Archive for September, 2011

Weekend Plans

 

The first full weekend of fall will be busy in my castle.  I don’t need an excuse to make changes to my lovely abode, but a new season always seems like a great time to do so.

What’s on the weekend warrior agenda?  Something old.  Something new. Nothing borrowed, and certainly something blue.

Painting, painting, and more painting.  Touchup painting to a few areas in the kitchen, first floor bathroom, and the staircase leading from the foyer to the second floor is a high priority, since the current weather permits leaving windows open for prolonged periods of time.  If the mood strikes me, one of my lucky children will get their room painted!

After I finish wielding an array of paint brushes and rollers and splashing colors here and there, I’ll finally get around to finishing the kick-plates that were never stained and sealed from our kitchen makeover nearly 18 months ago.  I stained them last week, but just couldn’t seem to find the time to seal them.  I’m sure I HAD the time, but who knows what I actually did with it.

Grout will finally make it to a few places in the backsplash that never received it.  We were so ready to be able to use our kitchen after it was out of commission for 5 weeks, little things like this fell by the wayside.  Now is the time to get started on finishing.

My husband will take care of replacing the baseboards in the first floor bathroom.  I’ll try to talk him into getting crown molding for the family room.  We’ve taken on many projects with no prior experience, but mistakes in crown molding installation could be costly, so we will proceed with caution if this is a project that we decide to undertake.

The laundry/storage room is in dire need of a deep cleaning and purging.  Our typical schedule is twice a year or so and we may be overdue.  All hands are always on deck for this particular task!  Luckily, for my 13-year-old son, he’ll be away at a teen retreat with fellow churchgoers.  Maybe we’ll save some of the load for him.  Surprise!  :)

I started placing fall decorations in various rooms last weekend and imagine that I’ll continue working on that project until everything is in place.  I think I’ll peruse a few decorating web sites and stop by a few home decor stores to get some ideas – and a few treats that are on sale.

Grocery shopping is another item on my to-do list.  Completing the shopping list, checking out the sales papers, and trying to find a few coupons will take a bit of time.  Friday-night activity if I want to hit the stores by 8 AM on Saturday.  Never mind that I my youngest one has a Funky Friday event (it’s a church thing) at the bowling alley tonight.  Somehow, I’ll make everything happen.  I love a challenge!

Sunday’s agenda always includes going to church, and sometimes it involves experimenting in the kitchen.  Let us not forget about one of my favorite Sunday activities in fall – football!

Yep!  It seems like I’ll have a busy weekend, but I love taking care of my family and our house, so I wouldn’t change a thing about my weekend plans!

What’s on your agenda this weekend?

CC

Dinnertime Chaos

Most of my family and friends know that dinner is one of the most frequent gripes that I post about on Facebook.  Whether I’ve forgotten to defrost meat for the evening, misjudged (again) how much time I would need to prepare it, ruined it while cooking, or just plain ran out of time, dinnertime is stressful in my house. 

Thank goodness I have a favorite go-to for help - Bob Evans!  Their online ordering tool and family-sized meals are lifesavers, indeed!

Bob’s came to my rescue again tonight.  I misjudged how much time I had to cook dinner and get everyone fed before taking my youngest to dance class.  Having just 45 minutes to spare between finishing my work day and needing to leave for the dance studio, my only option was to log onto www.BobEvans.com.  Since I already have a profile, I just logged in, made a few selections, and showed up at their doorstep less than 30 minutes later.

Now while Bob’s staff are good, they can’t make miracles happen.  Miracles like eating and getting to the studio in the span of 10 minutes.  I was on my own for this one.  My clever solution?  Pack dinner for my daughter and me. She ate in the car during the drive and I ate while sitting in the van waiting for class to end.  My dear husband took care of feeding everyone else at home.

All is well.  Thanks, Bob, for all that you do to make my life a little easier.

What are some of your solutions for solving dinnertime chaos?

CC

I’m a Crock Pot Newbie!

Thanks to the recent Crock Pot craze, I am the proud owner of a new, shiny kitchen appliance that I have to figure out how to use.  I owned one years ago before slow cookers were popular, but I’m still a slow cooker newbie. 

