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Archive for March, 2010

Oh my goodness!  I’ve never really though of a cold as ‘sick’, you know?  People would complain, “Oh man, I’m so sick with this cold!”  and in my head I’d be thinking, “Awww, poor baby, you gots da sniffles?” 

Not really but, almost something like that.  All I have to say is, I am SO sorry!  I had no idea!  I got hit with this deep, chesty cough last Thursday, it’s something all the kiddos got and I wasn’t immune this time.  Guys, it is SO bad!  I’ve spent all week just trying to maintain!  What’s made it the most difficult is the fact that I’ve been up coughing and choking all night long!  Have you tried running a house full of kids on 90 mins sleep every night for a week?  NOT FUN!

I’m afraid to go into my kitchen, every time I do, I hear the floor crunch and I know that can’t be good.  It’s not like I haven’t been sweeping and cleaning up after the kiddos, I just can’t keep up!  My body won’t let me.  I pull out the broom and do a few passes but then, a kid is upset or, someone needs to use the potty or, one of a million other reasons I need to put the broom down and sprint to someone’s rescue.  Usually, I can do that AND handle my house cleaning routine AND be prepping yummy meals AND have fun, wonderfully stimulating lesson plans for the kids but, for some reason, when I’m sick I can’t.  I’ve performed triage and have decided that, this week, priorities are as follows:

  1. Keep children alive and relatively clean until pick up every day
  2. Feed aforementioned children
  3. Pour all extra energy in being kind and patient with said children, they’re not feeling well either

…Aaaaaand…That’s about it!  Ennah is back from her road trip to Seattle so, Tuesday & Wednesday, I had extra help around the house and I could roll around on the floor with the kids.  David has been off every day at about 1pm and he helped the kiddos plant more veggies in the garden which they loved!  David has also taken over dish duty this week which, when you’re feeding 7 or 8 kids a minimum of 2 meals and 2 snacks every day, dishes are an INSANE undertaking!  He is such an amazing help, I love him!

Needless to say, blogging was not on that list of priorities this week!  I have been thinking about it constantly though and I actually have a number of posts in the works.  Give me the weekend to recover and I’ll be right backatcha on Monday, better than ever!

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72 Hour Kits

Lately I’ve been wondering if we’re as prepared as we should be in the event that there were a major disaster during child care hours.  I always have a week’s worth of food at least but, do we have enough water?  What if we have to load everyone in the stroller and camp out at the park?  We’re lucky enough to have quite a few of our clients pretty close during work hours, some even live close enough to walk but, what about our clients that live/work on the other side of Santa Rosa?  What if they can get to us but can’t get home?  What if they can’t get to us and we have their kiddos for a night or two?  We have extra play clothes in their cubbies but those are really just for if they have an accident or get dirty, really just one extra change of clothes. 

David had the idea of having several generic backpacks or gallon bags filled with clothes and labeled, not by name but by size.  Perhaps have the parents go through their extra or outgrown clothes and donate them so that we can organize them and have them ready to go here, in a big tote.  What would we need for each 72-hour kit as far as clothes?

  1. Footy PJs
  2. 3-5 pairs of undies (for diaper wearers, we have all their sizes here, as well as overnights for the bigger kids)
  3. 3-5 pairs of socks
  4. 3 pairs of cotton pants, no jeans
  5. 3 shirts
  6. 1 sweat shirt and 1 sweat pants
  7. plastic poncho
  8. pair of crocks or something like that in case their tennies get wet or they come to child care in sandals that day
  9. Anything else?

I’m also trying to think of what types of foods would be best for their 72-hour kits.  Carbs, not having a problem!  You got your crackers, cheerios, oatmeal, etc…It’s the protein I’m having a hard time figuring out.  Most of the kids are under 3 years old and we have one kiddo with a possible nut allergy so, peanut butter is out.  Cheese isn’t shelf stable and, for the kids under 3, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with jerky or something like that, I don’t need to be worrying about choking children on top of everything else!  I’ve seen those packets of chicken or tuna salad that come with crackers at the grocery store and those might be a good idea but, what else?  Of course we have chili and beans, etc in our pantry but, if we have to camp out or can’t get back in to our house for some reason, canned goods would be heavy and hard to transport while herding 7 infants and preschoolers.  For the babies, most brands of formula have those single serve packets and we could put a box of those in each of their kits.  Baby food and infant cereal last a very long time and is very easy to store and transport so, it’s really just the preschoolers kits that I’m having a hard time with!  Do you have any suggestions? 

Have recent events made you start thinking more about your emergency prep?  What have you got prepped and what do you think needs to be updated/changed?  When was the last time you rotated your food or checked the sizes in your kid’s emergency kit?

