Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bends in the road

Its funny how when you start out on a journey, you start out expecting to end up in one place and sometimes find yourself making strange detours along the way or arriving somewhere else entirely. If you're driving, you call that getting lost, but what do you call it when you're just living? I'm not really sure.

When I started this blog, it was to help me stay accountable on my journey to being a better mom and I guess I'm still on my way there, but I expected to arrive there with a participating partner at my side, not as a single mom and I have to admit that this detour has derailed me a bit.

I guess that's normal. I mean, who ever expects to have their partner abandon them and their children? Who expects to be abandoned by the person they love, the person that professed to love them, when they are 35 weeks pregnant with their 4th child with said partner? I guess that would derail anyone.

I look at my girls and wonder how anyone could ever voluntarily turn their back on them for any reason? How could anyone voluntarily give up being a part of these children's lives? I'll be the first to admit I need a break every now and then, but I could never just walk away from them without looking back. Heck, I can barely take a break from them every now and then even when I know I need it. I'm working on that, though. I know I have to take care of myself to be able to take care of them and I'm a better mom when I force myself to take a break when I need it, whether I want it or not. Course now the only issue is figuring out what I can do when I take a break. . . What doesn't cost any money that I will enjoy doing that ideally has free childcare? So far, all I've come up with is church. . .

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pico de Gallo recipe

Pico de Gallo

5 on the vine tomatoes
2 avacados
1 bundle chives
1 bundle cilantro
1/2 jalapeno (optional)
small onion
lime juice (optional)
salt to taste

1. Chop tomatoes, onion, avacados, chives and jalapeno.
2. De-stem cilantro.
3. Combine tomatoes, avacado, chives, jalapeno and cilantro in a bowl.
4. Salt to taste.
5. If you are not going to eat this in one sitting (which, believe me, it is easy to eat it all in one sitting), add some lime juice to prevent the avacado from browning.

This can be mixed up a bit by adding cooked black beans and corn, red onions, a different kind of peppers, pretty much anything you like in salsa. . . they salsa bowl's the limit. . .

Pico de gallo is fantastic on tortilla chips, burritos, tacos. . . pretty much anything mexican. Can add veggies to your mexican dinner or just be a fun snack, but be careful. . . Its hard to stop eating once you've started. . . and it can be addictive. Or inspire cravings. Or make you salivate just thinking about it. YUM.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adventures in Traveling

As many of you know (or likely read yesterday), we just got back from visiting my husband at his BCT graduation in SC. We live in GA, so it was a 4-5 hour drive one way. . . at least in theory.

We intended on departing for SC Wednesday, July 21, just after lunchtime, but my mother did not call or show up. This was unfortunate since she was driving us there in her Expedition. I cleaned my house and got us packed and did everything I could think of to do. When I ran out of things to clean and busywork to get us ready to go, I called my mom. She was in Jasper. 1 hour from her house, where she would have to go before driving 1.5 hours to mine. It was almost dinnertime at this point. So I had her meet me en route to Columbia in Conyers. When we got there, we waited another hour for her to arrive then moved our stuff to her car and continued driving to Columbia while my dad took my car back to his house. The trip from that point on was relatively uneventful. We got to our destination around 4 am, got to sleep around 4:30 and had to get up at 6.

For the return trip, we intended on leaving immediately following breakfast. We packed up the car, cleaned out the room to make sure we weren't leaving anything, ate breakfast and got in the car. Unfortunately, we passed the pool on the way to the car and my 5 year old wanted to swim. We explained to her there wasn't time and she had a complete meltdown. In the blink of an eye, the "I want to swim" meltdown turned into an "I want my daddy" meltdown which was impossible to fix considering my husband was already on the way to OK and had left for NC several hours before. I took the keys back to the front desk and she had stopped crying by the time I got back to the car. Thank God.

We drove just far enough to reach the middle of nowhere and promptly ran out of gas. Lovely. The AC would come on, but wouldn't blow cold, so we rolled the windows down to capture the breeze from the other cars while I called 911 and we waited for the Highway Patrol trooper to arrive. We went to 2 gas stations that did not have gas cans, encountered a jacknifed tractor trailer and finally found a gas station with gas cans. Unfortunately, they only had 1 gallon gas cans and my mom drives an Expedition, so I spent $15 on 2 1-gallon gas cans. Then I overflowed one while filling it and the cop was nice enough to wipe it off while I filled the other. All the while, I'm trying not to sob because I wish daddy was there at this point. Then we get the Expedition started, go to the nearest gas station and fill up. At this point, its about lunchtime, but I'm too frustrated to eat so we keep going for a bit. By the time I'm ready to eat, everyone else (besides my mom, who was driving) was asleep. We found a restraunt to eat at and drove about 30 minutes before my 5 year old had to pee. So we stopped again. Add a couple more pee breaks and that's how a 4-5 hour trip became a 10-11 hour trip, after which I had to drive an hour from my mom's house to get to mine.

Lessons learned:

1. Eat then let the kids play for a bit before you start traveling. Sure they might be hungry sooner, but its much nicer to start a trip without a fit.
2. Be flexible and if someone is late, start bugging them right away, not several hours later when you're already completely frustrated.
3. Make sure everyone pees at every gas stop and food stop. We forgot this when we stopped for lunch and had to stop again 30 minutes later, which was annoying.
4. Fill up on gas when you get down to 1/2 or 1/4 tank of gas. It is NOT fun to run out of gas when you are in the middle of nowhere. You have to give the trooper your liscence and wait while he confirms you are not a wanted felon then you have to find a gas station with gas cans if you don't carry one with you. . . its just not worth it to save a nickle a gallon.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What to Expect When You're Expecting Your Hubby to Graduate From Army BCT

I'm sure many of you are curious about Army BCT graduation and what it entails, much as I was before I attended it. When a soldier successfuly completes training, his family is invited to a 2 day event to celebrate his accomplishments. The first day is called "family day" and the second day is the official graduation, although the soldier has successfully completed BCT before either of these days occur and, short of a major mess up on his or her part, will graduate.

Family Day at Fort Jackson is always on Thursday. They recommend you get to gate 4 by 7:30 am to be able to get a good parking spot and a good seat, although if you do get there by then you will be at the field by 8 am and will have to wait an hour for the ceremony to start. When you get to the field that the ceremony is held at, there are soldiers there that direct you where to park. Joey said they are people who are being held back until the next BCT session. It was not a good idea to take a stroller. We took our double stroller to shield the girls from the sun only to find that the bleachers are covered and the only place the stroller can go is on the bottom row (otherwise it is a fire hazard) and that is the only row where the sun will hit you at 8 am. We ended up leaving our stroller at the bottom row with a sergeant's assurances that it would be fine with all the drill sergeants staying in the front row. We sat at the top row where we were able to catch a nice little breeze. It was a good idea to take water and snacks. They do sell food and beverages at a mobile refreshment trailer, but its much cheaper and healthier to take your own. We took yogurt and water and the girls were pretty happy, antsy to see daddy, but pretty happy nonetheless.

At about 9 am, the person in charge (I believe he was a Captain) spoke for a while and then there was a demonstration. The soldiers were across the field from us. First they threw out what appeared to be fake grenades that released plumes of different colors of smoke, then the soldiers ran across the field and fell into formation at attention. I think the Captain talked a little more at this point, but no one was really listening. Then he released us to go find our soldiers, who had to stay in formation at attention until we found them. Of course, I saw Joey run across the field, so I knew where he was. But the crowd was so crazy and we were at the top of the bleachers, so I had the girls wait with my mom and sister and I went to go get him. I don't think he has ever hugged me that tight. We got to spend the rest of that day with him on post. We went to the PX (like a mini mall), reactivated his iphone, got him some stuff he needed for AIT, took Addy to the playground (by this time Evie and Izzy were asleep in the car and my mom and sister wanted a nap so they stayed in the car with the babies), toured the barraks where Joey slept and a couple of the training areas, and went bowling. We had to drop him off before 9 so he wouldn't get in trouble (anyone late was to be considered MIA and would not graduate, according to his drill sergeant earlier that day).

The next day was graduation. Again, we were advised to get to the gate at 7:30. We were a little late, but that just meant we parked further back and we still had to wait until the ceremony started at 9. As with Family Day, there were soldiers to direct us where to park. This day, they played music while we waited for the ceremony to begin. During the ceremony, we heard from Red Cross people and listened to the Captain speak again. Then the soldiers marched around the field, some were recognized and received awards, there was a brass band that marched and played. Afterwards, we took Joey back to his barraks and he signed out so he could leave post and we went to our hotel and the girls stayed there while Joey and I took a walk. Then we went to lunch and came back and spent a couple hours alone while the girls took a nap. Then we went to dinner and took Joey back to post. It was a lot harder saying goodbye to him, knowing that we wouldn't get to see him the next day, but we managed.

The next day, he was shipped off to his AIT in Oklahoma and we came back to Georgia. A week later, he's still waiting for his AIT to start and we're hoping it starts soon because he has 7 weeks and 1 day of AIT once it starts and I'm due November 6th with our 4th daughter.

I hope I cleared up any curiosity any of you wives may have regarding BCT if your husband is planning on joining the Army or if he has and you're planning on attending graduation and family day once that day arrives. I wish I had had a blog that told me what to expect before I went.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mason family update

Well, it has been an active month here, not that you can tell from my blog posts. We spent the first part of the month getting ready to go visit Joey for his Army Basic Combat Training graduation. We left on the 21st much later than we had intended on leaving then got back on the 24th much later than we intended on getting back. The time we got to spend with Joey was infinately precious, but the traveling was not so much LOL. The past week has been spent for the most part getting my house back in order from the trip. I cleaned it before we left, but had to catch up on laundry, etc. I am happy to say that I am finally caught up and am hoping to be able to post more. I know I keep saying that. And I keep hoping it. Somehow it just doesn't happen as often as I would like. But I'm doing the best I can.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baked Mac 'n' Cheese (from scratch)

I've been ISO a go to mac 'n' cheese recipe for a while. Ever since my research has shown me that the boxed mac 'n' cheese that tastes good is full of crap and the boxed mac 'n' cheese that isn't full of crap tastes like crap.

My ideal mac 'n' cheese recipe was one that did not have eggs in it, was semi-healthy, easy to make, and good reheated. And boy did I find it. It was recommended to me by someone on diaperswappers when I posted that I was ISO a recipe.

