Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pantry Cleanout

It's that time again - the pantry and freezer are full with random items!  Seems like this must happen at least twice a year.  Mostly, because I like to try new recipes - which inevitably means I end up with leftover ingredients.  This week I am not heading to the store for a weekly stock up of our kitchen, but cooking from what we already have.  What does that look like?

A lot of improvising for one thing.  Today we're grilling with our community group and as the sign up sheet for food got sent out I realized I didn't have any of the items on the list!  One possibility that I might be able to make from scratch was cookies.  I soon realized I didn't have any butter.  So I looked up recipes for cookies that didn't use butter and found a great applesauce alternative.  I actually didn't have applesauce, but I did have apple butter which substituted just fine!  Tonight we'll have oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and I didn't have to make a run to the store!  We even had a few extras as snacks for the rest of the week.

It also means discovering those back items on the shelves like my instant swiss mocha coffee mix.  Yum!  I'm trying to conserve the milk for the kids, so my morning latte is out.  But this has done the job just fine this week.  I have a nice surplus of this and all kinds of tea - so my hot beverage desire will be well fed this week.

Meal planning also becomes important.  My usual "go to" meal ideas aren't doable - but we have plenty of ingredients if I just use my imagination...and my slow cooker.  Oh the beauty of the slow cooker to mix together a quick meal out of nothing.  My slow cooked chicken with diced tomatoes and cream cheese is one of my favorites. (Don't forget to add the cream cheese at the end!)  That is looking to be Wednesday's dinner with that box of instant rice I've had sitting on our shelf for a few months.

Soups are a great way to use up those random items.  I made a big pot of chicken and rice soup and threw in some of our veggies that needed to be used up.   I think chicken noodle soup will find it's way into our menu later this week as well.

There's no eating out this week either, unless we had a gift card (which we don't).  Just me and my kitchen. :)

More and more I'm being convicted about being better stewards of what blessings we have been given.  Wasting money on convenience foods or excessive eating out has been high on my list to deal with.  Those resources could go to so many better things!

How are your pantries these days?  Am I the only one that has stuff falling out from the shelves? HA!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Homebody Edition

Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I have a whole day at home with my munchkins.  It seems we are always running here and there for something, and at heart I am a homebody.

Folding laundry while Corbin is slaying dragons and Hayden is learning the fine art of cooking is my idea of perfection.  Seriously, you must hit up the dollar aisle at Target.  Last year I got the boys foam swords and warrior hats -  best $4 I ever spent.  Hayden (although he doesn't know it) is mastering the rolling pin and rolling out dough while he makes his playdough "cookies".

And catching up on laundry when you're down to your last kitchen hand towel, is well, glorious.  Yay for clean clothes and towels!

Today there are no errands to run, no appts or meetings, no shopping needs (ok well we do need milk, but I'll let hubby take care of that) - just cleaning and organizing and enjoying being home.

I've come to a good place this week as far as home stuff goes.  My secret - laptop is IN the kitchen.  No more using my office computer tucked away in the back of the house.  Somehow just being in my kitchen makes me want to clean things, HA!  So kitchen is clean, and like a virus this "cleanliness" is spreading to the rest of the house.

I've read a lot of different approaches to house cleaning.  Some say start in the kitchen, some say catch up on laundry, but honestly, I think just catching up or accomplishing ANYTHING is the really key.  I've tried both approaches, and they both worked.  Just the accomplishment and satisfaction of having one clean or caught up area motivated me to do the rest.  So at present my kitchen is clean (by my standards you martha stewart nazis) and the laundry is catching up as I type.  The dining room table is clear - minus Mr. Playdough's current adventure; and the living room is picked up (except the couch pillows...those are perpetually thrown on the floor in what I can only assume is a neatness defiance in my kidlets).

So at this moment I can revel in my housekeeping abilities, knowing that at any next moment chaos will strike and I'll be back to square one, but RIGHT NOW it's clean over here and I'm loving it.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Following My Instincts

I'm starting to get into a groove with our new "learning adventure".  Although I may need to come up with a term other than homeschooling.  Every time I say that, my mind instantly thinks of kids in matching denim jumpers...old stereotyping still stuck in my head I guess, I've never known any denim wearing homeschoolers.