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Garden Time!

Oh guys, I’m so stinkin’ excited about our garden this year!  It’s the first year in our new home and, since we’re going to be here for a while, we actually have the time AND the space for an awesome garden!

In our front yard, we’ve already planted a couple of Hebe bushes and some Ixia bulbs and I can’t wait til those start really making a showing.  Now that the windows have been installed, we can finally start preparing the soil in the flower bed right in front of the house.  It’s going to be filled with Peonies, Glads, Hyacinths and a ton of other beautiful bulbs.  David has just finished building our Dahlia bed, we’ve got about 42 Dahlia bulbs, ALONE!

What I’m most excited about is our kitchen garden.  We’re doing square foot gardening this year and we’re planning on an abundance, a cornucopia if you will, of food!  We have our four citrus trees, Blood Orange, Dancy Tangerine, Meyer Lemon and Buddha’s Hand Lemon.  We’ve already planted some peas and four types of lettuce outside and we have peppers, cukes, three kinds of tomatoes and some celery starting to sprout in the office.  That’s all just the tip of the iceberg though!  We’re planting strawberries, lemon cukes, artichokes, beans, two kinds of melons, two kinds of pumpkins, a couple of squash plants and I’m sure I’m leaving something out!  It’s going to be so awesome!  I can’t wait to have the kiddos run outside and pick their own salads!  Oh, and the canning I’ll get to do this year!  I’m so excited!!  I can’t wait to post some pictures, maybe even a video or two!

Are you planning a garden this year?  What do you hope to plant?  Let me know down in the comments section!

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Balance

You know, there are some days that I am so focused on the kiddos that, after their parents pick them up and I look around, the house has fallen down around my ears.  There’s food scattered and mashed on dining room floor.  There is not a single book or toy on a shelf or in a box.  Garbage cans are stuffed to the gills and, in some cases, close to overflowing.  I may not have even had the time (or inclination) to change out of my PJs, let alone put on a little makeup or do much with my hair besides a messy ponytail.  But the day was fun!  We worked on art projects (as evidenced by the marker scribbled table and glue stick schmeared chairs), we played out side (you can tell from the mud and sand tracked all over my carpet), and probably all made lunch together (with, not only a sink-full, but a counter-full, of dishes to show for it).  Yes, we had a fun day but, I’m so exhausted when I look at what’s left for me to do before bed, just to get the house ready to do it all again the next day.

Other days, I spend most of my time changing diapers and wiping noses in between loads of laundry and mopping floors.  I’m so intent on the house getting clean that I get the kids started on individual projects or spend most of the day in free-play so that I can run around with my gloves on, tidying and disinfecting.  I’m blessed to have my sister as my assistant so that I can spend my time being ‘busy’ getting things done.  At the end of days like that, the kids head out the door with a hug and a kiss and I realize, I didn’t really get to have my ‘kid time’.  I didn’t take the time to roll on the floor and cuddle, I got quick hugs and kisses as I passed with my arms full of laundry basket.  I have less work to do after they all go home but, though I know it’s important for kids to have their individual time and that one of the benefits of family child care, as opposed to child care centers, is that they see what it takes to keep a house running, those aren’t days that I’m left feeling satisfied with my efforts of the day.

And then, there are days like today.  I folded laundry with two of my big helpers and they did a really good job on those wash cloths!  We had a blast counting and matching socks.  We read a new book together and we all learned to count (or rather, read) to 10 in Swahili.  While they worked on their art project in the dining room, I was able to prep snack and chat with them about the colors they were using and the safari animals they’d like to photograph (we were making cameras).  We all cleaned up together and went in to wake the baby for snack.  He was standing up, grinning, just waiting for us and everyone was giggles and smiles.  While everyone ate, I was able to load the dishwasher and clean the counters and then we all worked together to sweep the floor.  Then, since everything was ‘done’, we were all able to play together.  I wasn’t stuck scrubbing out the sink, only popping into the front room to count or scold or give a time out.  I got to enjoy my kiddlets and we all cheered for the baby as he climbed up and over the nap cots again and again.  The kiddos wanted to play my favorite game, ‘Make Sarah’s Hair Pretty’.  It’s the one where I get to sit back and relax while  snuggling the baby and they brush and play with my hair, divine!  