1 lb uncooked elbow macaroni noodles (or noodles of your choice)
cheese (amount to your discretion/taste)
1/2 stick butter, softened
5 cups milk
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit.
2. Spray 9 x 13 casserole dish with cooking spray. I use olive oil cooking spray to avoid GMOs.
3. Layer uncooked noodles with cheese, sprinkling salt throughout and ending with a layer of cheese.
4. Place pats of softened butter on top.
5. Pour 5 cups of milk on top. It will cover everything else, but that's ok. Its supposed to.
6. Place in oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top layer of cheese is slightly browned.
7. Enjoy.
8. Refridgerate.
9. Enjoy again.
10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until its gone. Then start all over at step 1.

Easy peasy, nice and cheesy, made from scatch and NOT full of crap. I mean, it uses the same amount of butter as a box of Kraft mac 'n' cheese and makes a whole lot more mac 'n' cheese.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crock pot barbecue

I used this recipe Sunday to make crock pot bbq chicken that was TDF. I'm sure you can use the same recipe to make other bbq meats. We won't because we only eat bbq chicken, but feel free to adapt as you see fit.

I got this recipe from a friend whose bbq chicken makes me drool just thinking about it (and all I did was smell it lol). But as we all know, when you're pregnant, to smell is to want LOL.

meat (I used 3 large frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1 bottle bbq sauce of your choice (I used Jack Daniels brand, but I plan to try Williamson Bros brand next time)
1/2 cup italian dressing (I used Wishbone House Italian)
2 tbsp worstershire sauce

1. Place frozen chicken breasts in the bottom of your crock pot
2. Mix bbq sauce, italian dressing and worstershire sauce in a bowl
3. Pour over chicken
4. Cook on high for 4 hours
5. Take chicken out and shred
6. Put chicken back into crock pot and cook for another hour on high.
7. Enjoy on loaf bread, buns, baked potatoes, the starch of your choice or by itself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Growing into it

We've all stored clothes that are too big for our kids for them to grown into. And at sometime in our lives, we've probably all seen some well-meaning elder lady "comforting" a new mom, telling her her kid would grow into their head/nose/ears/ whatever they percieve to be "too big". But did you ever think about growing into motherhood?

Sure, some girls were born to be moms. They slip into motherhood like Cinderella into her glass slipper. And you might think I'm one of those moms. But I assure you, I am not. No, I used to be that mom who would take her kid (this was back when I had just 1) to McD's for dinner to keep her happy and make life easier on me without a thought as to the nutritional value of that kind of dinner.

I didn't want to be a mom when I grew up. I didn't think about what I'd do if my kids did this or what I'd say if they did that. I "wasn't going to have kids."

Well, I did have kids and I'm happy I did. I can't imagine my life without them. But I am NOT an expert. I am NOT a pro. I'm learning more every day and one day I hope to be an expert or a pro or even a supermom. But for now, I'm dealing with the same growing pains that most moms deal with. Life becoming less about self and more about the kids. Figuring out how best to handle different kids in different situations. How to get the best out of said children. How to inspire them. How to inspire myself. How to maintain your sanity regardless of circumstances. I'm getting closer every day. I can feel it. But I still wake up some mornings to blisters where its not quite fitting.

So if anyone else is in the same boat I'm in, keep on walking. The shoe might not fit yet, but if you keep going, it will mold to you and you to it and that is worth all the growing pains and blisters along the way.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Venison Version: Venison Chili

3 cups dried pinto beans
apple cider vinegar (I like bragg's organic because it has "the mother" and anything involving "the mother" is always better in my book ;))
2 or 3 15 ounce cans of tomatoes
1 large onion
1 bundle celery
fresh peppers (bell for mild, banana or chili or other peppers for hotter chili)
1 lb venison
2 or 3 pkgs chili seasoning (I use mild since I have small children who don't like it spicy and I add tobasco sauce to the finished chili to give mine some kick)

1. Sort beans and put in large bowl with 12 cups water and 6 tbsp apple cider vinegar and soak overnight.
2. Rinse beans and place in crock pot. Fill with fresh water up to 2" from the top of the crock pot (I think I'm using a 5 quart), add salt and chopped onion, cook on high for an hour then cook on low for 3-5 hours more, testing beans periodically for doneness.

** At this point, its usually dinner time, so we eat bean burritos for dinner this night and then make chili the next night, but you could go ahead and make chili now if you want. . . **

3. Brown venison, sometimes I brown it with a package of chili seasoning. Sometimes I don't. Dip some of the bean juice out of the crock pot and pour browned venison into crock pot.
4. (optional) put chopped celery, more chopped onion and chopped peppers into skillet used to brown venison and grill for a couple minutes. I usually only do this if I cooked the venison with the spices so that the veggies can soak up some of the spices as well. If you don't want to grill your veggies first, then just dump them into the crock pot. Dump tomatoes (including tomato juice) in as well.
5. Cook on high for 1 hour then switch to low and cook another couple of hours, testing veggies periodically to see if they are done enough for you (some people like their veggies slightly crunchy, but we like ours soft).
6. Enjoy in a bowl. Enjoy on a baked potato. Enjoy on crackers. However you eat it, enjoy it.

We sometimes also add frozen organic corn and sliced black olives to chili, just to give it more color and sometimes I use fresh tomatoes instead of canned. It just depends on what I have on hand.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Working Smarter

As a P.S. to my last post, I'd like to add that the easiest way to work smarter, not harder is to encourage your kids to help. My kids hate to clean, but they love to help. So if I make it more about helping me than about cleaning up, they are more willing and (dare I say it) happy to help clean. And its much easier on me, with my bulging 21 week pregnant gut to ask one of my beautiful, helpful daughters to pick something up off the floor for me than to bend down and pick it up myself. And its better for them, too. Its teaching them that they are a important member of the family and they can contribute to our family, too.

They don't always want to help. Sometimes they are hungry or tired or sad or angry and then I don't push them to help anyways, I give them a little space and ask them to help again later. Fortunately, I have 2 who are old enough to help (almost 3 and almost 6 years old) so usually at least one of them is ready and willing. And when one helps, the other usually wants to whether they are feeling particularly helpful or happy or not. Because they don't want to feel left out.

Also, there are some things that need to be done immediately and some things that can wait. If you concentrate on the stuff that needs to be done immediately and put off the things that can wait until the kiddos are asleep or otherwise occupied, that makes life easier, too. Things that need to be done immediately might be things that the kids can help with, safety issues (spilled water, toys where people will step on them and get hurt, small toys that need to be picked up so the baby doesn't put them in her mouth, etc), and things that it will benefit you to do now as opposed to later. Like wiping off the baby's high chair tray when she's done eating instead of leaving it until she's hungry again and whatever she's spilled has had time to sit and dry. Or rinsing off dishes when you're done eating so that when you have the time to put them in the dishwasher, they won't have gunk dried on that will muck up the workings of the dishwasher or require you to scrub them before sticking them in the dishwasher.

I'm not saying "don't put off until tomorrow what you could get done today" isn't still good advice, but think about what you're doing. Think about what you're prioritizing. Sure, you could sweep your floor 5 times a day (once after each meal and snack) OR you could spend time with your kiddos during the day, clean up anything bigger than crumbs by hand (or get your kids to help) and sweep at naptime, once the kiddos are in bed for the night or first thing in the morning. Think about your schedule.

I'm sure there is a time when the children are sleeping or otherwise occupied when you would be able to get some stuff done. Its not always easy to find that time. And sometimes that means putting off doing your own thing or having your own downtime. But for me, having a peaceful day with my children is like a whole day of downtime and its worth a whole lot more than a whole day of downtime. When it comes down to it, I would much rather spend the day with my kids than at a spa wondering what they are doing. . .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Well, I'm not sure where this concept originated from or what it originally referred to, but its a great concept and one that I intend to apply it to the insurmountable job of cleaning my house.

To me, working smarter not harder means not fighting your environment. You can spend all day sweeping your floor over and over while your 1 year old throws food on it over and over or you can pick up the large pieces of food that she is in danger of putting in her mouth from the floor and save the crumb clean up until the end of the night when your children are sleeping. You can fight with your children all day long and eventually get them to pick up their toys so that they don't have to hear you say it one more time or you can periodically ask them to pick up their toys while you prepare meals and snacks for them and if they don't do it, you can do it later. You can clean your kitchen in the morning, when your kids are clammoring for their breakfast or you can clean the kitchen at night and have it ready to make breakfast first thing in the morning.

Yes, I want to instill responsibility in my children and I would like to teach them to clean up after themselves, but at the same time I have to remember that they are children, we all have bad days and it is more important to me to create a peaceful environment for us all than to fight with and nag my children until they grudgingly do what I ask them to.

If you came to my house tomorrow morning, you might ask me how I get my house so clean with 3 kids running around and I would say "I don't." You would look around you and say, "but its clean" and I would say "yes, but I did not do it with my kids running around. I did it when they were snuggled up, all warm in their beds, fast asleep and I plan on doing the same thing every night."

This might not be the best way for everyone to work smarter, not harder, but I think it will work for me. After all, I am naturally nocturnal, which is only made worse by pregnancy insomnia, and I want a clean house, but not at the expense of my sanity. So by cleaning at night, I am not missing out on sleep because I wouldn't be asleep at this time anyways, I am providing a clean environment for my kids and I am also maintaining a pleasant, calm mood in my household.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another reason why Ghirardelli is better than Nestle

Although personal taste differs, if you're looking for white chocolate chips that are healthier for you, Ghirardelli beats Nestle hands down because of 1 of Nestle's ingredients "artificial flavors". What is that? A liscence to just dump random artificial flavorings in at whim? I have no idea, but vague ingredients do not appeal to me, especially if those ingredients include the word "artificial" in it. Its just weird to me that they would be up front that there are artificial flavorings in their product, but not about what those artificial flavorings are. Are there so many that it would take too much space to list them all? Or is there just one that they are really ashamed of using? Its just weird to me.

That having been said, I know I'm a health nut and I *know* chocolate isn't healthy, but we all have our vices and our cravings and when you crave pancakes every morning, its nice to have a couple different options to spice them up with. Yes, I know dark chocolate is more beneficial to your health and yes I know cacao is even better for you than dark chocolate, but I'm not a fan of the dark chocolate taste. It is one of our options (cacao), but we don't use it that often because my girls don't really like the taste either and I really don't see the point in making something that none of us want to eat.