I've actually strayed quite a bit from the pre-planned curriculum I purchased.  Instead, I've been leaning towards following my instincts and Hayden's curiosity.  The curriculum's method of teaching language relied heavily on a writing component.  Lots of letter practice - which Hayden is not a fan of.  It was frustrating Hayden and he was getting moody every time we worked on it!  Boys often develop fine motor skills later and can have difficulty with writing this young.  Hayden seems no exception.  And, lucky me, my mom just told me today that I had a hard time with writing as well.  In fact, I now vaguely remember tons of cursive practice in my elementary school days and my teacher often telling me that my letters were "leaning" the wrong way, HA!  I guess he comes by it rightly.

So I backed off for a few weeks and let him lead.  After a couple weeks, I started hearing his interest move back towards letters - "Cat starts with C", "Dog starts with D", "Thomas starts with T" and the one he announced one night during dinner (while we had a guest) - "Poop starts with P".  Our days were suddenly filled with the "starts with" talk.  Yes!  Someone is ready for reading I think.

But, I did not pull out our old materials from the curriculum.  I already knew he hated those and I didn't want to squash his new love of letters.  He was obviously starting to learn about phonics and I wanted to continue with that.  I searched out simple reader books that could take the knowledge he had and translate that into reading.  I found the Bob Books.  These books are wonderful!  They start off using four letters and compose an entire story from words made from those four letters.  Each book builds on the last, continually adding new sounds/letters.  They also incorporate one sight word in each book (book 1 used "on", book 2 "and" etc).

After two sittings, Hayden was reading book 1.  Hayden read book 2 on the first try with only a couple helps from me!  Hayden is starting to read.  I can hardly believe it.  And he did it at his own pace.  Without tears or frustration.  I am certainly learning a lot already about how Hayden learns best and how I can facilitate that learning.  Teaching him to read was certainly one of my more formidable tasks that often left me up at night wondering if I'd be able to do it.  Reading is a huge love of mine and I wanted to pass that on to my children.  Hopefully, this is just the beginning of his reading adventure!

Oh and I had to laugh today when I brought out some erasable letter practice cards with markers and Hayden sat down on his own and wrote out all his letters with absolutely no fuss.  Maybe he'll even learn to write too. ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

When The Armor Comes Off

I won't lie to you - I wear a lot of armor each day.  I suppose we all do to handle the cards we've been dealt.  There's the usual armor - what you need just to be a person, woman, wife, mother, friend, etc, but then there are a few other pieces I put on too - the "I have a kid with disabilities" armor and the "My husband has MS" armor.  I layer all these on each day and most days I can deal with life's little hiccups and struggles - and I can do it usually with a bit of confidence too.  Tough day?  No problem!  I've got my armor on!  I'm invincible!

And then...well then there's PMS.  (Yes, my lone man reader, run now, I'm talking about pms).  PMS doesn't allow for any kind of armor to be worn.  My heart is right there, exposed to the world, waiting to be stomped on.   On this week, there is not protective shield, no invincibility.  Every comment strikes right to the heart with no softening of the impact.  Today was one of those days.

I pick up my kids from the child watch at the YMCA and the teacher wants to talk to me.  She's also a new teacher (and her kids are also in the room - always a grrreat combo {read sarcasm here}).  My heart sinks - teachers wanting to talk to you is never a good thing.  She rattles off about my awful kids (not sharing toys, taking toys from kids) and then adds in (pointing to Corbin) "And he was shaking his fist at me!"  She says it a few times so she gets her point across.

At this point, I'm just kind of shell shocked.  I mumble "Okay, I'm sorry" and exit the room before I burst into tears.  I head to my car vowing never to bring the kids back to the YMCA.  Meanwhile degrading myself from my obvious horrendous parenting skills that I can't even use the child watch without an issue.  Which, of course, is not true.  We've been going to the YMCA for 8 months and I've only ever had one other bad report.

I get to our car, still processing all I just heard.  I just stand there for a minute.  Partly because two morons have made it almost impossible for me to get into my car by parking inches from each door.  Intellectually, I know I'm emotional and not filtering everything correctly.  Emotionally, I'm a wreck.  I'm thinking a thousand thoughts a second.