Everyone pitched in to clean the toys up while the baby and I went into the kitchen to prepare lunch, which I had a plan for and it was already partially prepped, thank you very much!  After lunch, everyone went down for naps without a fuss and I didn’t hear a peep from any of them for 2 hours!  More than enough time for me to recharge for the afternoon and clean up lunch.  The kids were so excited to wake up and see that David was home because he had been promising them that they could help him plant a garden as soon as we had some sun and, lo and behold, we finally had a break in the rainy weather!  We packed everyone out to the backyard for a picnic snack while David prepped the soil and then they took turns planting peas and lettuce.

Now, was today perfect?  No, far from it!  We had timeouts and a few tantrums.  The baby is teething and has boogers the size of his eyeball.  We’re in the middle of potty training the kiddos and so there was many a panicked sprint for the potty.  Overall though, it was a great day!  I was calm and kind while still being firm when I had to be.  The house looked decent, not perfect, at the end of the day and I felt that I was able to connect with the kids on a very real level.  They didn’t just get to see how a house runs, today, they got to help make a home work.  They got to participate and see how a family works.  This wasn’t a rare day, in fact, they’re becoming more and more common as I continue to focus on how I want my home to feel.  They key, for me, is to keep trying and to give myself permission to have those off-balance days when I have to but to do all that I can to keep my self, and my home, in balance most of the time.  Maybe, right now, I’m able to accomplish that 70% of the time.  Next week, I’ll shoot for 80% and the week after, even higher.  I don’t have to be perfect and I’m good with that.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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Ahhhh…Nap Time…

Whew, it’s been a busy day around here today!  We have two preschoolers and two infants, a really light load actually but, everyone’s had super busy hands and feet!  We’ve had sun and rain and hail so far today, just waiting for the hurricane and maybe a little earthquake to round it out!  We haven’t been able to do our preschool curriculum yet today, I’ve been trying to catch up on the house a little bit.  Yesterday, we had our new (beautiful!) windows installed and we were all confined to quarters for most of the day so that the installers could have the space to get their job done quickly and safely.  Nothing like having a 12 month old toddle right out of a gaping hole in the wall to throw your safety record out of whack!

Luckily, everyone has been in super-great moods which lets me get my ‘chores’ done without me getting stressed and the kiddos going crazy!  I had some very good helpers during the babies’ morning nap.  We folded two loads of laundry, started a third in the washing machine, and we were able to get supper in the crockpot.  The girls mixed up some onion soup mix, OJ and cranberry sauce and we poured it over a turkey breast to cook for a couple of hours.  The kitchen looks like a bowl of Cheerios exploded and sounds like popcorn when you walk across it but nap time is my break time too and it’s not like the mess is going anywhere, right?  It will be swept before the kiddos are up and I’m hoping my preschoolers will wake before the babies do, maybe we can squeeze school in then!  If not, we’ll wait til David gets home and he can sub as a baby wrangler for half an hour.  He’s very good at it, natural talent I’d say!

I have to say, I’m hating that I haven’t been able to post any pictures yet.  As much as I enjoy these little posts, a picture is worth a thousand words and it sure breaks up the monotony of all those lines of texts!!  I have no idea where the charger is for my little ‘point and shoot’ and an iPhone, while convenient, isn’t really the level of quality I want to stoop to for my blog.  I think I’d like to invest in a real, grownup camera.  I really enjoyed using one while shooting candids, back when I was a school photographer and I’ve always wanted to develop that skill.  Hmmm…I wonder if I could talk David into it if I reminded him that it would be a work expense for the child care home?  It would be fun to start researching them anyway, right?

I have to say, this is one of my favorite times of day, not because the kids are napping and ‘out of my hair’, far from it!  I just love looking over at them as they nap on their cots in the living room, clean faces, totally relaxed.  Their little batteries are recharging for another whirlwind but, right now, they’re just totally at peace.  It makes me happy to know that they feel so safe and at home here, they don’t have any trouble drifting off.  Even the babies, snoring away in the nursery, are completely passed out with little full bellies, drooling and with their booties up in the air.  I love it!

Well, laundry is in the dryer so, nothing to fold.  Dinner is cooking and loading the dishwasher is too loud for my living room nappers so, no cleaning for right now.  I think it’s time for me to take a little, hopefully well-deserved, break!

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Shangri La

I’ve had a lot of friends email or message me about the Shangri La Diet (SLD) which is convenient because I was already planning to write about it today!  Way to be on the same page, guys!

I first read about SLD in a book called, ‘Freakonomics’, by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt.  The SLD was discovered by Seth Roberts, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at Berkley.  He was not happy with several things in his life, insomnia, acne, being overweight, etc…and decided to do something about it.  Relying on self-experimentation and using the scientific method, he researched and put into practice several different theories until he finally, one by one, was able to change the things in his life that he was unhappy with.  When it came to weight loss, he dubbed his new eating style the Shangri La Diet.

