction to the supposedly changing season, we did manage to start the Halloween decorations:

And so far, my husband has only electrocuted himself twice. I’d call that progress.

I also finished my first knitted Christmas gift, so maybe I’m not such a bum after all:

Mostly, I’ve been hunkered down, doing my freelance work to boost the holiday funds, and ignoring the fact that it’s still 90 freaking degrees outside. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

Things You Shouldn’t Ask a Stay-At-Home Mom

30 Sep

Throughout my many years as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve been on the receiving end of those oh-so-annoying questions that normally well-mannered people feel compelled to ask.

The most common and probably least offensive: “What are you going to do when all of your kids are in school?”

In my mind, I think: Well, let’s see…shower uninterrupted, not be embarrassed by my screaming toddler at the grocery store, have more than one room of my house clean AT THE SAME TIME, and if I’m feeling really crazy, I may just finish my first to-do list in over a decade.

Most people think that school-aged children means the end of the need for a stay-at-home mom. I kind of did too…that is, until I was a working mom, and I soon learned that between sick days, school holidays, school events, and summer vacation, my kids were not in school as much as I thought they would be. Also, the older the Heathens get, the more activities and schedules I juggle. Let’s not forget the hour and a half a day I spend carpooling, and the sentient laundry pile that stealthily reproduces when no one is watching.

But, I did knit a baby blanket for my neighbor during carpool, so that’s something:

So, the long answer is that, no, I won’t be living the life of leisure whenever Bean starts school. I’ll continue to keep this zoo running, maybe just a little better than before. However, since most inquirers don’t want my dissertation on why a return to full-time work is not practical for our family, I simply answer:

“Eat bonbons and watch Oprah.”

That’s probably what they are thinking anyway.

From those with significantly less manners, I get the next stay-at-home mom staple question: “What do you do all day?”

If they ask that, I already know what they are thinking:

Eat bonbons and watch Oprah.

I could list all of the chores, meal planning, couponing, bill paying, budgeting, errand running, carpooling, and minutia to account for my days but it’s all of those time and soul-sucking things that really eat up the hours. For example, “fold laundry” turns into fold laundry, then refold the laundry that the toddler got into and threw everywhere like confetti. Those perfectly mopped floors will need sweeping again before the afternoon is out. How about the time spent putting on then taking off the dress up costume over and over and over?

Or that hour I spent on hold with the phone company? Or all of those half-finished chores that were halted so I could chase said toddler before she throws another toy in the toilet? While the reward for this hamster wheel is getting to be here for my kids, it’s hard to measure tangible accomplishments when the room I cleaned this morning will look like a toy tornado ripped through it by the time my husband gets home.

What I do all day is awesome, essential, important, and makes our house a home. However, it’s also frustrating, isolating, often invisible, and lonely.

So, instead of letting those lame stay-at-home mom questions irk me, I think I’ll start coming up with the most ridiculous answers I can.

“What do you do all day?”

I teach Bean the fine art of combat so she’ll be ready for the imminent zombie apocalypse. The better question is, what do YOU do all day?

Ahhh, School. Long Time, No See. You’re Looking Positively Awesome.

18 Aug

The oldest Heathens are back in school (woo hoo!), and we are still adjusting to early wake-ups and the time-sucking waste otherwise known as the carpool line. However, the fact that the boys are engaged in something other than 12 straight hours of arguing with each other is oh-so-wonderful for a summer-weary mom. I’m glad to see the last of the not-so-fun summer, but I have to admit, we did have some fun times.

So yeah, we did have some good times, and it’s always nice to remind yourself to count your blessings and focus on the positive. For example, carpool gives me time to read because Bean is restrained in her car seat, and therefore unable to terrorize local villagers.

See? How’s that for positive?


The Final Countdown!