I decide to go back up there and confront her.  I know what I need to say, but I don't want to say it.  I don't like having to say it.  I like to pretend like it doesn't exist, but it does and today it's staring me in the face.

We go back.  I, first, have Hayden apologize to his teachers for not listening.  Then, I address the other thing.

He wasn't shaking his fist at you or threatening you.  He's ...disabled.  He has global developmental delays.  His fine motor delays and sensory processing issues keep his fists closed most of the time and when he gets excited or upset he will close his hands and just wave them around.  He wasn't intending to harm you, it's just something he does.

 The problem is immediately diffused.  But I just hate having to say all that.  I want him to be treated like any other kid, and I know one day he will be like any other kid, so my preference is not to mention anything.  Typically, his differences don't affect his interactions with kids or teachers, and often they even go unnoticed.

On a normal armor day, it would have rolled right off - never penetrating.  My confident self would have said, "Well, that's just life with kids".  But today, it meant crying in my car on the way home and admitting to myself that even when I don't let things "touch" me, they still hurt sometimes.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Mother's Day Reality Check.

We're going random again today - coherent thoughts lately are reserved for other areas of my life, HA!  Here's a little tidbit from Mother's Day, which for those of you who cringe at the thought of Mother's Day did NOT include breakfast in bed, cards from kids, roses, or any of that other nonsense.   Let this be thought of as Mel's Mother's Day Reality Check - a post from the trenches, hehe.

Mother's Day weekend we enjoyed a trip to the beach. It was great!  And the boys are finally at a great age to enjoy and play at the beach without trying to drown themselves every 2 minutes in the ocean - yay!  I packed up everything the night before (as usual) and our only "left-behind" items were the baby wipes...oops.  {Mothering FAIL} I had ONE half used package in the car which actually lasted the entire trip - whoa!

This came in to play when we had a little, uh, incident at the beach.  Corbin was getting pretty tired and as usual wanted me to hold him (lazy buns), so I wrapped him up in his towel and headed back. {Imagine me trying to climb sand dunes with a 30 lb preschooler in my arms and you get the idea}

As I'm walking back up to the condo I started getting a whiff of a not-so-pleasant smell.  And I, of course, in my usual "Duh" fashion think to myself - Hmmm...what's that smell?  Sheesh this towel is kind of stinky.  Not putting two and two together, I just keep walking with my less than fresh kiddo.

I finally realize that he has, in fact, had a major blowout in a...wait for it...a swim diaper.  Now some of you know what this means, and I will enlighten the rest.  A swim diaper is about as absorbent as one sheet of toilet paper.   As in, the smell I've been smelling is literally all over me, my swim suit, Corbin, and his towel.  Ewwww.

I also realize that I have left his ONE half bag of wipes at the beach with Mark.  Nice.  So I end up hosing the poor kid down in the shower.  Which leaves me with another problem...our suits are yucky.  

Hayden contributes to our growing laundry pile that night by wetting the bed...argh...and he's officially gone through ALL his underwear.  Laundry time has come.  
But, no problem, I saw laundry facilities at the resort so I can handle this little hiccup.  I wake up early while everyone else is still groggily watching cartoons or getting dressed and head out (oh and it's also Mother's Day, I think I really felt the true essence that morning).  I have a 10 dollar bill, but I'm hoping for a change machine - I mean it is a coin laundry right?  Yeah, no.  No change machine.

Alright, no problem, I got this.  I'll head to the convenience store.  I need detergent anyway.  So while I'm checking out, I ask if I can get change and the guy is all chatting it up for what feels like forever about how awesome he is that his store gives change.  Yeah, that's great, and about my change...

Finally, he says, "Ok so what do you need?  I can give you anything but quarters. But you won't need quarters because laundry mats have change machines"  Anything BUT quarters? Uh, that's what I NEED!!! And no, believe it or not, they don't all have change machines.  Argh.

I go back to my car and kind of sit there a minute in defeat...next to my stinky laundry (it's obviously mocking me at this point).