I was a cooking novice who purchased a slow cooker based on a coworker’s advice.  She knew that I didn’t know my way around a kitchen and often offered tips on meal preparation.  I must admit that most of what she told me seemed impossibly simple.

At the time, my family was slightly smaller and my children were infants and toddlers who loved a handful of foods and needed nothing fancy.  The slow cooker meals were more for the adults in the house.  Well, sadly, after just one meal, the apliance was history.  My eldest child tripped over the cord, the slow cooker crashed to the floor and shattered, and I gave up on trying to be a creative cook.  So much for trying to use fresh ingredients and seasoning to create masterpieces.  Back to boxes, cans, dry mix, and frozen foods!

Now, with a family of six that includes four tweens and teens, what passed as a meal 10 years ago doesn’t cut the mustard today.  Everyone in my house expects me to be a chef, and not of the Boyardee persuasion.

Like most modern moms, I struggle with finding time to do everything that I think needs to be done, and that includes making meals using fresh ingredients.  I don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen whipping up new culinary pleasures for my increasingly finicky crew, but the slow cooker would make them think that mommy spent all day preparing meals.

My hope is that if I spend a little time on preparing food on the front end, the slow cooker will do the rest.  I am dreaming of a world where dinner is ready at a decent hour, I won’t have to stand over the stove, and I won’t have to clean multiple pots and pans!

Wish me luck as I put this new toy to use on Sunday!  Any ideas that you have would be greatly appreciated!

CC

P.S.

During my research trying to find a slow cooker, I discovered that Crock Pot is a name brand (proper noun) and not the general name (common noun) of the appliance.  Who knew?

Mom, We’re out of…!

{insert household necessity here.}

In a house with six people, trips to the grocery store are frequent.  The four-to-five-days-per-week variety of frequent!  How can it be?  I’m a planner, and when I shop, I hit the stores with an Excel-based spreadsheet made up of dozens of staples that we couldn’t possibly use in the next year or two.  Before embarking on my skillful hunter-gatherer mission, I even update my spreadsheet to include items that my loving family so obediently adds to the handy dandy grocery list attached to the side of the refrigerator.  Oh, wait!  That last part was a daydream.  Sorry about that.

Back to reality.  Here’s an example of what really happens…

Last week when I passed through my kitchen on the way to a chore of some kind I’m sure, I noticed a kid squinting their eyes to double- and triple-check whether or not something was written on the list.  I took the bait and inquired about what exactly said child was hoping to see on the list.  The response was, “Trash bags”.  I don’t know why, but I asked, “Are we out of them?”  Did I really want to know the answer to that question?  No, but the question had been asked.  So, I held my breath and awaited the inevitable, “Yes”. Ugh! 

Why, why, why does no one write things on the grocery list until we are completely, utterly, entirely, totally out of something, thus setting into motion an emergency trip to procure something of immediate need?  This is what causes so many unplanned shopping trips. 

What other emergency items have the potential to send me running and screaming in the direction of my local market? Soap, bathroom tissue, deodorant, and toothpaste.  Pretty much personal hygiene products.  We can’t have body odor emergencies! 

To lessen the frequency of emergency shopping trips, I keep some of these items “in stock” away from the grubby hands of my children who refuse to alert me to an outage until the need is dire.  So, when I hear, “Mom, I’m out of deodorant!“, I’ve got it covered.  One stick of deodorant from my personal stash in exchange for an addition to the grocery list coming right up…!  My secret hygiene bank includes handsoap and toothpaste as well.

Bathroom tissue takes up lots of storage space, so I don’t stockpile much.  When either the girls or boys runs out of it, I ask them write it on the shopping list and tell them to borrow some from their sibings’ bathroom. 

Soap is small and doesn’t take up much space, but I use the bathroom-tissue method: send the offender(s) to borrow a new bar from a siblings’ stockpile and replace it when I buy more. 

I’m still trying to figure out the trash bag dilemma as it is one that can’t go unresolved.  I don’t take out the trash, so I rely on the children to update the shopping list, because each day of the week, one of them is assigned to trash duty in rotation.  That leaves seven opportunities each week to add the item to the list as the box goes from empty, to emptier, and dare I say – nothing but a cardboard box.  How could it be that a box of 90 trash bags disappears and no one noticed the emptiness until emergency status was reached?  