And just in case you're wondering what our favorite options for pancakes are. . . We like blueberry pancakes (made with fresh blueberries), white chocolate chip pancakes, banana pancakes, and regular pancakes with sliced strawberries and blueberries on top. Every once in a while, we'll even have regular pancakes with agave nectar or syrup on them. I also like chopped walnuts in pancakes, but the girls don't so we don't have those very often.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All Natural Refridgerated Bread

I had a reality check a week and a half ago when I realised that the popcicles I was feeding my kids had red 40 in it and that reality check was this: I am too complacent. See, I bought these popcicles because they are the ones my sister feeds her kids, so of course they are what I want to feed my kids, right? Well, almost. But not quite.

So when I went to the grocery store yesterday, I made it a point to look at every label. It made shopping take a bit longer, but I think the time I invest in making sure my kids get the most nutritional foods avaialble is worth it.

I was making meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and croissants for dinner that night. Everything I needed had good ingredients in it. Everything, that is, except the croissants. I don't remember all the things that bothered me on the ingredients list, but the "artificial color" sandwitched between yellow 5 and yellow 6 really pushed me over the edge. I mean, yellow 5 and yellow 6 are artificial colors, so what does the "artificial color" ingredient consist of? I have no idea, but I didn't want to put yellow 5 and yellow 6 in my kids much less the vague "artificial color".

So I looked at the other refridgerated breads and imagine my surprise to find that pilsbury has a Simply Bread line. There was only one product from this line that was at the Kroger I was shopping at and it was french bread, not croissants, but I decided to try it anyways. It was great. I ended up burning the bottom a bit and it was still great. We had some with dinner last night, some with dinner tonight (leftovers from last night) and tomorrow night, we will finish it up by making garlic bread to go with either chicken ziti or spaghetti with meatballs, whichever I end up making. I'm really glad I bought 2 of the breads instead of just 1. . .

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thriftiness, Efficiency, and the United States Postal Service

Thriftiness according to the USPS is all about packaging. We've all seen the commercials about flat rate boxes -- "as long as you can fit it in and its less than 70 lbs, it ships all over the US for a low flat rate". But did you know that the same efficiency in shoving as much stuff as you can while remaining under the weight limit does NOT also apply to letters?

When mailing letters, folding efficiency translates to thriftiness and the reason for this is simple. When you mail a letter, it must not only be under the weight limit, but it must also fit through a specifically sized slot to be able to be mailed using just a postage stamp. So you must efficiently fold it so that it is as flat as possible to be able to mail a letter that is under the 1 ounce weight limit for 1 postage stamp.

Otherwise, your letter will be returned to you and you will have to bundle your kids into the car, trek to the post office, spending time and using gas, to pay a 20 cent surcharge so that a person will be kind enough to stick your letter in the appropriate place. Who knew people are so inefficient when compared to machines to warrant a 20 cent surcharge for a person to do the same thing a machine does? Go figure. Good luck and happy mailing to you until we meet again ;).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Avoiding Chemical Exposure

So far, I have been concentrating on what goes into my children's bodies - making sure everything that goes into their bodies is healthy, tasty, and HFCS, GMO, artificial sugar, artificial color, artificial flavors and preservative free - and I have not completely mastered that. The other day, I looked at the 2 kinds of popsicles in our freezer and 1 kind has Red 40 in it and the other has HFCS in it (*sadly shakes head*). So I fully intend to master this before I concentrate on any other huge hurdles.

Right now, most of the stuff we buy on a regular basis are foods as I am trying not to buy anything we don't need immediately to limit the amount of stuff we will have to move in September. So it makes more sense to me to concentrate on food items at this point.

We also have a lot of stuff stockpiled as far as personal care items. That having been said, I am always looking for more information to keep my family as healthy as possible. And today, in my newsletter from Franklin Goose, there was a blurb regarding chemicals in cosmetics and personal care items including a printable pocket guide that the Cosmetic Database compiled regarding what chemicals to avoid, etc. I have never seen anything like this before and honestly had not even considered the possible effects of the chemicals in our soaps, shampoos and body washes before. I plan on using this information in all my future shopping and also plan to use it to stock my new home with the healthiest possible personal care and cosmetic items. Its easy to forget that the chemicals that go on our bodies can affect our health just as profoundly as the chemicals that go into our bodies, but I am going to do my best not to overlook this in the future. And I hope this link can help you guys as well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

HFCS free chocolate Syrup recipe

Homemade Hershey's Chocolate Syrup
1/2 cup Hershey's baking cocoa
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Dash of salt (not too much!)
Combine the cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and stir constantly. Let it boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Let it cool a little and then add the vanilla. Store in an old squeezy bottle or a jar in the fridge. You could probably even replace the vanilla with some peppermint oil and make this mint-chocolate syrup! This is great for making chocolate milk or for on ice cream!

If only Hersheys made baking strawberry powder LOL. I always gravitated toward the strawberry syrup and strawberry milk as opposed to chocolate, but I am a big fan of anything HFCS free and thought you guys might like this recipe and I'm sure my hubby will like this when he gets back from training and of course my kiddos will like it.

This is not my recipe. I borrowed it from a post by Amanda on Diaper Swappers. Amanda has a blog called The Screaming Penny. This recipe is posted with her permission and I highly recommend visiting her blog. It has a lot of heads ups for great deals and also has some recipes on it. So go check it out :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Ideal Pantry Contents

Since I'm anticipating moving in September and am due November 6th, I imagine I won't be able to do much, if any, of the moving myself. Having never moved with the Army before, I don't know what to expect, but they are supposed to pack all of our stuff for us (bringing their own boxes and tape)and unpack for us and my only "job" will be to catalog what is in which box and make sure nothing gets damaged or lost en route. Despite the fact that I will be leaving all I'm familiar with behind and will probably want to be surrounded by my stuff to comfort me, I am getting excited about minimizing our stuff -- reducing what we have to maintain and clean around and thereby making our lifes easier. I am also getting quite excited about being able to start all over with a new pantry. I have a neighbor up the street who runs a day care that I plan to give our surplus stuff that I don't want to move with us to. Once we are settled, I plan to look at this as an opportunity to start over. No more HFCS, artificial colors, artificial flavors or GM ingredients in our house to tempt us. I know that this means I will be cooking more stuff myself and am taking the opportunity now to learn as much as I can about cooking food that my kids and I will enjoy and that's good for us. Its easier said than done, but all in all its been fun so far, so why not keep it up?

My ideal pantry (as I see it in my head now) would consist of dried beans (pinto, black and 15 bean mix for now, but I may keep other beans on hand if I learn how to cook them by then), onions, potatoes, 100% cane sugar, King Arthur flour, baking powder, baking soda, Aunt Jemima pancake mix (the kind you add milk, egg and oil to), sunflower oil, olive oil pan spray, spices, Ragu and Prego spaghetti sauces, dates, crackers, rice, agave nectar, honey produced near where we are moving to (helps with regional allergies), salt without iodine, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, mayo, apple cider vinegar, tobasco sauce, salsa, all natural peanut butter, cashews or mixed nuts, black olives, apple and grape jelly, chicken broth, and noodles (ziti, tortellini, spaghetti, lasagna, and fettuccini to start with). I'm sure I'll think of more as I continue to plan this out, but that's what I have so far. While not all of these products will be organic, they will be GMO, artificial sweetener, artificial flavor, artificial color, and HFCS free.

In my fridge will be eggs, milk, spinnach, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, sour cream, yogurt, avacados, whatever fruits are in season, garlic, Simply Orange's orange pineapple juice, Kefir, organic chocolate soy milk, flaxseed meal, butter, mayo, mustard, ketchup, salsa, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, broccoli, pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ground venison, chicken, sliced american cheese, shredded cheese, and port wine cheese among other things. As with the pantry items, not all these products will be organic, but they will be GMO, artificial sweetener, artificial flavor, artificial color, hormone and HFCS free.

In my freezer will be fries, fish, chicken, venison, frozen fruits for smoothies, frozen veggies that can be steamed in the package they come in, popsicles (if I can find any without hfcs or artificial colors as almost all the popsicles I see have one or both) or popsicle molds with green smoothies as the "juice", Amy's frozen garden lasagna, and butter.

It sounds like a lot of food, but considering that I plan on cooking 95% of what we eat, I feel its important to keep healthy ingredients on hand for any genre of food we might want at any given time. . . It sounds more daunting than it is or at least that's what I am hoping.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The truth about high fructose corn syrup (and why we should avoid it)

There are 3 ads that are on TV regarding HFCS and why its "not so bad" its "made from corn", "doesn't have artificial ingredients", "has the same calories as sugar" and "is good in moderation". ( Ad 1, 2, and 3). Of course, this is the same concept as the tobacco industry stating that nicotine isn't addictive and captain morgan encouraging you to drink "but only in moderation". . . Some things, like alcohol and HFCS and smoking are just plain hard to do in moderation. They are addictive and they are bad for you. Sure, you might not feel the negative impact of consuming these products IF you only use them in moderation, but they all lead to slippery slopes that its hard to stop sliding down once you've started your journey.

So what's so bad about HFCS? Well, if I was in that commercial, you would have heard me say that its made from corn. Yes, I realise that that's one of their "good" things about it. But its made from genetically modified corn, which research has shown can cause organ failure. Logically, if something can cause organ failure and you process it, it can still cause organ failure. My second reason that its bad is that studies have shown that almost half of tested samples of commercial HFCS contain mercury, which is toxic in all forms according to an article in the Washington Post. It does go on to say that mercury free HFCS ingredients do exist, but there is no way to tell when looking at the label if the HFCS in the product you are considering buying contains mercury or not. Too bad I wasn't in the commercial, huh? Course, then the Corn Refiner's Association, probably wouldn't want to put it on TV. . . But if there's any association out there against the consumption of mercury, I would be happy to be in your commercial. . .

Friday, June 11, 2010

Venison Muffintin Meatloaves

Ingredients: 2-3 lbs venison ground, thawed
1/2 cup ketchup (I'm guessing here as I used 4 squirts for 1-1.5 lbs venison)
1/4 cup mustard (also a rough estimate)
3-4 tbsp finely chopped onion
8-10 dashes worstershire sauce

(1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
(2) Combine all ingredients and mix until just mixed. Do not overmix or flatten.
(3) Spray muffin pan.
(4) Press lightly into muffin pan.
(5) Bake for 30-40 minutes or until meatloafs have internal temp of at least 160 farenheit and begin pulling away from the sides.
(6) Put ketchup on top.
(7) Bake for 10 minutes.

