Friday, March 29, 2013

The At-Home Week

This was one of those weeks that occurs so rarely and is therefore embraced so wildly.  There was nothing on the calendar!  We had no appointments, no meetings, no guests expected, and nowhere to go besides the usual trip to the grocery store and a quick run to the library.  

On the rare occasion that I find myself with luxury hours, there are three things with which I fill my time:


I managed to fit in all three this week.  (Notice cleaning didn't make the list, though I did do the basics.)

First I'll talk cooking.  Let's just say we ate well this week.  I was able to try several new recipes and repeat a few favorites. 

Monday's meal got no complaints, even from my pickiest eater.  The chicken recipe was a repeat, but I'm  always so surprised at how easy homemade dumplings are to make!  Hearty, filling, and satisfying on yet another snowy March day.  Weekday cakes are unheard of around here.  The dessert was a bit more complicated than the main dish, but worth the effort especially since it was so huge it lasted the rest of the week.  We still have a few slices.

banana cake with cream cheese frosting

homemade chicken and dumplings

On Tuesday, we had soup.  Thanks to my friend, Mary, who sent me the recipe on Monday afternoon, we had homemade breadsticks to go along with it.  The soup was vegetarian, filling, and extremely nutritious, but it was not a favorite among the kids.  All of them ate it, but neither of them loved it.  I halved the recipe, but even after we all had our fill, there was still enough to freeze a portion for another meal.  The breadsticks were divine and I was also able to freeze half of the batch! 

bread machine breadsticks
entil and black bean soup

On Wednesday, we had breakfast for dinner.  We tried a new pancake recipe.  I doubled the recipe which made a heaping plate of pancakes.  Still, we only had three pancakes leftover! 

IHOP pancakes 

On Thursday, we had our favorite knock-off Chinese food recipe.  No pictures, though, because I plan to share that recipe in another post. 

Today we did a few Friday night errands and grabbed a meal at Dairy Queen, but I'll be back in the kitchen tomorrow preparing bread machine dinner rolls and a coconut cream pie to take to Easter dinner at my parent's house on Sunday.


Moving on to reading... I've had an ongoing saga with my Kindle.  About two weeks ago, my home button stopped working.  After two phone calls totaling close to an hour talking with customer service, we got the problem worked out.  I had to download software updates and reset my device, but I was good to go.  Until Sunday.  The home button stopped working again.  After another call into customer service on Monday afternoon, they decided my device was defective and it would be best to send a new one by 2-day mail.  I actually  received it the next day, but it had an outdated version of the software.  When I tried to update, nothing happened.  I made yet another call to customer service and spent 25 minutes going step by step through the update the guy could confirm that, yes, I was doing everything correctly, but that this new device was also defective so I would need a third device!  The third Kindle arrived on Thursday afternoon and all is well.

In the meantime, I had slowed down on my reading.  I had only completed two books in the month of March: The Midwife's Here!: The Enchanting True Story of Britain's Longest Serving Midwife and Eyes Wide OpenSince I was only 100 pages into an over-400 page book, I made it my goal to settle in and finish it by the weekend.  On Thursday afternoon, I turned the last page of  All Creatures Great and SmallI'm already on to the latest Beverly Lewis book which came in at the library for me this week.  Not sure if I'll finish by Sunday night (probably not), but I'll have a good start on my April reading. 


And though I'm listing crafting last, I spent just as much time on that as anything.

I've been obsessed with  Craft-a-Day: 365 Simple Handmade Projects.  In fact, I've maxed out my renewals and it is due back at the library next week.  I really need to buy it!  (Or add it to my birthday list.)  I have mainly focused on greeting cards.  I think I may have a card ready for every birthday this year.  But I also made a cake topper, a few Christmas ornaments (in March-- !), and two T-shirts. 

hand sewing during school time on Wednesday

I've been in the market for a sewing machine.  I had one for several years, but every time I began a project the thread tangled.  I tried everything I knew to do and I got so frustrated, I eventually gave up.  Because of this bad experience and the identical experience of my sister, I was afraid to spend money on another machine, but my friend, Flo, generously gave me one of hers!  We took the day off of school today for a mini Easter break so I finally had time to sit down today and sew.  I made a  placemat in spring colors to use in the center of my table and a paper bunting

What did you do this week?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

How Do You...Maintain Fairness With a Big(ger) Family?

How do you maintain fairness among five children? 

I don't know about you, but if I had a penny for every time one of my children said, "That's not fair," to me or to each other, I'd be a rich woman.

I've adopted an idea that has been revolutionary to me in raising a larger than average family.  Things do not have to be even to be fair. 

For example, Brian or I will sometimes need to run a quick errand. Two or three of the kids will ask to go.  We choose someone (maybe the first to ask, maybe the child who will be a help on the outing, maybe the child who is not needed at home)  and we will inevitably hear, "But why can't I go, too? It's not fair." 

Or for example, there may be one serving of macaroni and cheese left over from last night's dinner.  Only one child can have that for lunch so I have to choose one.  Those left with peanut butter and jelly for lunch may declare, "It's not fair!"