Never fear, this organizer had a plan!  I would buy two 90-count boxes and all would be well in the world!  Not!  The kids went through all 180 bags then cried out for more.  My next attempt at maintaining an adequate supply of trash bags will involve hiding away one of the boxes and magically producing it in case of “emergency”.

What items do I no longer consider worthy of an unplanned trip?

Milk.  Yes, milk!  I will no longer watch my children drink milk at every opportunity to fill their cups then react by racing to the store to stock up on more milk.  If two gallons of milk disappear in two days, so be it.  I refuse to buy more before my original plan calls for me to do so, because two gallons would turn into three gallons, which would turn into four gallons, which would turn into a problem that can’t be solved. 

Snacks are also on the “Do not rush” list.  Being out of Goldfish does not constitute a state of emergency.  Pick another snack – or not.  Either way, we have plenty from which to choose, so no one would starve.

Bread is also now considered a non-emergency item due to its hit or miss status around here.  Some weeks it sits around and becomes somewhat of a science project and other weeks it vanishes without a trace. 

Finally, cleaning supplies aren’t an immediate need either.  The borrow-from-another-bathroom plan applies here, but the list must still be updated.  Chores will be conquered!  No excuses!  Well, no good ones anyway.

In this circus that I call home, I have learned that no amount of planning will stop me from hearing, “Mom, we’re out of {insert household item here!}“.  Oddly, sometimes those words are music to my ears, because it reminds me of one of the greatest gifts in life!  Children!  :-)

Happy shopping!

CC

P.S.

In case of an impending snowstorm, all bets are off regarding the emergency vs. non-emergency list.  No one wants to be snowed in without bread, milk, or great snacks! :)

Lip Balm Addiction

Addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”.  I like to think that the definition can be expanded to include lip balm as a habit-forming substance. 

I…must…have…lip…balm.  For as long as I can remember, my need for lip balm has been at the top of my hierarchy of needs – right up there with air, food, and water. 

Preferences, Preparation, and Placement 

I’ve come to love the Carmex brand and prefer cherry- or strawberry-scented moisturizer more than the original, but if I’m ever away from home and have lost my “travel” stash, I’d try just about any brand.  Speaking of my travel stash, I have several sticks and tins of Carmex strategically placed within reach of just about anyplace that I plan to spend a lot of time: my desk, my vehicle, my purse (usually very close by), and my nightstand.  I pretty much have my bases covered, but there have been a few close calls.  Like the time I switched purses and forgot to transfer my lip balm between them.  Or the time my lip balm rolled off my nightstand and was “lost” for two days.  Then there was that other time (or two) when I thought a coworker pilfered it for some unknown torturous reason.

Validation? Advice.

I thought my attachment to lip balm was just another one of my neurotic attributes that distinctively defined me.  That was until I saw a news report about people who couldn’t be without the waxy substance.  “There are others out there who can relate!”, I thought.  Finally, I knew that my need was indeed real health concern.  Or was it?  It depends on who is asking and who is answering.

A quick Google search tonight found articles from the Washington Post (Dec. 14, 2008) and Fox News (Nov. 4, 2008) on this rather unique condition. 

The Post reported that “there are countless Facebook groups are dedicated to the ‘crackstick’” (gotta join, brb).  OK, so after providing what seemed like written validation at last, the Post stated that “lip balm isn’t addictive”.  Really?!  Tell that to my lips!  Did they conduct scientific research to disprove the belief that lip balm addiction exists?  No, but they did provide a few bits of advice to reduce dependency on balm: use petroleum-based rather than wax-based products, don’t lick your lips, be mindful of the sun, and finally, think about whether it’s the product or the behavior.  (Note: The mere fact that they provided this advice seems as if they can’t make up their minds about whether or not lip balm addiction really does exist.)

While, the writers at Fox News also aren’t keen on calling lip balm dependency an addiction, they did seek the advice of someone in the position to give a professional opinion about the topic, Dr. Marcia Driscoll, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Maryland.  Dr. Driscoll conducted a very, small, but telling experiment with a few colleagues.  She reported that upon asking three colleagues about their use of lip balm, all of them reached into their pockets and pulled out tubes of lip balm.  Dr. Driscoll admitted that “this [need for lip balm] might be more common than I believe”.  Ding! Ding! Ding!  Bingo, Doctor!