We serve ours with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and croissants. I make the mashed potatoes and steamed carrots while the meatloaves do the initial 40 minute bake then change the oven temp to 375 and bake the croissants for 11 minutes while the meatloaves cook with ketchup on them. It is delicious.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Venison Version Project: Meatloaf take 1

I've been doing a lot more cooking lately than I used to when Joey was here, but most of my cooking has been with chicken and fish as that is what I have the most experience cooking with. I was never much a fan of beef and don't even buy it these days. Our only red meat consumption is venison. Joey's father likes to hunt and they never eats as much as he kills, so they give us some of their extra venison. But I'm a chicken. I'm so afraid of trying recipes with the venison and epically failing and wasting the venison that I tend not to try. The only things I've cooked with venison so far have been burgers and hamburger helper and taco meat.

Well, no one ever learned anything from chickening out and I've really been craving meatloaf, so first up on the venison version project is meatloaf. I've actually been craving meatloaf since before Joey left for basic, so for almost 5 weeks now. And I found this really neat meatloaf idea -- to make it in a muffin pan, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to cook the meatloaf and producing single serving portions of meatloaf that can be easily frozen and reheated. My mom has never used breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs in her meatloaf, so after fruitlessly searching for a meatloaf recipe that does not call for either, I finally called her and got her recipe. Its not very technical.

1 to 1.5 lbs beef (I'm using venison)
ketchup (enough -- I used about 4 squirts)
mustard (1/2 of enough -- I used about 2 squirts)
chopped onion (3-4 slices chopped finely)
worstershire sauce (4-5 shakes)

(1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
(2) Mix all ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix.
(3) Spray muffin pan.
(4) Press lightly into muffin tins.
(5) Bake for 40 minutes or until meatloafs have internal temp of at least 160 farenheit and begin pulling away from the sides.
(6) Ketchup on top.
(7) Bake for 10 minutes.

While its baking for the initial 40 minutes, that gives you plenty of time to make mashed potatoes (I make mine with milk, butter and sour cream), steam some carrots and if you want to make croissants with your meal, when you pull the meatloaves out to put ketchup on top, change oven temp to 375 degrees farenheit and when its preheated (it doesn't take long to preheat 25 degrees -- by the time you roll the croissants and put ketchup on the meatloaves, it should be ready), you put the croissants and meatloaves in the oven for 11 minutes then they are both done at the same time.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Scientific Studies Found That GM Corn Can Cause ORGAN FAILURE

I just read an article about GM Corn. It seems to be from a Canadian perspective (refers to Canadian GM food laws, etc), but the science behind it surely applies to all of us. At least, all of us that have organs. . . Of course, the experiments were done on rats, not humans. The only experiments being done on humans are those we allow to be done on us when we -- knowingly or unknowingly -- choose to purchase GM foods.

I will be the first to admit that I've been getting lazy lately. I've been much more focused on making sure the foods I buy are preservative free and don't have any artificial colors or flavors or HFCS in them than I have been on making sure they don't have any of the GM ingredients in them, but this article is really making me rethink that.

Is it easy to buy all GM free foods? NO. Is it quick and painless? NO. But its probably easier and quicker and more painless than having your liver fail.

It boggles my mind that I live in a country that requires companies to label whether a food is made in a factory that also produces peanuts or wheat or egg products (I'm assuming to decrease the chances of people having allergic reactions and suing said companies), but does not require companies to label whether or not their ingredients are GM. What will it take for the FDA to realise that we have a right to know how the ingredients that go into our food were produced? I sincerely hope that GM foods are safe since I know I've been unknowingly eating them for years, but I think we have a right to make informed decisions and its just frustrating to me that our government doesn't seem to agree with me on this matter. I just wish I had the time, energy and ability to do something about it.

I talked to my dad about GMFs and GMOs on the way back from VA when I went to my sister's graduation. It was very late at night and a very interesting conversation. One of those where both people are tired and trying to argue to stay awake LOL. He tried to convince me that it was OK to eat GMOs and GMFs. After all, if I had cancer, wouldn't I get chemo? Well, first of all, I would have to weigh my chances of beating the cancer w/o chemo vs. the chances of me surviving the chemo. And second of all, the chemo would be a toxin thats intended to save your life and is only introduced into the body of very ill people who might otherwise die and have little or no alternative options whereas BT toxins and the pesticides used on GMFs and GMOs are not intended to save lives only to make the foods easier to grow and there are alternative (organic) options that might be more expensive, but are probably not as expensive as dealing with GMO and GMF organ failure complications. Not that I'm saying GMFs and GMOs will 100% for sure cause organ failure. Just that I don't want to be part of the general public that is involved --knowingly or unknowingly-- in the massive human testing experiment to determine what GMOs and GMFs will do to your body.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Green Smoothie Tutorial

I have done several posts regarding green smoothies and thought I would consolidate all the important tips into one post. Remember, though, these are my tips regarding making tasty and healthy green smoothies that you and your kids will enjoy. However, my taste buds and yours may not agree on what is "tasty", so feel free to experiment if my recipes/tips don't work for your taste buds.

A simple, basic recipe for making green smoothies requires your choice of greens, a liquid, frozen or fresh fruits, and a sweetener (optional). Any greens will work. For liquids, water or juice are recommended, but some people do use milk, soy milk and coconut milk, etc. I just don't prefer the taste of milks in my green smoothies so I use water or juice, generally juice as I don't have to use a sweetener when I use juice. I prefer juices that are not from concentrate, like orange-pineapple juice from Simply Orange or acai juice by Bom Dia. For fruits, I prefer frozen fruits or a combination of fresh and frozen fruits as the frozen fruits give the smoothie a thicker more smoothie-esque quality, like the smoothies I used to make from yogurt, milk, and fruit. I have made smoothies with strawberries, mangos, bananas, peaches, blueberries, blackberries, and pineapple all with great success. When I use a sweetener, I prefer agave nectar or honey. I also add flaxseed meal to my smoothies.

To make your smoothies, place greens and liquid in your blender and blend until smooth. Add fruit and any other ingredients you choose such as flaxseed meal or sweeteners and blend until smooth again. You may have to add extra juice to allow the frozen fruits to blend completely.

My best tip for green smoothies is just try it. I know it sounds weird, but its a great way to get the benefits of consuming greens without having to deal with the greens taste.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Journey to supermomdom derailed by detour to army life

I know my blogging lately has been mostly focused on our family's transition to being without my husband as he goes through basic training and perhaps my journey to supermomdom has in some ways been derailed by an unexpected detour into Army life. But in the process, I have gotten into a routine of cleaning more often, started spending more time with my kids, and began cooking more often and more healthily for my kiddos, all of which were goals in my journey to supermomdom. I will try to blog more frequently about more topics than simply updates on our transition to Army life, but its important to keep in mind that we don't always know how our lives will change or where our lives will go from one day to the next and it is important to strive for supermomdom no matter what direction our lives take. Life is often about change and adapting to changes and striving for supermomdom no matter how our lives change is essential because if we can strive to be better moms no matter how life changes, that is so much better than letting our lives and progress be derailed by changes. Anyways, thanks for bearing with me and please know that being thrifty and more efficient and learning new recipes to keep my family healthy are still goals of mine even if I am not blogging about them as much as I once did and I will try to do better and post blogs that are more helpful than my updates may be.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Life as a single mom, army style, day 23

I haven't blogged in a while. I thought I'd pop in and give you guys an update on what's going on with my family. My husband has been gone 23 days by now. He is at the beginning of his 3rd week in basic training after spending about a week in reception. I've gotten a post card, a phone call, and 2 letters from him so far and have sent him one letter with some pictures and am waiting on pictures to come this week to send him another letter. He originally asked me not to send him any letters unless he asked me to send him one, so that's the only reason why I haven't written him every day since learning his address. His basic training is 9 weeks long, so we will get to see him again in approximately 6 weeks at his basic training graduation. We all miss him terribly. Addy and Evie say at least once a day that they miss daddy and Izzy has started saying dada several times a day, which I take to mean the same thing.

Izzy has started walking pretty regularly. She still crawls a little bit, but mostly walking all the time these days. I'm so proud of her, but also a little sad. She's growing out of the chicken-chicken phase when she wouldn't even try to walk and that's bitter sweet to me. Her favorite toys these days are the megablocks that she's loved ever since she figured out how to put 2 together and take them back apart a couple months ago. Maybe she'll be an architect when she grows up. We're battling a virus with her right now. Viruses are very frustrating as there is nothing you can give them to make the virus go away, they just have to run their course. Unfortunately, this virus includes very acidic poop that is absolutely eating up Izzy's diaper area and that is the worst part of the virus. I'm trying to let her go diaperless as much as possible to let the irritated skin air out and there is never a time when she isn't slathered with diaper cream, but its still getting worse, largely due to the fact that she has diarrhea so frequently that her bum really doesn't have time to heal. We're pushing the yogurt to help her stomach settle and pushing liquids and just trying to tough it out while this virus runs its course.

Evie is a strange combination of clingy and independent. She is really missing daddy and to compensate for that is clinging to me a lot of the time. She wants to sleep with me, to always be beside me, etc. But she also wants to do everything herself and she always wants to help me, especially if Addy is helping me so if I ask Addy to help me with something, I try to make sure I have something Evie can help me with, too. Sometimes its hard to figure out what to expect from her in any given situation, but I'm finding myself developing more patience throughout this and trying to spend some extra time with her to reassure her that even though daddy can't be here right now, mommy isn't going anywhere and having her help me with little things like putting up silverware and swapping out the clothes seems to help both of us, so we enjoy doing stuff like this together.

Addy will be starting kindergarden in August. She is the "little mommy" in our family unit. She is always looking out for Evie and Izzy and even me. The other day she told me that since daddy wasn't here to take care of me, she would. It was really sweet. Addy is very independent, which is good, and she also likes to cuddle, which is nice. Its hard to reconcile this big grown up girl with the 5 lb 5 ounce infant that layed in my arms almost 6 years ago. She's so big and so smart and so amazing and I don't tell her that enough, but I'm working on it.