I try to explain to them that we do not have to have identical experiences or identical opportunities for things to be deemed "fair."  If one sibling gets the treat today, you may get it tomorrow.  If one gets to stay up late tonight, maybe it will be your turn next week.  Or maybe you will have to wait until you are older and have earned the privilege.  That's fair, too!  

We want our children to have the same mindset with gifts.  We've tried to teach our children that gifts are just that-- gifts.  They are not something we are owed.  Gifts do not have to be monetarily equal or given in equal quantities.  I'm not talking about giving one child a large gift and handing the other child a piece of candy.  I refer more to idea of comparing gifts with another person and realizing that his gift cost $10 when mine cost only $7, or that she got 2 books while I was given 1 DVD.

When all else fails, we have been known to suggest to our children that since they desire fairness so acutely,  maybe we should apply the same principle to discipline, too.  If one child is being punished, it would be unfair not to punish them all!  This always drives the point home (at least for the moment).

How do you handle the fairness issue in your house? Let us know in the comments.  (And be sure to comment, too, if you have an idea for a  future "How Do You...?" question.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Road to Running

skip this if running is not your thing, but I am writing: 
  1. as a record for myself
  2. as motivation and encouragement to others who think running is only for the strong

Saturday marks 6 months since the day I began running.  I have never been an athletic person, never into sports or fitness.  I don't like to sweat and I've always been more motivated to stay inside with a book than to venture into the outdoors. 

I am competitive, though, and I love a challenge so that's what motivated me to begin.  Sometime over the summer, I printed out the 9-week Couch to 5K Running Plan.  I wanted to challenge myself to complete the program with the goal of running a 5K in the spring. I told myself that once I started, I would not quit until I finished the plan even if it seemed too hard. I waited until the weather turned cooler because, remember, I hate to sweat! 

One cool-ish late September morning, I went outside for Week 1, Day 1.  The exercise for the day was to alternate 60 seconds of jogging with 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.  After the first 60-second jog, I was out of breath with a pain in my side.  It was discouraging to realize I was so out of shape, I couldn't even finish Day 1.  

Instead, I took the next two weeks to work up to that level of fitness.  I jogged for 60 seconds and then walked until I felt ready to jog again (whether that was 90 seconds or 5 minutes).  When I attempted Day 1 again, it was a success.  It was smooth sailing for all of 2 weeks.  When I hit Week 3 and began jogging for 3 minutes at a time, I hit a wall.  I could not do it!  I was out of breath and gasping for air again.  I felt nauseous and physically ill. 

At that point I decided to switch to a gentler, slower 5K program from Prevention Magazine.  That was the best things I could have done.  It was still hard (exhausting, challenging... ), but it boosted my confidence.  

Unfortunately, I also began experiencing some knee pain.  Since most of the pain occurred after a workout, not during, I continued to run, paying careful attention to my posture and how I moved my feet, legs, and hips.  I experienced less pain if I consciously avoided swinging my hips as I ran.  I also shuffled my feet instead of raising them high off of the ground. Within a week, the pain eased and disappeared.  In fact, I've not had any joint pain at all since November.

Right before Christmas, I finished the 5K training program.  I also got a new pair of running shoes for Christmas.  Around the new year, I was surprised to discover that I could run a mile without stopping.  Sometimes I could even eke out a mile-and-a-half.  I was not fast, but I was doing it.

Brian began joining me on runs in January.  That was amazing motivation.  When I felt like quitting, he kept me moving and when he was tired, I encouraged him to keep going.  I hit another wall trying to move beyond 1.5 miles. I know much of running is mental and you have to trick yourself into going longer and farther, but this went beyond mental.  I gave it everything I had and still could not progress for awhile.  My legs felt like they could keep the pace, but my lungs were screaming for air. 

At the last minute, Brian and I signed up for a 2-mile race in mid-January.  I ran the first mile in 9'44", but my pace slowed as I stopped to walk and I finished with a overall time of 20'55". After the race, something clicked. I was energized and started making progress again. 

By February, I was ready to concentrate on training for the 5K.  I chose a race in mid-April and  made some goals.  My goals were to: 
  1. run the entire 3.1 miles without stopping to walk
  2. run at a 10-minute per mile pace = 31 minute total time
In order to work up to running longer distances, I decided to go back to the Couch to 5K Running Plan which had originally been too difficult.  I breezed through the first three weeks.  I ran only Day 1 of each week and continued on until I found a week that presented a challenge.  Week 4 was moderately challenging, but Week 5 was the real test.  On the last day of Week 5, I had to run for 20 minutes without stopping.  I was nervous going into that day because I didn't want to quit before the time was up, but 20 minutes sounded daunting. 

It was yet another turning point, though.  After that, nothing seemed too hard.  I moved on to running 22 minutes and then 25, 28, and finally 30 minutes without stopping.  On the day before Brian went back to work for his spring season, we ran a slow but steady 3 miles.  The following weekend, we ran 3.5 miles together.
What progress I have made in the last few months!  I began my running adventure unable to run more than 60 seconds and today I ran 4 miles for the first time. 