Her advice to those of us who are dependent is to avoid lip balms containing phenol, lanolin, parabin, and fragrances as they may initially seem to provide relief, but will be irritating if used long-term.  Driscoll believes that the irritation could be what causes users to become dependent.  She advises that petroleum jelly is as good option for preventing and soothing chapped lips and will not lead to dependence.

Next Steps

Maybe I’ll take some of the advice.  Maybe I’ll just continue to replenish my stash, as needed.  Maybe I’ll need an intervention led by my loved ones.  Regardless of my next steps, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw away my Carmex just yet. 

Kudos to the creator of Lip Balm Anonymous, Kevin Crossman, who went cold turkey and has been without lip balm for 16 years!  I should be so brave!

Do you suffer from lip balm dependency?  If so, share your habits and nightmares in our comments section.

CC

Other Resources

Lip Balm Anonymous (web site) and Facebook page

I’m No Coupon Diva, but…

I’m no coupon diva, but paying 72¢ total for two pairs of children’s shorts and two printed t-shirts is nothing to discount.  No pun intended.  These aren’t thrift store finds.  They are new items purchased at one of my favorite retailers, JCPenney.

How did I manage to snag four items for just 18¢ per piece, including tax?  Coupons!  Each month, I receive two JCPenney coupons that are good for $10 off purchases totaling $10 or more.  My game plan never changes: seek steeply discounted items, purchase them with the two coupons that JCPenney sends right to my mailbox, and keep my out-of-pocket cost at little to nothing all while ignoring aisles of very…tempting…merchandise.  Today’s mission was accomplished!

Back to the shorts and t-shirts.  Why am I excited about steeply discounted Summer apparel at the onset of Fall?  All four items are made of lightweight, knit material, which makes them perfectly suitable as pajamas.  Bright colors and words on one shirt and Disney’s Tinkerbell splashed across the other made it easy to decide that these clothes had alter egos as pajamas.

I’m eagerly awaiting next month’s $20 challenge!  In a household with six people, someone always needs clothing, hosiery, pajamas, or accessories of some kind, so these coupons will never go to waste.

Now if only I can manage to lower my grocery bill…

CC

The Last Full Weekend of Summer

It seems like just yesterday when flowers began to open, grass awakened from a slumber, and the warmth of the snow broke through from a long, cold winter.  As I enjoy the last full weekend of summer, I’m experiencing mixed emotions.  The warm, yet vibrant, foliage colors of Fall and the near-perfect weather are simultaneously relaxing and exciting.  However, feelings of impending cabin fever lurk just beneath the surface.  Weather bleeds into other seasons, so the delight of Fall will soon be interrupted by cold, harsh winter weather – even if the calendar doesn’t agree.

Twice I’ve had to resist the urge to drag bins of autumn decor from their cozy hideaway in the basement, because the calendar month still reads, “September”.  Dare I rush the end of summer?  I think not!  Fall will be here soon enough, so for now, I sit here with every window of the house opened allowing each room to benefit from nature’s air freshner.  A slight breeze, the sound of children playing and birds chirping, the hum of a neighbor’s mower, and temperatures in the low 70′s are the perfect backdrop for the last full weekend of Summer.

How are you spending the last full weekend of Summer?

CC

My Favorite Season

Depending on what time of year you ask me, “What’s your favorite season?”, my answer will vary. 

See, in February or March, I would likely say that Spring is my favorite season, because I’m not a huge fan of cold weather – especially if it didn’t produce a beautiful blanket of snow to play in outside or look at from indoors.  I love the warm temperatures, the new spring colors, and the season of Easter.

However, if you ask what my favorite season is this time of year, I’d say it’s Fall, because it’s much like spring – nearly perfect.  I love the brisk temperatures, the colorful foliage, and, of course, football season! 

Ask me that question in November and I’ll say that winter is my all-time favorite time of year – hands down, because that’s the season of Christmas.  I love who the season represents, I enjoy snow, I love the smell and crackle of wood burning in my fireplace, and I love how cheerful people seem to be.  Aren’t people incredibly kind at Christmastime?  If we could just freeze that kindness forever…

So as far as I’m concerned, Spring, Fall, and Winter are all my favorite months.

