Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WFMW: dry milk

One of the best money saving tips I ever received was to use dry milk in all my baking and cooking. I use it is muffins, pancakes, waffles, soups, breads, desserts, gravy, hot chocolate, etc. With regular milk at over $3 a gallon, who can afford to cook with it? And it really isn't that much less convenient than pouring from the carton.

But it can save you in other areas as well. For instance, instead of buying canned evaporated milk, try this tip that I use frequently:

mix equal parts dry milk and water; stir or shake vigorously. Use in any recipe calling for evaporated milk.

Costs just pennies! Did I ever mention I love dry milk? Not to drink of course, but if you use milk for cooking and baking, you can bring down the milk bill using the dry stuff. I even use dry buttermilk for all my buttermilk baking - yum!

I also have a recipe for sweetened condensed milk, but I have never personally used it, so I cannot vouch for it, nor have I figured out the cost versus buying a can. But I figure anything that saves me a trip to the grocery store is a money saver right there.

1 C instant non fat dry milk solids
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C boiling water
3T butter

Combine all ingredients in an electric blender (or pour in a bowl and use an electric mixer). Process until smooth. Store in refrigerator until needed (and refrigerate any leftovers as well).

If you've ever used this one, please comment and let us know how it works.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Talk about melting your heart...

This morning when I was changing Lauryn's diaper right after she woke up, she asked me, "Mama not bye bye more?"

No, honey, Mama's not going bye-bye anymore. At least for a while. For now, Mommy is perfectly happy being at home.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mommy's home!

I don't have alot of time, but I got back into town around 4:00 this afternoon. I believe everyone was happy to see me, including Lauryn who gave me long, slobbery kisses. The house was clean, the kids fed, laundry done, and as far as I can tell, chores done as well. They also got in some movies and a trip to Sonic. Sounds like they had as good a time as I did... ok, maybe not, but close. :)

This was such a convicting time for me. I have much to mull over in the coming days. If you are a mom, especially a stay-at home or homeschooling mom, please consider going to one of these conferences. Well, I am going to go spend some time with my children and husband!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Whole Hearted Mothers

After tonight, you probably won't hear from me again until Sunday or Monday. That's because I will be leaving early in the morning for our annual Whole Hearted Mother's Conference. Every February (with the exception of last year), Clay and Sally Clarkson host a wonderful weekend, aimed at stay-at-home and homeschooling moms, although any mother is welcome. It is not a homeschooling conference as we think of it - there are no discussions of how to teach fractions, the best writing curriculum, or which foreign language to study. This would be more aptly called a mother's retreat than a conference. We stay in a nice hotel, eat some good food, listen to inspirational speakers, and just enjoy a getaway weekend.

It is such a refreshing time to step away from the fray for a few days and to get recharged and refocused. The whole theme of the weekend is basically to remind us as mothers of what we are called to do. It is so easy to get caught up in the seemingly endless daily round of dirty diapers, meals to be prepared, laundry to do, lessons to teach. For this one weekend a year, we get to get away from these daily tasks while at the same time be reminded and encouraged about why these and the other responsibilities of motherhood are so important and are actually blessings. For a great description of the weekend see my friend and mentor Cathi's blog on it.

What also makes this weekend special is the fact that there are about a dozen or so women from our homeschool group are caravaning up there together. It is such a great time to get to know everyone better, and really cement the sense of community between us.

And of course, we couldn't do it without all the dads, most of whom are taking a day off work in order to be home with the children all weekend. We have a running joke in our group about this weekend, calling them the "half-hearted fathers" but nothing could really be further from the truth. Especially my husband who will be in estrogen overload here at the housefullofgirls. Thank you all, and especially you, Kelly, for making this weekend possible for us.

The Vaccine Uproar

Here in Texas there is quite an uproar about the governor's recent executive order to require pre-teen girls to receive a vaccine against the HPV virus before they can attend school. Now before I get into this, I want to state that Kelly and I have not decided whether or not we will give this vaccine to our girls. Since we homeschool, this order does not directly affect our family. We don't know enough about this vaccine yet to make that determination.

BUT, I have to say, I have been so surprised at the reaction across the state to this order. Even within my family there has been outrage from unexpected quarters. And frankly I don't get it.

Why this vaccine? Why not the Hepatitis A or B? Is it that this one is transmitted completely through intimate contact? The parents across the state see this as a violation of their rights to make medical decisions for their children.