It is less than 4 weeks until race day.  I am concentrating on increasing my speed, but I'm not sure if I'll meet my 31 minute goal this time.   I ran 3 miles in 30 minutes a couple of weeks ago, but it usually takes me between 31 and 32.  I have developed a informal training schedule of 3 runs a week-- 1 long run (3.5-4 miles), 1 short run to concentrate on speed (2 miles), and 1 medium run (3 miles).

Wind is still my biggest obstacle and it has been windy almost every day in March.  Wind adds resistance and requires me to work harder.  I'm hoping that once we have calm again,  my body will be strengthened from pushing through wind and I'll increase my speed without much effort. 

My other obstacle is boredom.  Running for 30-40 minutes at a time gets monotonous even while listening to music on my iPod.  I have to ask myself, "Do I want to stop because my legs are tired?  Am I out of breath?  Or does the thought of running another mile bore me?"

In the running world, I am still a beginner.  A definite newbie.  I am excited (yes, this anti-fitness girl said excited) to see how much more I can do.  I mentioned to Brian that I may train for a 10K next.  He rolled his eyes. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

another March Saturday

I am still lamenting the fact that it is far too cold for me on these first few days of spring.  It snowed twice this week. 

It even snowed on the morning that we had a bunch of friends over to dye Easter eggs! 

It was a little odd to have a spring party while we watched the snow fall! 

So what if it melted by the afternoon?  It was still cold enough to snow which is too cold. 

But I digress. 

The plan for this morning was a local kids' 100-yard dash and 1/2-mile race for Maddie, and then an Easter egg hunt following the run.  The weather forecast was not still not spring-y-- more cold and more wind.  Not what we would have chosen, but we bundled up and got going early.

I asked Maddie (my calm and cool child) before her run, "Are you excited?"

"Yes!" she replied. 

Next I asked, "Are you nervous?" to which she gave me an odd look and a long, drawn out, "Noooo..." 

She loved her first race experience. She was not the fastest, but she met her goal of running the entire course without stopping to walk. 

The Easter bunny in his fuzzy costume was probably the warmest of us all.  The sun was bright, but the wind was biting.

The egg hunt was separated  into 2 age divisions so Brian took the three oldest while I stayed with the two youngest.  They came away with quite the haul.  Gavin (my precise, math-brained child) made a chart showing me all the things he collected-- including 1 Reese's cup, 40 Hershey Kisses, 4 plastic trucks, 2 temporary tattoos, 1 hat, etc.-- all totaling 95 items. 

On our way home, someone commented, "This is the best day ever!" 

"Even better than Christmas?" Brian asked, to which the child replied, "YES!" 

(That sure takes the pressure off.  Next Christmas, maybe I'll buy a bunch of plastic eggs and hide them all over the house.  I bet it'd be a lot cheaper, too.)

The rest of this chilly Saturday included a 3-mile run in 16 mph winds (training for the run Brian and I are doing in April), jigsaw puzzles on the kitchen floor, baking a oatmeal chocolate cake for Sunday dinner dessert, a bit of Wii and homemade pizza for the kids, and an in-home date night for Brian and me with take-out and basketball on TV.

What are you doing this weekend?  Is your area of the country experiencing spring?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Like Mother... Like Son (and Daughter)

I am often caught up in more than one book, or at the very least, am gunning to finish one book so that I can finish another!  I just may have passed that trait onto my children. 

My two oldest kids keep their current books on my bedside table because they read in my room after the three youngest have gone to bed in the evening.  Before I go to bed, I straighten my table every night.  (Another trait that they have not inherited is compulsive neatness.) I noticed that the pile seemed to be growing and I discovered that each child was in the middle of two books.  Like mother, like children! 

Maddie (age 8) is reading:

Summer Party (A Cobble Street Cousins book) by Cynthia Rylant
The Wind in the Willows #5: Sneaky Toad (Easy Reader Classics) by Laura Driscoll

Gavin (age 10) is reading:

The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
The Curse of King Tut's Mummy (A Stepping Stones Book) by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

What are your children reading?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Books, Ideas, and Crafts for Easter

3 Books to Read in Preparation for Easter

Littlest Learners (ages 2-4)--What Is Easter? by Michelle Medlock Adams
  • This board book cheerfully introduces the concept that there is more to Easter than egg hunts and bunnies!

Early Elementary (ages 4-7)-- The Easter Story by Allia Zobel Nolan
  • Based on the book of Mark, this book walks through the events from Palm Sunday until the resurrection. 

Everyone! (ages 7-adult)--One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham
  • This may be considered a Christmas book, but it shares the Gospel from the beginning (Adam and Eve!) all the way through Christ's death and resurrection and what that means for us today.

2 Activities to Emphasize the Gospel

  • Make Resurrection Cookies the night before Easter. We did this as a family 2 years ago and were amazed how this hands-on activity and accompanying scriptures drove the message home to our young children. 

1 "Just For Fun" Ways to Pretty Your Home

  • After the kids have had their egg-coloring fun, dye a few eggs for yourself and display them in a large canning jar.  I choose to use brown eggs and also dye a few pink ones, but I think brown and blue or even white would look pretty, too. 

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