4 Aug

It’s our last week of summer, and while the Heathens are in mourning, I’m trying not to let my abject glee become a little too obvious. Meanwhile, I’ve been knitting (including this cute dishtowel), unpacking books, avoiding the scale, eating too much, and generally trying to keep the peace among three kids who clearly don’t have enough to do. While I’m not looking forward to carpool lines and school projects, I think a break from the endless cries of, “He’s touching meeeeeee!” will be a welcome change. I completed the hell that is otherwise known as school supply shopping, so now I begin the process of acclimating my children back onto a reasonable sleep schedule. I still need to plan for some fun activities to ease the sting of this final week, but overall, I am ready to put this summer behind us. While it wasn’t as bad as last summer, it still kind of sucked big time.

Yep, that’s about how I feel right now.

Are Your Kids Climbing the Walls? Holiday Inspiration May Keep Them Occupied

16 Jul

We’ve officially hit the point in the summer when my kids descend into endless bickering and I’m missing school like my skinny jeans. We’ve also hit the point when the heat keeps them inside most of the day, so burning off energy through play isn’t happening. It’s definitely time to break out the big guns.

Last year, during the Worst Summer Ever, my husband was gone for nearly a month. Keeping the Heathens entertained during all the calamity was a challenge, so I came up with “Holidays in Summer.” Basically, on each weekend, we would have a mini-holiday celebration (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas). The idea was to give the kids something to look forward to and help plan. These celebrations included a special meal, a craft or activity, and holiday-appropriate movies. These scaled-down events ended up being a blast and the highlight of our summer. I also loved them because it gave me a chance to have small holiday experiences that did not involve the stress of hosting large gatherings. We have continued the tradition this year, and here’s how it’s going:

For the Halloween weekend, we made a pumpkin-shaped cake and got a bunch of snacks. For our craft, we made masks out of paper plates, paint, glitter, and popsicle sticks. Then, we watched scary movies and played with the glow necklaces I picked up for a buck. My husband was skeptical at first (especially when I broke out the glitter) but later admitted it was really fun.

For the Thanksgiving weekend, we made lovely Pilgrim hats (Ha-Ha!), and I cooked an extremely scaled-down version of the meal. We watched Charlie Brown and generally acted like sloths. The key to this one was to get the kids to help with the food, and we even used all of the Thanksgiving placemats and paraphernalia I have squirreled away.

We had to postpone the Christmas weekend due to a death in the family, but the plan is to decorate cookies, feast on appetizer-type stuff, have a small gift exchange (we drew names), and watch all our favorite movies.

So, if you feel like you may be one-less kid lest school start soon, try having a mini-Holiday. From the planning and shopping to the execution, they have something to focus on, even if it is brief and fleeting. If all else fails, put those boogers to work and sweat the whining right out of them.

Homemade Vanilla Extract and Why It Pays to Give Christmas a Passing Thought During Summer

14 Jun

It’s that time of year again. The time when I remind everyone that Christmas isn’t that far away, and it would behoove you to start thinking ahead. No, I am not one of those crazy Christmas people who count down the days like an obsessed fiend. What I am is a mom on a severe budget, and I’ve learned that pushing off Christmas until Fall/Winter means that I end up stressed out and financially tapped out. While it does pay to wait in some cases so that you catch those holiday mega sales, your budget will thank you if you start the small gifts now. I try to knock out teacher gifts, neighbor gifts and some extended family gifts during the summer. Most of my smaller gifts for this group are handcrafted, and by using those craft store coupons, I slowly put a major dent in that list. In the past, I’ve posted about some of my homemade gift ideas here, here, here, here, and my craft category is full of ideas too.

Today, the Heathens and I started homemade vanilla extract that will be used as teacher/neighbor gifts this year. If you are interested in this idea, start ASAP, as it really needs five or six months to marinate.

This is about the easiest, kid-friendly activity you can do. All you need are some glass bottles, vanilla beans, and vodka (the cheap, rot-gut, can-double-as-gasoline stuff…don’t waste good hooch here).

I picked up a bunch of bottles at my local craft store using coupons to get the already cheap price tag even cheaper. Looking at the size, I figured three vanilla beans per jar would suffice:

Better to have too much vanilla bean than too little. The kids were able to distribute the vanilla beans among the jars, so they got to feel some ownership in their teacher gifts.