We're finally settling into a routine. It was hard to settle into a routine initially due to the fact that we were gone to Virginia initially to see my sister graduate, then when we went back we had a few days alone before my mom came to stay with us for a few days to help me out and watch the girls while I went to my monthly doctor's appointment. Then my sister had her baby and my mom and I stayed with my neices while she was in labor and in the hospital and for the next couple of days we were there every day. Now, with Izzy's virus, I'm staying home and recouperating from not getting much sleep lately and getting into a routine, which includes daily vaccuuming, and doing 1-2 loads of clothes and 1-2 loads of dishes a day. I'm making breakfast for the girls each morning and we are having sandwitches, hot dogs or leftovers for lunch and I've been cooking for dinner as well. I feel like I'm running all day long just trying to keep up with everything and its very tiring, but I am keeping up with everything, which is great.

I haven't been sleeping well without Joey here, but other than that, I'm doing fine. I'm 17 weeks 3 days gestation at this point and still just feeling fluttering, not feeling kicks yet, but I'm sure I'll feel kicks soon enough. I've been constantly fighting a headache that seems to be brewing. So far, it hasn't hit me full force, but it hasn't gone away either.

So that's our most current update. As usual, I am going to try to blog more, but if it comes down to blogging or sleeping, sleeping is going to win ;)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Life as a single mom, army style, day 12

I am so proud of myself today. Every day the house seems to get cleaner. Today, I vaccuumed behind the girls dresser and finished washing and folding all the clothes. Who knows what else I will accomplish tomorrow?

I talked to BIL today. He's such a sweetie. He's going to come to the house Saturday to mow the lawn for me. I don't know if my MIL and FIL are coming. Apparently MIL is concerned the house might be dirty and she won't be able to handle it. No, she's not OC or anything like that, just pretty intollerant of other people having dirty houses even though they have tons of pets and the floors are always covered with pet hair. . . but whatever. I told him the house will be clean except for possible toys strewn about because I have kids and if they really wanted to come and the house was dirty, I could always clean it while they played with the kids. It irks me that they would think about not seeing their grandkids just because of a fear of a dirty house. Plus, how much cleaning do they think Joey did? Seriously.

Anyways, I'm off to bed. I'll post more tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Life as a single mom, army style (Day 11)

I heard from my MIL for the first time since Joey deployed last night. She's thinking of coming over this weekend to see us and to bring BIL over to mow my lawn. Its been about 2 weeks, so the lawn could use mowing. . . but I'm a little worried about them coming over. I'm cleaning all the time, but never seem to make any progress and MIL was always very critical of my sister's house when we lived with her (of course, she always assumed it was my sister's fault, probably with help from Joey) and she's not really one to jump in and help, she's more the kind to act like nothing's wrong then badmouth you behind your back, so I'm a little worried the house won't be up to her standards. And I'm not sure if she knows I'm pregnant. I wanted to tell her 3 weeks ago, the last time we saw them, but Joey didn't want to. I'm not sure if he wanted that day to be all about him (like every other day LOL) or if he just didn't want to deal with their reaction (when they found out we were going to have Izzy, they had the "not another one" reaction with a bit of "when are you guys going to stop" thrown in to spice it up), but either way, he didn't want to tell them. So I told him that was fine, but it would be his responsibility to break the news to them before he left and I have no idea if he did or not. I think I'm just going to assume they know, but not talk about it while they are here. . . Not sure how well that will work, though, since Evie informed me tonight that if I had a baby in my tummy then she did, too. So I'm sure she'll say something even if I don't. I know I'm stressing out way too much about this, but I can't help it.

Today, I got caught up on the laundry (well, washed at least. I'll fold tomorrow), vaccuumed most of the house and made lasagna all with a headache that has been my constant companion for several days and doesn't want to leave. I'll post the lasagna recipe later as I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Life as a single mom, Army style, Day 10

We got back last night from visiting my sister, Jessica, in VA for her graduation. After much deliberation, we ended up carpooling with my parents, which ended up being a blessing because I had to nap my way there so I wouldn't barf and still ended up barfing for a few minutes of the ride. It was rough. I'm not sure if I would have barfed regardless of whether I was driving or not, so I'm just thankful that I didn't try driving on my own. I might never have made it there if I had to keep pulling over to barf.

It was a hard decision to make, though. I was really worried about taking the car seats out of the back of my car and not being able to get them back in. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to reinstall them and neither would anyone else. The only person who had been able to install them was Joey and I wasn't sure how I would react to no one else being able to do what he did while he's gone. I guess that's probably a worry that all Army stay at home moms have -- not being able to do everything that daddy can do the way he can do it while he's gone. I guess that's probably a lesson that all Army stay at home moms have to learn, that they don't have to do everything daddy's way while he's gone. That we only have to take care of our children the best way we can, as opposed to the best way that we can when daddy's here. An extra pair of hands makes a big difference and its probably normal to expect to be able to do everything with one pair of hands that gets done with two, but its not always going to be possible. And coming to terms with this is difficult, but important. I would drive myself crazy if I tried to do everything that gets done when Joey's here without him here.

Right now, we are still trying to develop a system, figure out a schedule. So far, the constants seem to be laundry, dishes, cooking and taking care of the kids.

I have yet to catch up on the laundry. I've been doing laundry since Joey left, separating clothes into stuff we wear now, which goes into drawers, and stuff that won't be used until fall or later, which is all in a pile in the girls' closet in their room. When I catch up on the laundry, I'm going to go through the clothes in their closet and box them up by size and season to make things easy once we move. Since Joey won't be wearing any of his clothes while he's in basic, all his clothes are in the closet now, too.

I start and end the day with dishes. So that's basically a maintenance thing as far as dishes go. Its a PITA, but a manageable one and it keeps me occupied for about 10 minutes a day.

Cooking is a constant issue for me. I guess I didn't realise how much Joey was cooking while he was here. I guess I got spoiled in the 3 months he was home with us before he left. I'm doing the best I can to cook nutritious meals that the girls will actually eat and I mostly succeed, but I'm constantly trying to do more, which gives me something to think about and focus on, which is probably a good thing. I'm always looking for different ways to eliminate HFCS, corn syrup, artificial colors, artificial preservatives and artificial sweeteners from our diets. We usually drink green smoothies at least once a day. Breakfast is usually simple with eggs and pancakes, cereal and milk, yogurt, fruit, etc. Lunch is usually simple as well. Sandwiches, leftovers from the night before, etc. Dinner is usually more complicated -- So far, it has consisted of tortellini (which is made by Barilla btw, not Bertolli as I previously posted) with Ragu chunky garden vegetable sauce, sometimes with salad, cheeseburgers, pizza sandwiches (flat breads with pizza sauce, cheese and toppings on it, baked), hot dogs (I have found Hebrew National beef hot dogs to be the most healthy hot dogs, healthier even than the chicken hot dogs I used to buy, so I started buying those), stuff like that. I haven't made any casseroles yet, which is surprising to me. I'll probably find time to start making casseroles around next week or so, once I have caught up on everything and found my own rhythm. I'm really jonesing for some chicken ziti right now, so I might even try to make some tonight.

Taking care of the kids is the hardest constant.

Right now, they are still missing Joey a lot, whereas I'm pretty angry with him. It may be petty, but I just can't get over his arrival call. It started off with him telling me he had less than a minute to talk, so "shut up and listen to what I have to say" and continued to tell me not to send him any packages or letters unless he writes me and asks me to write him. Apparently, he will have to do 1 pushup for every cent the postage costs on a package and 25 pushups for every letter. Somewhere in there, he also said he was at basic and was fine (*insert his scoff here, which seemed to indicate he wasn't all that fine*) and had his M16 in his hand and was doing fine. Then he had to go. He said he'd call me back in 2 weeks, although I know and he *should* know that he doesn't know he will be able to call me back in 2 weeks because he doesn't know if he'll earn the phone priveliges or not. He didn't ask about the kids or say he loved them (although he did say he loved me), but I really just can't get over the "shut up". I understand that he barely had time to say what he was trying to say, but he didn't have to say it like that. He could have said be quiet. So what? I get to cling to "shut up" for the next 2 weeks until he calls me again, at which time I might or might not answer the phone. I definately don't want to hear "shut up" again. I'd rather just not talk to him at all.

I'm getting more patient with them, which is good because I need all the patience I can get. They are constantly testing me, constantly pushing their limits. I love them, but its frustrating when they get in their disobedient moods. I don't even want to be near them when they get in those moods. And I feel bad about that. I don't know how to fix it though, short of teaching them to mind better, which I am doing and have been having some success with. We're making improvements, but it takes time and patience and self control. Time I have a limited amount of, but patience and self-control I'm getting more of. Other than brief spurts of disobedience, everything is going fairly well in my opinion. Its hard to discipline the kids sometimes. I find myself making excuses for them -- they miss daddy, they are tired, they are not feeling well -- which doesn't help them in the long run. I'm trying to keep all their needs satisfied so that they are not acting out due to hunger, tiredness, etc. And when they miss daddy, I try to direct them to their "daddy stuffed animals" (build a bears they picked out that have recordings of daddy's voice in them) or their "daddy books" (hallmark books that he recorded himself reading for them) or pictures of daddy. Its hard, but I really think we're doing great so far.

I have a dr's appointment on Friday to check me and the baby. My mom's going to come watch the kids so I don't have to take them with me and I'm going to go grocery shopping on the way back so that I don't have to take them with me for that either. I love my kiddos, but grocery shopping with 3 little girls isn't the funnest experience ever.

I'm hoping to be able to post more frequently now that I'm finally getting into a routine and catching up on all the housework. Today, I managed to clean the kitchen and the living room complete with vaccuming. If only I could get all the laundry caught up, I might finally be able to extend my clean territory to the upstairs region. I'm going to try to post once a day. I may not be able to, but that's the goal I'll be aiming for.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Single Mom, Army Style: Day 3

Well, yesterday was better than Sunday and today is better than yesterday. Right now, I'm just taking it one day at a time because if I look at the fact that I'm not going to see him for another 67 days (or thereabouts), I get a little panicky and overwhelmed. By now, Joey is at Fort Jackson. Hopefully, I'll be able to hear from him later today, but if not, I spoke to him last night at 10 pm and he was fine, just trying to catch a nap on the bus ride to Fort Jackson. He said the bus was great, it was a coach bus with only 12 people in it, so there was lots of room to sleep, but the driver did not take the most direct route there, so he was frustrated that it was going to take him longer to get there than it would have otherwise taken and he was having trouble sleeping because the bus was stinky.