Ok, no problem.  I've got a fancy phone, let's look up a laundry mat.  There must be a laundry mat in Port Aransas.  Closest one that my phone knows about....in CORPUS CHRISTI.  That's like at least a 15-20 minute drive!!!! BAH!

Back to drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.   Hmmm.  At this point I'm kind of stumped.  I'm close to the point of doing laundry in the ocean if I have to.  I will prevail!!!!!!!!!!!!

I remember that there's a coke machine next to the laundry place.  Maybe it will give me change!  I throw my money in.  Hit the return button...and...nothing.  It also refuses to return my dollar.  I go back to my car with a cold Diet Coke and 35 cents.  I start figuring out how many diet cokes I'd have to buy to get enough quarters to wash and dry my clothes (it's 9 by the way, in case you're curious).

Unfortunately, I don't have 9 dollar bills.

By this time, it's getting later and the front office of the condo place has opened.  I head there in complete defeat, hoping that they can help direct me to the nearest change machine, laundry mat, anything.

And what do you know...they give change.  Lots and lots of QUARTERS!  I could have slept in and saved myself about an hour of laundry adventure.  Oh well.  Happy Mother's Day to me!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


This week I've been attacking my house with renewed motivation and actually making progress - yay!  Thanks to awesome conversations with organizational-minded friends, I started getting inspired to move things around and organize.  In the process of all that, I also am purging tons of stuff!!

I took a glorious trip to The Container Store this week (I seriously could stay in the store all day) and got some great tools to create our new "Homeschool" center.  Over the past weeks, just about every surface in our house was starting to get covered in some kind of educational item.  It was not a pretty sight.  My original idea for storage was not working and that meant things were just being left out for easy access (but not so easy on the eyes - MESS!).

I'm still in the process of creating this (there is definitely another trip to The Container Store in my future) but here is a sneak peak:


This is a vast improvement from what we had before!  I originally had everything in a difficult to access cabinet and it was all fitting in like a jigsaw puzzle!  You basically had to take 10 things out to get just to one item.  Now they are all easily accessible and right next to the table where we do most of our work. The extra storage also means I can store Corbin's therapy toys as well!

What I love most of all is that I was able to re-purpose our old entertainment center.  Now that TVs are such different styles, these cabinets are obsolete!  And no one really wanted it when I tried several times to sell it on Craigslist.  I love this cabinet - it's made so beautifully and is solid wood, but I just couldn't figure out what to do with it.  I ended up just being a place for clutter to collect!  Now it has a great purpose and is an awesome addition to our house.

Have any of you been re-purposing lately?  I'd love to hear about any other recycled projects as my mind is moving more and more towards re-purposing instead of buying new!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Organizing My Ideas


There are so many ideas out there for decorating, organizing, and crafting - especially if you're looking!  I see lots of ideas I'd "love to try", but then just as quickly forget them because I literally come across dozens of them each day.

But, now that I'm focusing on home - I'd like to use some of these great ideas!  Hmmm...but where did I see them?  Bookmarks are helpful, but can become chaotic quickly if you are keeping track of a lot.  That's where Pinterest comes in!

In March, I read about this on My Sewcial Hour and was hooked!  Pinterest allows you to "pin" items to your bulletin boards and helps you save ideas you see online.  I've been "pinning" away ever since I joined, but now I am getting even more focused on saving ideas for my home!  You can see my pins and all the ideas I'm saving up here!

I know when I started, there was a bit of a wait to join if you just went and signed up, I'm not sure if that's the case anymore, but I can invite you as well if you're interested in joining!  I've had so much fun with this site and it's really helped me to focus on home and even implement some of the ideas I've "pinned"!

Wanna join me??

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Makeover

I'm in the mood for a little spring makeover - for my house!  Anyone else getting the house blahs?  My initial solution to Mark is always - let's move! Haha.  Yet, somehow he never agrees with that one.

I haven't really ever worked on our house to make it home - you know like decorate, organize, and such.  Sure, I've started, bought a couple things here and there, but never finished!  Like I've mentioned - I get easily distracted.

I'm hoping that posting progress on here will help motivate me and stir me to continue on - even when I feel overwhelmed.  I might even need some opinions as I move along!

Are you up for this ride?  Cause seriously - I have an entire house that needs some TLC.