**A quick word on buying vanilla beans. Your local grocery store is the MOST expensive place to purchase these!!! If you live around a specialty spice store or a World Market store, you’ll find better prices. Ordering online is a good option, but it pays to look around a bit. Don’t believe me? Two vanilla beans at my supermarket cost about $9.99, while World Market sells them for $2.99 (and I had a coupon for them too). See? Shop smart!**

Anyway, then I (not the kids, so don’t freak) poured vodka into the jars until the beans were covered. The kids closed the jars and we were done! Three minutes of effort:

And we got six teacher gifts that stayed firmly within my budget. Better yet, come December, that’s one less thing I’ll have to worry about. We are storing these in a cool, dark cabinet, and once a week, we will give them a quick shake just to keep things going. By Christmas, the vodka will be dark brown and infused with vanilla. We will do up some cute labels on the computer, and maybe pair them with a set of measuring spoons if I have any extra money in the budget by then. If not, no biggie. Regardless, we have a handmade gift that my kids helped create and will feel excited about. It also helps reinforce to them that it really is the thought that counts and that there is more care in “doing” than in “buying.”

So, what’s the moral of the story? Even if you aren’t particularly crafty, nearly every major craft store chain has weekly coupons of 40% to 50% a single item, so you can still pick up stuff on the cheap, including things like kids’ art supplies, home décor stuff, picture frames, and more.

Now, back to beating the heat with cocktails, fun times, and trashy TV that I’ll never admit to actually watching.

Breaking the Cooking Rut—or “No, This Still Isn’t a Restaurant, So Get Over It”

19 May

With all of the chaos of the move, I have been in a big-time cooking rut. I can’t entirely blame the move, however. Though they continue to improve, my kids are still extremely picky eaters. Together, they only have about 3-4 meals each that they actually “love,” and like any kid, they are prone to decide they don’t like something before they even try it. Every day, when I pick them up from school, they ask what’s for dinner before their butts hit the car seat. If my answer isn’t one of these 3-4 meals, I get the long-suffering groans and the sad, disappointed faces. Let me tell you, that wouldn’t inspire anyone to hop in the kitchen and cook. It’s hard to make the effort sometimes when you know dinner will be a fight of me watching them push the food around their plates with frowns on their faces. Despite this daily battle, I’m still holding fast to my philosophy that this is not a dang restaurant. Every meal is not going to be custom-tailored to special snowflake taste-buds, and they’ve been told repeatedly to build a bridge and get the heck over it.

My husband is also fairly picky, though he swears he is not. However, he hates onions, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green onions, squash, zucchini, spinach, shrimp, gnocchi, artichokes, mushrooms, and quite a few other things. So, yeah…But, he at least always is up for trying something new…except for the aforementioned items, of course.

So, to get out of my cooking rut, I decided that I would try at least one new recipe every day this week. Last night, I experimented and made Korean Beef Tacos with a Cucumber-Carrot Slaw to go on top. Though the kids balked at the cucumbers, they did eat the beef, and my husband and I loved the tacos as a whole. I wish I was able to take pictures, but after just getting off of a 15-hour bus ride for a school trip, my husband and Heathens were hungry, and I wasn’t about to test their patience with a photo shoot. I also made bread pudding for the hubby (as seen above), and topped it with Whiskey Sauce:


This was my first foray into bread pudding, and I used this recipe as a baseline. Overall, it was okay, but we decided it definitely needs some tweaking. My husband said it needed more raisins and cinnamon, and maybe a bit more time to set up before serving. However, the recipe itself was a good starting point. The whiskey sauce is awesome, but if you’re sensitive to hooch, I’d cut it down a bit…we are not so afflicted, however.

So, all week I will be plowing through new recipes, and getting my kitchen mojo back. The Heathens may riot before the week is out, or they may actually try something new and like it.

*Oh the horror!*


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