I really miss him and not only that, I envy him. He is out, living a dream, while I am here raising our kids. It doesn't seem fair (and I know life's not fair) and I know that there's no place I'd rather be NOW, but he is living out a dream from before kids and I'm not. And I don't know why he'd rather be there than here.

I am struggling a lot with my attitude. I know God is in control and I know he was there when Joey signed the paperwork to enlist and I know he has a plan for us. I just wish I could see the "good" part now. Now I only see the hard part and I have to keep reminding myself to trust God.

Yesterday was a large circle, beginning and ending with doing dishes. Somewhere in the middle, Addy wrote Joey a really cute letter and drew a picture on the rest of the paper. I'm going to send it to him with a couple pictures of me and him (the night before he left we went to the movies and they had a photo booth so we got our pictures taken twice in it and we got 2 copies of each picture) and an ultrasound picture (we got 2 copies at the OB's office last time we were there) and probably a letter from me. I don't know what to write though. Its a fine line to stay positive and supportive without lying at this point. I'm just too focused on the hard and negative right now. Hopefully when the time comes to write him a letter, I'll be feeling a little more positive.

I'm frustrated with my kids. I know its hard adjusting to daddy not being here, but they are testing me at every turn and that's really hard to deal with when you feel emotionally raw.

Last night, I made hamburgers for dinner and I threw some shredded carrots into the venison so that they would have a difficult time avoiding veggies altogether. Addy ate pickles and tomato with her hamburger and Evie just ate the tomato. Izzy didn't eat either, but she did eat her burger, so I was really happy I added the carrots into the burger meat.

I am leaving Thursday night to travel to Virginia to see my sister Jessica graduate. She will be the first of us 4 to graduate from college and will be continuing school so that she can get her master's. I'm so proud of her I could burst and I'm sincerely hoping that Angie follows in her footsteps and is able to graduate in 3 years. Angie just finished her freshman year of college. One of these days I hope to go back to college, but that all depends on when I stop having kids. I could go back to school when my kids are in school, but until then I feel my place is at home with them. Even if they are determined to drive me insane LOL.

So until Thursday, I'll be cleaning my house. I hate to leave it dirty when I'm gone because then I'm stressed when I leave because the house is dirty and I'm stressed when I get back because I'm coming home to a dirty house. Its hard to feel happy to be home when all you really see is the dirty laundry, etc. So I guess that's enough random thoughts for now. I'm off to clean my house :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thus begins the life of an army wife. . .

About 2 hours ago, I dropped my husband off at his reruiter's office so he could leave for basic. I didn't think it would hurt as much as it did. I felt like I had been ripped into tiny pieces. I tried not to cry on the way home because the kiddos didn't seem upset and I didn't want to upset them, but I couldn't help it. My eyes were like a faucet left slightly on. A constant trickle. I'm not a big crier. I'm usually just numb when I'm upset, but not this time. I never knew separation could hurt so much.

When I was 18, I was engaged to my first high school sweetheart and he left for the Army. When he left, I was sure I was never going to see him again. I couldn't even kiss him goodbye.

This time was so much different. I felt like a big baby. I was trying not to cry in front of my hubby and mostly succeeded. But then I realised all I had given him was a peck on the cheek and called him back to the car to kiss him properly. I'm not sure how well I hid the tears that time.

I feel broken. All I want to do is curl into a ball and cry, but I can't. I have 3 little girls that depend on me and look up to me and I don't feel like I can cry in front of them. And perversely, it seems like that's when I want to cry the most, when I'm in front of my girls.

Evie is so funny though. She had a meltdown when I layed her down for her nap and said "I want my daddy" through her tears. I said "I want your daddy, too" and was just about to start the waterworks again when she said "I want a popcicle" and it just made me laugh. Master of manipulation, that one. I think she's asleep now, which is good because she was exhausted.

Now that Joey's off to basic, I'll probably be posting at least once a day, not only to continue documenting my journey to supermomdom, but also so I do not forget all the daily things that I'll want to be able to tell my husband about when he returns and probably as an accountability thing, too. Its harder to curl up in a ball and waddle in misery when you have to admit it to other people.

Until tomorrow, then. . .

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Easier than a box of mac 'n' cheese (and healthier, too)

If you're anything like me, you have those nights. You know, the ones where the day has gotten completely away from you and all of a sudden its bedtime and you haven't even made dinner yet. I have those days all the time and usually I reach for mac 'n' cheese, some form of veggie and a fruit. Sometimes I spice it up with hot dogs in the kiddos mac 'n' cheese. It sounds gross, but my hubby introduced them to it and they love it. Other times I make sandwitches with veggies and fruit or with soup if its cold. The only thing is, these all take about 30 minutes to figure out what I have the ingredients for and to make, which is not a fun 30 minutes with 3 screaming kiddos.

I know what you're thinking. There can't be anything easier than mac 'n' cheese that is actually healthier and takes less time to prepare. But there is. Its called Tortellini. It is found in the dried pasta aisle at Walmart. Its a pasta that is filled with cheeses or cheese and spinach and all you have to do is boil it for 11 minutes. While it is boiling, you warm your favorite spaghetti sauce (I like the chunky garden veggie kind that I can only find at Kroger, it has chunks of zucchini and carrot that I love) and when then noodles are done cooking, you drain them and mix with the spaghetti sauce and voila. . . An entire meal in one dish. Best of all, all my picky eaters will eat it happily. And Bertolli makes a brand that is all natural, no HFCS, no junk, just noodles and cheese, dried.

I choose the spinach and cheese tortellini that Bertolli makes because it is just as tasty as the four cheese variety and it has hidden veggies that my kiddos cannot detect and cannot remove. Muahaha. So even if Evie picks out the zucchini chunks in her spaghetti sauce, which she has been known to do, she's still got a green veggie in her dinner and she doesn't even know it. You can also pair this with a salad to add even more veggies or just add some fruit as a "dessert" -- either way, its delicious.

It is not the cheapest food. The totellini alone is $4.50 (or thereabouts) and then you have to add the cost of the spaghetti sauce, but you can't beat it for a quick, healthy dinner and for myself and my 3 girls, one package of tortellini and one jar of spaghetti sauce makes 2 meals -- dinner one night and lunch the next day. So considering that, its not that expensive either. $3-4 per meal for a family of 4, so $1 per meal per person. And its one of those foods that is just as `good when rewarmed. Just make sure you cover your dish while you microwave it as it will splatter otherwise, like any other dish that includes spaghetti sauce.

My husband ships out on Sunday for basic training, so guess what I'll be doing Saturday? Yes, that's right, I'll be grocery shopping. I'll be going to Walmart and Kroger and stocking up on tortellini and spaghetti sauce, among other things.

So give it a try and let me know what you think :)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Down to the single digits and Green Recipe #3 (also lactose free)

I'm sorry I've been MIA lately, but my husband is going to be shipping off for Army Basic Combat Training May 9th. Yes, Mother's Day. AKA a week from tomorrow. We have been crazy busy with all the little things that need to be completed by the time he leaves, so it has been understandably hectic lately and I haven't been online very much lately.

I have been diving more and more into green smoothies these days.

Recipe #3 (also lactose free)
handfull of spinach
3/4 cup Orange Pineapple Juice (I used simply orange)
1 banana
handful of fresh strawberries
handful of frozen pineapple
handful of fresh grapes

It was very good. Izzy cried when she finished hers, so I gave her more. Evie and Addy left some in their cups. I thought they were done with them, but they came back for the rest. I was so happy they enjoyed them so much. I enjoyed mine, too. At least, what little I got to drink. These days, whatever I have the girls want, even if they have the exact same thing in front of them. Its kind of cute, but more frustrating. I have to eat in the living room while they eat in the kitchen just so I can eat. . . This, too, shall pass. . . I hope ;)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Green Smoothie recipe # 2 (also lactose free)

1/2-3/4 cup orange pineapple juice (I used Simply Orange with pineapple)
1 handful spinach (I used walmart brand, which was $1.98 for 10 ounces as opposed to fresh express that was $2.78 for 6 ounces and organic which was $2.98 for 5 ounces)
3/4- 1 cup frozen peach slices (I used whatever kind Walmart has in their frozen section.)
1-2 tbsp agave nectar (to taste)

I tried this recipe the other day and loved it. The shade of green was a bit disconcerting at first, but the flavor was fantastic and we all know good tasted really helps you get over looks weird fast. I'm thinking about getting the orange-mango juice from simply orange and getting frozen mango and trying that. I'm not sure what other kinds of greens I'll experiment with next, but I think its safe to say I'm hooked on green smoothies. . .

Oh, and even Joey (my picky hubby) liked this smoothie. I was shocked. I though he was just saying he liked it to spare my feelings, but he drank 1/2 a cup of it (which was all I gave him because I didn't expect him to drink it) and said he liked it. . . I drank this after the kids were in bed, so I don't know if they'll like it or not, but Joey liking it makes me brave enough to try it on the kiddos.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shaking up Pizza Night a bit

We've talked and talked about pizza, but here are a couple options we haven't talked about.

An alternative to pizza crust is tortillas. Joey and I have used tortillas in place of pizza crust to make a fantastic thin crust alternative. You use the tortilla just like any other crust, put tomato sauce, cheese and toppings on and bake until cheese is melted. The best part is you can pick different sizes of tortillas for different sized appetites (taco sized for younger kids, soft taco size for older kids or burrito sized for adults).

Another alternative, also incorporating tortillas, is pizzadillas. You put cheese and toppings in a folded tortilla, cook like a quesadilla and dip in pizza sauce. Yummy.

Either of these options allows each person to choose their own toppings and have their own customized entree and you can have your kiddos help make their own with either of these options.

A final option, which doesn't make individual entrees, but is still yummy and you can still have the kiddos assist in preparing is pizza pasta. You take elbow noodles or ziti noodles or really any kind of noodles, tomato sauce, motzarella, and whatever toppings you like, toss them together and bake on 350 for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated with cheese melted.