Oh, wait!  How could I forget about the adventures of summer.  When you subtract the oppressive heat, that is another favorite season.  No school, few activities, summer travel, lots of time spent with family, and relaxation makes me one happy Random Mom!

Hmm, I guess my favorite season is all of them!

What is your favorite season and what do you like about it?

CC

Back into the Swing

Ah, the lazy days of summer…  The warm glow of the sun peaking through my window serves as nature’s alarm clock.  No electronic screeching.  Just the sound of chirping birds enjoying an early-morning feast.  The sound of Grieg’s Morning sets the mood.

Scratch that!  Fast forward to today!

The tranquility of lazy days has given in to craziness.  School is back in session.  Most days are filled with an extracurricular activity of some kind that is supposed to make my children better people, better musicians, better dancers, or whatever their current ambitions drive them to do. 

Scouts, band, dance, Bible study and other activities all occupy time on our busy calendars.  Some of these activities have a sneaky way of throwing monkey wrenches into the best-made plans.  Those like mandatory, afterschool peformances that always seem to happen on Wednesday evening.  In my house, Wednesdays are for worship service, so whenever the children’s schools decide they want to meet me on this evening, they’re putting me in a bind.  On other days of the week when I find that my ferrying service has been double-booked (eek!), I have to use the on-call chauffer – my husband.  Thank goodness for backups!

With so much going on this time of year, organization is a necessity, so calendars are posted on walls, online, and on our telephones.  One of these days, I may just find that I’ll need to write appointments on our foreheads or some other body parts.

Dinners are cooked and eaten on the fly!  With all of my might, I try to stick to the monthly meal plan that’s posted in our kitchen, but life happens, and so does fast food.

Would I change any of part of this hectic pace in exchange for an opportunity to sit around the house - or better yet, do chores?  No way!  The lessons in which our children partake and the groups to which they belong are molding them to be well-rounded people.  Most weekends in autumn are laid back in our house, so I try to remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel every week.  This former Type A mom is trying her best to leave weekend days open for simply bumming around the house or spending time with the family taking in some kind of event or scenery, or just seated around the table playing a board game.  Of course, Sundays are always set aside for morning worship and Bible study.  The rest of the day is treated like a staycation.

Life is back into full swing, but downtime has been scheduled as a priority in this palace that I call home.

How hectic is your life?  Share any tips that would help other readers find peace in the crazy, raging storm.

CC

I Want to Be Weird!

I love listening to music and I love to sing.  In fact, I sing out loud quite often in the comfort of my own home or car just because it feels like the right thing to do at the moment.  My family thinks that I’m weird for shamelessly belting out off-key tunes.  Sometimes the off-key tunes are intentional and sometimes they’re not, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m having fun singing and my family is having fun heckling me.  All is well!

I love reading just as much as I love singing and while I have a handful of long-term favorite authors, my new favorite is Craig Groeschel.  His books tend to have catchy titles, but beyond the propaganda, you’ll find some excellent advice on how to live a life that is pleasing to God.

The prevalent piece of advice in his book titled Weird is to, “Do what few do in order to get what few have”, rather than the more popular, “Do what most do to get what most have”.  I want to do what few do and have what few have, so that I can spend eternity where few go.  I want to be weird!

The Bible tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 to “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

So how does that translate into daily actions?  In my case, it means:

  • Not doing what other parents do if it means sacrificing my Biblically-based parenting beliefs in exchange for “normal” children. 
  • Not keeping silent my love for God.  Sure, many of my Facebook friends aren’t Christians, but that doesn’t keep me from openly praising Him.  I will not deny Him before others.
  • Sharing my testimony with others – even the uncomfortable parts that some tend to keep tucked away in their subconscience and wouldn’t dare tell anyone.
  •  Tuning out what’s popular and instead, tuning in to Him more.
  •  

I’ve never had a problem being weird, but this particular brand of weird is pleasing to God and I want it like I want nothing else!  Each day brings a new opportunity to be even more weird than I was the previous day.  How many people do you know would be brave enough to admit that they want an increased portion of weird?

Are you weird?  Share your comments.

CC

Striving to be God weird!