And they are right of course. But my point is THAT THIS IS NO DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER VACCINES, from the state education sex education, and other such things that come part and parcel along with government run education. Frankly, if you think that they have a right to demand your child have all the other vaccines, I don't see why you object to this one.

Yes, I know several of the other vaccines prevent illnesses that are airborne, and thus present a different threat. But (1) this does not trump the responsibility the parent has for the health and wellness of their children, made in consultation with a medical professionals, and (2) in the climate of sexual permissiveness that pervades that public schools these days, the difference between STD and airborne diseases is not as much as one would think.

Now our family is not anti-vaccines. We do give our children most of the shots available. Not all, but most. But we make this decision based upon our own research, upon the advice of our physician, and with much prayer. Not based upon what bureaucrats somewhere have decided would be best for my children, whom they have never seen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

WFMW: the shower floor

I spent quite a while yesterday afternoon while the girls were down for their reading/nap time cleaning the shower in the master bath. This is hands down my least favorite cleaning chore in the whole house. No matter that the water softener has made the job somewhat easier, I still hate it. But, last year I found a product that makes part of the job so much easier.

The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is a WONDER on the textured floor of my shower. I prefer the heavy duty version for this particular task to the standard eraser, but either works. Not even bleach gel could get the floor of my shower back to its original whiteness, but this eraser does! Just wet it and use good ol' fashioned elbow grease. The dirt et. al. just comes up off that textured stuff like, well, like pencil erased off paper. Then just rinse the debris away, and voila! A shiny white shower floor.

Now if I could only find something that worked that well and that smell-free on the rest of the shower! The stuff I use on the water spots requires us to run the vent for the rest of the day.

Oh, and I did discover a good book on tape helps the job go alot faster.

Caveat: There have been reports of children harming themselves with these erasers, thinking they are ordinary sponges. But there are chemicals in them. So while my kids do alot of the cleaning around here, these little jewels stay up out of their reach. So if you take my advice on these, please be careful with them around the kiddos.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

He's got a ticket to ride...

A couple of weeks ago, the whole family was in the Suburban driving to our pastor's house. Here is a snippet of the conversation:

(Kelly punches the gas pedal to get around a slowing car.)

Kora: How fast are you going? The speed limit is only 35.

Me: Not as fast as it sounded. That was just the engine revving up you heard.

Kora: Well, if Daddy goes too fast he'll get a ticket.

Brynna: A ticket to what?

And Saturday night, after Brynna received her allowance, she counted up and discovered she had saved up enough money to buy a Barbie doll she has been wanting. So we got on the computer and ordered it. Hailey had been down here with us while we were looking for the cheapest place, but had soon wondered upstairs. When we finally placed the order, Brynna rushed upstairs to find Hailey.

Brynna: Hailey, I got her! I bought Courtney!

Hailey (examining Brynna's hands): Where is she?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

San Antonio Rodeo

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how we took the girls to the San Antonio Stockshow. Well, yesterday it was Kelly's and my turn - only we had tickets to the rodeo. It has become a yearly tradition for the two of us to go the Xtreme Bulls night at the rodeo - all bull riding all the time, or almost all. And this year it was at 1:00 in the afternoon, but nevertheless, the tradition must go on!

So yesterday the babysitter came over, and off we went. It is always nice to get away just the two of us, especially since we only get to do that 3-4 times a year (I love all those marriage books that insist on weekly dates - who are they kidding!?!). If you enjoy the bull riding this is definitely the time to go. But I think our favorite part was the "Mutton Bustin.'" Children ages 4-8 are allowed to climb on the back of a sheep which then races out of the gate towards the other end of the arena. Whoever hold on the longest wins. They were really cute.

Then we went out to eat ALL BY OURSELVES. We didn't have to cut up anyone else's food. We didn't have to clean up spilt milk. We got to have entire conversations UNINTERRUPTED. I can't decide which was better: that, or the unending supply of Dr. Pepper the waitress kept bringing me. Then we came home to happy, fed children, and a clean kitchen. So, thank you Bethany for making it all possible. next time I'll remember to have some soda in the house for you. :)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Works for Me Wednesday, er, uh, Thursday

I just do not seem to be able to post on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays, the girls and I have our weekly history discussion, and I get them started on their writing assignment for the week, plus I'm getting ready for an early dinner so we can make it to Bible Study. I'm also baking something to take to Bible study and it's my laundry day. So I think I'm either going to have to give up WFMW, or type it in ahead of time and wait to publish until Wednesday.