Just thought I'd post these pizza night alternatives as I'm sure I'll be using them once Joey's in basic. I doubt I'll really want pizza once a week, but pizzadillas and pizza pasta are great ways to have pizza night but also mix it up a bit and give it some variety.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

1 pkg of 2 pie crusts
1 can cream-of-soup (or prepare your own, see cream-of-soup recipe)
1 pkg mixed veggies, steamed and drained (I like Cascadian Farms organic frozen mixed veggies) or 2 14.5 ounce cans of mixed veggies drained
2 chicken breasts
chicken broth (optional)

Boil chicken breasts in chicken broth and water or just water for about 30 minutes or until done. (I like to boil my chicken for chicken pot pie with my chicken for chicken ziti to make the most of that chicken broth, but you can always refrigerate and reuse it).
Remove pie crusts from box and let sit out to thaw while cooking chicken breasts.
Chop chicken breasts finely.
Steam veggies and drain.
Make cream-of-soup.
In large mixing bowl, mix cream of soup, diced chicken and veggies.
Press first crust into pie pan, fill with chicken/veggie/soup mixture, moisten top of bottom crust, place 2nd crust on top, use fork to flute crusts together.
Bake on 375 for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown on top and bottom.

All my girls love this. Its "chicken pie" and we eat it for dinner one night and lunch the next day and then its gone and they are asking for more.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

HFCS free all natural ketchup

My best find at the grocery store this week is Hunt's All Natural HFCS free ketchup. Its hard to explain how excited I got, but I got really excited. The only thing on the label I'm not sure about is the last ingredient "natural flavors". I don't have a clue what that is, but none of the other ingredients throw up any GMO, GMF or artificial ingredients, preservatives or flavorings red flags and we don't have to worry about the mercury in the HFCS now, so I'm totally psyched. I've always bought whatever ketchup is on sale, but I'm a Hunt's gal now!!!

And just in case you're wondering "why is high fructose corn syrup so bad?" After all, there's a commercial that says HFCS is fine when eaten in moderation and we all know that commercials never lie. . . Refer back to my original posts regarding GMOs. HFCS is not only derived from GM corn, but it can also contain mercury. If we don't want to use mercury thermometers, where the mercury is separated from us by glass because it might break and expose us to mercury, then its probably a bad thing to digest, right? Right. There is a link to the article I'm referring to in my post regarding avoiding GMOs in our foods.

Got MY BNC Order In. . . Did You Get Yours?

I finally decided what to order. I ordered 4 miracleans (and got one free for a total of 5), 1 minty window wash, 2 citrus toilet sprays, 3 hardwood floor cleaners and a spray air deodorizer.

If anyone's interested in ordering, the coop is open for orders until 4/22 and it has reached the highest discount level of 30% off retail plus a free miraclean ($8 retail value). So get those orders in before the coop closes. It'll probably be another 6 months before the next coop.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

1 bell pepper per person you are feeding (we needed 4)
1 lb ground meat per 4 bell peppers (we used ground venison)
old bay seasoning
Mexican cheese
Sour Cream
1/2 onion per pound of meat
2 mushrooms per pound of meat

Cook ground meat with old bay seasoning until browned.
Chop onion and mushrooms and add to meat with salsa, cook a few minutes to soften onions and mushrooms and allow flavors to combine.
Pour meat mixture into mixing bowl and add cheese.
Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove top of bell peppers, hollow out and rinse.
Fill peppers with meat mixture, packing down so there are no air pockets. Cover with cheese and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is crispy.
Remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes, put in a bowl and add sour cream.

Sour cream, onions and mushrooms are optional as is salsa. You can also customize this by adding Italian seasoning instead of old bay and mixing with spaghetti sauce instead of salsa and using motzarella instead of Mexican cheese to make it an Italian meal instead of a Mexican one.

The best thing about this meal -- all my girls ate it!!!! Evie wanted to be fed (for the attention) as usual, so Joey fed her, but she ate it all (1/2 a stuffed bell pepper) and so did Addy. We just gave Izzy the meat mixture as the bell pepper would be too hard for her to chew as it was still a bit crunchy (which is how its supposed to be) and she ate all her meat and mushrooms, but the onions were too big and crunchy for her, so when I make it, I'll chop the onions smaller and add them to the meat when I start it browning.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Non-Green Smoothie Recipe #1 (lactose free version)

I made non-green green smoothies for the girls for snack yesterday and they were a hit. Pretty much.

I didn't follow a recipe, just threw stuff in, but I'll try to guestimate.

I used about 1/2 cup of water and a big handful of spinach (it filled up my blender), blended on "liquify" setting until it liquified, then I added a banana, 7 fresh strawberries, about 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries and blackberries, about 1/2 cup of frozen peach slices, and some honey and blended until smoothe. It was a dark purple color (which I told the girls was from the combo of blueberries, blackberries and strawberries). They all liked it. Except Evie kept picking out the scratchy parts of the blackberries. So now I'm thinking its a texture thing, like the same texture as broccoli, which she won't eat. Also, she likes me to "feed" her like I "feed" Izzy (hold the straw for her). Its an attention thing.

Today, I'm going to try the yogurt, milk, peaches and spinach and honey and see if they will drink a green green smoothie.

Let Me Sit With My Baby

Let me sit with my baby
And play for a while,
And forget all
my unfinished work
with a smile,
For every tomorrow
holds work to be done,
But lullaby moments
and peek-a-boo fun
Are life's tender treasures
meant just for today,
For babies grow up. . .
and the years
slip away.

I love that poem. I had it on a picture that I hung on the wall, but somehow in the move from my sister's house to our first real house, it got stuck in the garage, somehow got wet, and got moldy. So sadly I was forced to throw it away today, but I just couldn't do it until I put the poem somewhere where I could read it whenever I wanted to. And hopefully someone beside me will enjoy it as well.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Quick, easy, yummy recipes and green smoothies

For some reason, blogger won't let me comment right now, so I just wanted to give you guys a heads up that I'll be posting a lot more quick, easy, yummy, tried and true recipes in the coming days, partially because they are wonderful and I like to share and partially so I don't forget how to make them when Joey's gone. Its funny how many times I ask Joey to remind me what temp I cook dishes at, etc, when I'm cooking and I won't be able to ask him when he's gone, so I'll post them on here so if I forget, I can just reference my blog. I'll be using a lot of quick, easy, yummy, tried-and-true recipes while Joey's gone as I think that sticking with what the girls are familiar with and already like will be less stressful for the kiddos than giving them a bunch of new stuff to try, which sometimes stresses my middle daughter out. Not only am I going to add some more recipes, but I'm also going to add a new category that's "quick recipes" so you can find the quick, easy recipes quickly.

I am going to introduce some new stuff to the girls while Joey is here, though. If they like them, then they will be "tried-and-true" recipes by the time he leaves, so we'll be able to stick with them then.

The first thing I'm going to introduce is green smoothies. I've seen people talking about them on Diaper Swappers before, but wasn't inspired to try them until my sister said she was going to try them. I did some research about it today and the idea behind green smoothies (which don't have to be green by the way) is to add green, leafy veggies to your diet without tasting them. In theory, and keep in mind that I haven't tried these yet, spinach has no detectable flavor when added to a smoothie.

My typical smoothie recipe is 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/4-1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup frozen fruit (peaches or strawberries and pineapple typically), 1 tbsp flax seed meal and 1 tbsp honey for one serving.

According to my research, to add greens to it you put the greens in with the liquid and blend that together before adding the rest of the ingredients. I also saw that if you add berries to the smoothie, it makes the smoothie a different color besides green (purplish), thereby creating a non-green green smoothie. So if your kiddos freak out at the color green, its rather easily masked.

You can also do green smoothies with bananas in them in place of the yogurt to make them creamy and you can use water in place of the milk to make a lactose free green smoothie, but I'm going to start with what I know that I like, add the spinach and see what kind of difference the spinach makes in the taste. I keep saying spinach because that is what my sister was adding to her smoothies, but in my research today I found you can use any kind of greens, although different greens have different levels of taste. Some are bitterer than others, so you'd have to add more honey/fruit to counteract the bitterness.

True to the creed that variety is the spice of life, my research also indicated that the best way to do green smoothies is not to eat today what you ate yesterday, meaning if you had a strawberry banana spinach smoothie yesterday, then today you should have something different -- different greens and different fruit. But since we don't eat a lot of greens and I'm just starting out and figuring out what recipes to use, etc, and since I just got back from grocery shopping for this week, I'm going to be making smoothies with spinach thru at least Friday this week and then I'll get a variety of greens and fruit for next week.

The best reason to incorporate greens into your diet is because they are invaluable at removing toxins from your body. Kale, for example, has so much fiber that it can soak up several times its own weight in toxins from your body. And less toxins in our bodies is always a plus in my book. Plus, if my girls will actually drink it, its another way to sneak veggies into their diet, which is especially important for Evie, who is very anti-veggie.

So the girls are having their nap time now. When nap time is almost over (since its important to drink them soon after making them to preserve their nutritional content), I will go into the kitchen, whip up a batch of green smoothies and then bring them downstairs for snack time. I'll let you know how it works out for us and what recipe I use (if it turns out to be any good).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Baked Chicken Ziti recipe

You're lucky I like y'all. . . and just because I do, I'm going to share one of my favorite recipes with you. I made it last night for dinner and I just ate the last of it today. YUM.

chicken (I use 3 frozen chicken breasts)
1 box ziti noodles
1 box chicken stock (I like the MSG free stuff)
a couple cloves of garlic, diced
1 onion sliced
spaghetti sauce (I like prego)

Boil chicken breasts in chicken broth and water for about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from water and put noodles, garlic and onions in water and chicken broth mixture. Add water if needed. Boil noodles according to direction on the box.
Shred chicken while noodles are boiling.
drain noodles and combine noodles, shredded chicken, spaghetti sauce and some of the motzarella in 3 quart casserole dish.
Sprinkle remainder of cheese on top
Bake on 350 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and spaghetti sauce has been thoroughly warmed.

It is unbelievably yummy, tastes great when first made and if possible it tastes even better when its reheated. And best of all, ALL my kids eat it. Even my picky eater middle child. So I hope you and your kiddos enjoy it. Its great with a salad or by itself as the spaghetti sauce has a full serving of veggies in it. You could also add garlic bread, but I never have as I believe there is plenty of starch in the noodles and the last thing my children need is too much starch. Well, that's not the whole reason. I might decide to add garlic bread to the meal for a special occasion, but I wouldn't do it all the time and don't usually have time as once the casserole is done cooking, I just want to eat it all up. I don't want to take time to make garlic bread ;)

Bon Appetit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In The Matter of TV, We Find The Defendent. . .