But I'm going to write out my helpful hint anyway. I make breakfast for my family every morning. I can count the times they've had cereal for breakfast in the last couple of years on one hand. We have several reasons for doing this, but usually I get asked, "How?" The secret is preparing the night before.

Many pancake and waffle recipes can be made up the night before and stored in the fridge. Just use a whisk to give it a stir while the griddle/iron is preheating.

Make homemade muffins with the ease of a mix: mix up all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cover and leave on counter. In a smaller bowl, mix up the wet ingredients: the milk, eggs, oil or applesauce (I always do half and half - cuts the fat in half without changing the texture as using all applesauce does), honey, whatever is called for. Cover and put in the fridge. I even get out the muffin tins and my muffin scoop and leave them out. Then in the morning, all I have to do is dump the bowl of wet ingredients into the dry, stir, and start scooping into the tins. And I usually do this at about 5:15 am, so believe me when I say that this requires no brain power to do in the morning. :)

There are also many breakfast casseroles that are made the night before and have to be refrigerated overnight. Sometimes I'll make a coffee cake the night before as well. I also mix up my can of orange juice the night before as well.

With a little bit of planning the day before, the morning can go so much more smoothly. If you have any hints or tips for breakfasts, please post a comment and share with us!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

All I want for, uh, President's Day is my two front teeth

Life is certainly interesting around here at times. Yesterday Brynna lost one of her top front teeth. This comes just days after Kora losing a canine tooth, and Aubrey still has gaps from the last two teeth she lost. And then Lauryn is still working on cutting the last of her little pre-molars.

Needless to say, Hailey feels a little left out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A little perspective

For the past couple of years, our girls have been participating in American Heritage Girls, a Christian scouting organization. The girls have really enjoyed it. Our troop also offers Boy and Cub scouts for the boys, and the whole family participates. They even have "Wee Scouts" for Hailey.

One of the things the girls are required to do is to put in a certain number of hours of community service every year: the older the girl, the more hours required. So yesterday, Kora, Aubrey and I headed to the San Antonio Food Bank to put in a few hours of work. Since the girls are on the young side, a parent has to be there working alongside them.

But I chose the food bank for a couple of reasons. Not only are the hours convenient for me - i.e. I can go on Saturday when Kelly can be with the little ones - but we want to expose the girls to the fact that not everyone lives the way we do. While Kelly and I have certainly had our share of money woes over the years - who hasn't? - the girls have never really been aware of it. They've never wondered where their next meal is coming from. My mom tells the story about how she was crying one day when my dad got home from work when I was a baby. My dad had just been paid. Once my mom paid the mortgage, utility and other bills, there was just a few dollars left and she hadn't even bought food for me yet. That story has always pulled at my heart strings and makes me tear up, even though I don't remember it.

Of course, God was, and is, faithful and saw them through that hard time, just as He has been for us. But often God uses US to help others in our families, church communities, and our neighbors through situations like this. We want to expose the girls to just how much God blesses us. Yes, these blessings are more than monetary, but we try to instill in the girls that everything we have is due to the grace and mercy of God. And we are called to share that with others as well.

Another great side benefit - it is hard work! After three hours of carrying, lifting, sorting, sifting, discarding, etc., the girls (and their mother) were VERY tired. So if you have younger ones with energy to burn, I highly recommend it!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

OK, so I haven't been in the mood for a serious post lately...

I've been busy. Again. So shoot me.

I was in some serious need tonight for something lighthearted (and for some chocolate, but that is a different story), and I found this website on another blog - Life in a Shoe - written by a woman with more girls than I have. Anyway, she has a link to these cartoons, which she describes as a Christian Far Side. Far Side was always a mixed bag for me, so I was unsure. But some of these are really funny. I just HAD to post one for my friend Aubrey. Aub, there's hope for Ike yet!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Monday, February 5, 2007

San Antonio Stockshow

Last week, my parents came down from Odessa and spent several days with us. The girls were ecstatic, of course.
On Friday while they were here, we all - except for Kelly - packed up and went to the San Antonio Stockshow. Fridays during the rodeo are dollar days, so it's alot cheaper to go then. But it was cold - stayed in the mid 40's the whole time we were there. But the girls got to see HORSES!
OK, there were other things besides horses there.

We also went to the petting zoo.

Lauryn finally even loosened up to touch a few of the animals.
Before we left, we went to the jousting demonstration put on in one of the horse barns.
This horse is the "little" brother to the tallest horse in the world - also at the stockshow - at almost 20 hands tall.
And of course, after we left, the sun came out and the day warmed up into the upper 50s. Sigh. At least we beat the crowd. :)