Well, you can't pass a verdict without hearing the story, so here goes. . .

Before I had kids, I was "never going to let my kids watch tv." (I was also "never going to have kids," but I guess that's another story.) Then, I had Addy. She was such a joy, but a clingy joy. She wanted me to hold her 24/7 and as much as I wanted to do so, I also wanted to make her baby food. From scratch. The Dr. Denmark Way. By boiling fresh fruits, veggies and dried beans then mixing them and blending them together to make her meals.

So round about 3 months, Miss Addy and I began having issues. See, I wasn't aware of Attatchment Parenting at this point in time and she was going through a period when she would not sleep unless I was holding her. I got a baby carrier, but it was one of the ones you could get at Walmart or Target that multitasked. . . It would hold your baby in front of you and kill your back all at the same time. Not to mention, with Addy in front of me, she would reach for the pretty steam floating through the air. So we bought her a few Baby Einstein videos and a play yard (the kind that is like twice as wide as a play pen, a big square with mesh sides so baby can see through) and I would set her up in her play pen with a Baby Einstein video while I made her food. It was "no big deal," was "just a little" TV and was going to help her brain to develop to boot. And thus began our descent into TV Land.

Addy didn't watch much TV before she was 2. Then I got pregnant with Evie and for me, pregnancy is always marked by fatigue, which, combined with an energetic 2 year old ultimately resulted in "just a little" more TV. I was working a full time job, so Lord only knows how much television Addy watched at daycare. She was at an in-home day care and I did not typically see her watching TV when I picked her up, I do assume that a certain amount of TV was watched while she was there. Then Evie came. I stopped working and Joey was working weird hours and Evie was such a joy, but a clingy joy. True to the nature of all babies, she was a black hole for attention and in my guilt at paying more attention to Evie than Addy, I decided to compensate by letting her watch "just a little" more TV.

I never went back to work after Evie was born. I was going to stay home with the kids, take care of the house, be supermom. Easier said than done, though. Most of my time was spent taking care of the house, cleaning, making meals, which is no doubt beneficial to children. They thrive in a clean, healthy environment. And they like food. But I bet you can guess what they did while I cleaned and cooked. See I discovered that if they were parked in front of the TV like zombies, they were not following behind me and destroying what I had just cleaned. Which made me feel more productive.

But at what cost? At the worst point in time, after Izzy was born, Addy was at preK and Evie was the Queen of the castle. All she wanted to do was watch TV. She wanted to watch what she wanted to watch when she wanted to watch it and if it wasn't on, she would throw a fit. So I would record shows for her so I would always have what she wanted. When Addy got home, she would ask for everything that was on a commercial. Any commercial. And that was my breaking point.

In my opinion, television is a tool. It can be invaluable as far as distraction or redirection goes, but it should not be inevitable. If I had known when Addy was born that there would come a day when my children's snowball consumption of TV would cause them to think they are entitled to watch whatever they want whenever they want to and that that attitude would extend to them feeling entitled to also have everything that's in any commercial they happen to view, I don't think I would have ever started them out watching TV.

Even if you restrict their television to only learning shows, there will always be commercials and you can't control what commercials the channel they are watching elects to show. And you have no way of knowing how watching television will change their attitude until its changed and its a lot harder to change their attitude back than it is to avoid influences that can negatively change their attitude in the first place.

We can't protect our kids from everything. Sometimes television provides teachable moments that we wish we hadn't exposed our kids to, but we can take advantage of and get something good out of it. We can try to avoid the bad and gravitate toward the good. For example, I know my 2 year old wouldn't know how to count to 12 in Spanish if it wasn't for Dora. But I still don't want her watching it 24/7.

So now, I am constantly hearing "I didn't get to watch tv yet today" to which I am replying, "well, you don't get to watch tv everyday and you shouldn't expect to." I am still allowing them to watch their Disney VHSs and VeggieTales VHSs at rest-time and they do watch television at other times as well, but these days I am a lot more vigilent to paying attention to the volume of television they are exposed to and their attitudes in the process. I've been having them play outside a lot more, Evie and Addy like to play together on their own in the playroom a lot and they also enjoy playing with Izzy, and Evie particularly likes to help me with whatever work I am trying to do, so there is no longer the need to park them in front of the television just so I can accomplish something.

Nowadays, its harder for me to find the energy to accomplish something in the first place than it is to convince the children not to destroy it as soon as its done. They are getting older and maturing and I would rather teach them not to make a mess these days or to clean up any messes they make than feel like my only choice is to distract them from making messes by letting them watch TV.

So the verdict is. . . that TV is a tool. It can be used for good, or it can be used to produce a bad result much as you can use a hammer to fix something or you can use it to make a hole in the wall. But how can you blame the hammer for any holes that are made with it?

My views on television have changed constantly during my life and I personally still watch a lot of television when my kids are asleep and I am crocheting/knitting, which helps me to relax and is something I enjoy, but is also something that would otherwise be very boring to me. There are a lot of shows I like and even more that I don't like. I am choosy about what I watch and what I allow my kids to watch.

I'm not yet ready to rid my house of televisions and I'm happy with my DirectTV DVR, which enables me to watch my shows when the kiddos sleep, so I don't have to ever choose between TV and my kids or worry about my kids being exposed to shows that are above their age level but appropriate for mine. Not that there would ever be a question about which I would choose -- my kids will always come first no matter what, but its nice that TV can always wait until later and I don't have to feel like I'm missing anything.

Everyone has different views on television and I encourage you to think about what your children are watching, how much television they are watching and how it effects them and their attitudes when determining what your verdict will be and what policy you're going to follow regarding television. Put your tool where it belongs and keep it where you can find it when it can be useful to you. And don't be afraid to revise your policy whenever it needs revision. Policies about television, much like discipline, must always change to keep up with our everchanging lives and continually developing children.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BNC Coop Is Opened!!!!

I have been impatiently waiting for the BNC coop to open on Diaper Swappers. I love Bare Naked Cleaners. They are chemical free, safe to use around your kids and best of all, you get to pick your own scents. Picking your own scents is way cool in my book, but I never would have bought them if they weren't chemical free and green. The cleaners come as concentrates that are mailed to you in tiny plastic packages about 2 inches by 3 inches. You buy your own 32 ounce spray bottles (one for each cleaner) pour in the concentrate, fill to 32 ounces and reuse them when you run out, so you're only throwing away the teeny plastic bags the concentrates come sealed in (unless of course a bottle malfunctions or your dog eats it), which is a lot better for the environment than buying cleaners at Walmart in a spray bottle that you'll use once and throw away.

Jen, the wahm behind BNC, hosts co-ops on twice a year and the coops are so popular that they always reach their maximum discount level, which this time means that everyone who orders through the diaperswappers coop will get 30% off their total order and 1 free miraclean concentrate (used to make 32 ounces of cleaner).

I try to order enough to last me until the next coop. So far, I've ordered from 2 coops and I have yet to order enough to last until the next coop. Unfortunately, I also did not keep track of how much I ordered, so I have no idea how much I should order this time. Well, actually, I was able to find the old threads, so I know what I ordered last time and the time before, but I don't know when I ran out or what I had to order in between, so I'm still not sure what to order this time.

Last time she had a coop it was in October 2009 and I ordered 2 miracleans, 1 citrus toilet spray, 1 minty window wash, 1 spray disinfectant and 2 hardwood floor cleaners. I also got a free miraclean. The time before, the coop was held in June and I ordered 1 spray disinfectant, 1 heavy duty degreaser, 1 citric toilet spray, 1 minty window wash, 1 spray air deodorizer and got a free miraclean. I also ordered a wahm sample pack that I got some hardwood floor cleaner in and fell in love with that. I know I had to buy at least 1 hardwood floor cleaner between coops, but I don't remember what I got in the sample pack. And I don't know how much of each I had leftover when I ordered from the second coop.

So part of what this post is about is announcing the coop. I know I've blogged about Bare Naked Cleaners from time to time and I thought a few of you guys might want to try out these items at a discount. The coop opened today and closes 4/22/2010, so if you're interested in ordering, get your orders in by the 22nd.

The other part of what this post is about is me keeping track of how much I started out with this time, how much I order in the coop, when I run out of products, which I run out of and and how much of what products I have to order before the next coop opens that way I will have a better understanding of how much to order in the next coop or at least have an idea of where to start when thinking of what to buy next time. Its not fun to feel like I'm floundering and don't know what I use in a given period of time. Its actually pretty embarrassing.

So right now, not including what I have mixed in my spray bottles, these are the concentrates I have stored under my kitchen sink:
2 sample sized concentrates of liquid bootie wash (each make 8 ounces of wipe solution)
1 sample size of foaming hand soap concentrate (which makes 8 ounces of foaming hand soap)
1 sample of heavy duty degreaser concentrate (nakes 8 ounces of cleaner)
1 full sized heavy duty degreaser concentrate (makes 32 ounces of cleaner)
1 hardwood floor cleaner concentrate (makes 32 ounces of cleaner)
1 mint window wash cleaner concentrate (makes 32 ounces of cleaner)
1 citrus toilet spray cleaner concentrate (makes 32 ounces of cleaner)
2 miraclean concentrates (each makes 32 ounces of cleaner)
1 disinfectant concentrate (makes 32 ounces of cleaner)

I haven't decided what I'm ordering yet. I got samples of everything in the wahm sample pack I ordered, so I've figured out that the products I really use and enjoy and need to keep on hand are miraclean, citrus toilet spray, mint window wash, and hardwood floor cleaner, so that's what I'll be ordering this time. I'm ordering 3 miracleans (and likely getting 1 free), 3 hardwood floor cleaners, 2 mint window washes, and 2 citrus toilet sprays. My favorite scents are the essential oil scents because they are all natural as opposed to the fragrance oils and my favorite essential oil scents are rose and pink grapefruit, although I am thinking about trying the citrus blend that is a blend of orange and grapefruit. I think its new, I don't remember it being an option before so I may try one of my cleaners as citrus blend but the rest will be rose or pink grapefruit.

So that's my plan. It may change before the coop closes, but I'll probably blog about it again before it closes. Happy cleaning!!