In a nutshell, SLD is based on the theory that, our world and our brains have progressed, basically, we’re all still cavemen when it comes to food.  When there is an abundance of food and lots of variety, our bodies tell us, “Eat, eat, eat!!  There will be famine later, let’s stock up your fat supply now so that we can live on it when we need to!” and, when there isn’t a lot of food, very bland food, or not a lot of variety it, our bodies say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Let’s slow that metabolism down, we’re obviously in a famine and we’ll supplement with your fat reserve.”  When there’s less food available, your body actually makes you less hungry and, when there’s tons of food, your body tells you to binge.  Doesn’t make much sense today in our modern world, does it.  I’m very blessed to live in a time and place where, if I’m hungry, I can run to the grocery store and choose from thousands of food items from all around the world.  Basically, my body has had 32 years of prepping for famine and, guess what, it’s not happening in my life anytime soon!

So, what are your options if you want to short-circuit this caveman program?  You can’t starve yourself, that will just lead to your body hoarding your body fat.  You could eat bland, boring food all the time to trick your body but, really, who is going to be able to sustain that kind of diet?  In no time at all, you’ll be bingeing on cake and ice cream!  Seth Roberts’ theory is that, if you give yourself ‘falvorless’ calories once or twice a day, that will be enough to trick your body and then you can eat whatever you want the rest of the time.  The flavorless calories he suggests are, 1-4 TBSP of Extra Light Olive Oil (ELOO) or sugar-water per day.  The flavorless calories actually cause appetite suppression which leads to eating less (obviously) but without triggering the ‘I’m starving!’ alarms that cause your body to hoard its fat reserves.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it?  Well, like anything else, it does have stumbling blocks.  For me, it’s the texture of the oil as I take that quick shot in the morning.  It doesn’t taste bad at all but, that .o5 seconds where the oil is actually in my mouth is enough to trigger my gag reflex most days.  Most people would, if they had a problem with the oil, switch to the sugar-water but, since I have PCOS and I’m pre-diabetic, I really am supposed to limit my carbs and my brain just kind of rebels at the thought of drinking plain sugar-water as horribly unhealthy, even though I’m fine drinking juice or soda.  When you think about it, soda could be hundreds of times worse, with all those chemicals and dyes!  Another thing to watch out for is making sure you eat only when you’re hungry, not just because it’s dinner time or you’re going to be hungry later, it defeats the whole purpose!

In my experience, I’ve discovered a lot of unexpected benefits to SLD that totally outweigh the gag factor.  Besides the fact that I started experiencing appetite suppression the very first day, I’ve also linked the ELOO to better and easier sleep, my skin clearing up, my hair being healthier and less pain in my joints.  An awesome side-effect for me is that, when I am hungry, I’m craving lighter foods like fruits and vegetables and I’m thirsty for water all the time!

That being said, I haven’t been perfect in taking it.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve taken it for a week and I need to get back on the horse!  If you do decide to try the SLD, I would suggest reading the book, The Shangri La Diet by Seth Roberts.  Barnes & Noble has it for about $4.  If you’re too eager and you want to try it right away, the least you need to know is, make sure to take your flavorless calories in the middle of a two-hour window so as not to cause your brain to associate the calories with the other flavors.  I usually take it right when I wake up in the morning and hold off breakfast for at least an hour though, usually, I’m not hungry until lunch time.  conversely, you could take it at bedtime as long as you haven’t eaten for at least an hour before.  Also, unless you have over 50lbs to lose, start at 1 TBSP per day and see how you feel.  If 1 TBSP doesn’t really change your appetite, slowly work your way up, never exceeding 4 TBSP per day.

I hope that answers all your questions!  If you have any others that weren’t covered, please post them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them!  Also, if you try SLD, let us know what you think and about your experiences!

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Apple Pie Jam

Well, today I finally moved beyond Strawberry Jam!  True, for Christmas, we canned Chocolate Strawberry Jam but, it was Strawberry Jam nonetheless.  Strawberry Jam is simple, crush the berries, cook the berries, can the berries and you’re done.  There is some stirring and mixing and measuring in there but, it’s a very forgiving recipe and the first thing I felt comfortable canning.

Today, we’ve stepped into the unknown…Apple Pie Jam!  I had bought a large amount of Granny Smith apples a few weeks ago and the kiddos were totally over them.  In fact, so were David and I.  We had 8 left and they were just languishing at the bottom of the fruit bowl, under the fresh tangerines, bananas and lemons, waiting to turn to mush.  We’ve been trying to up our self-sufficiency with tentatives steps into urban homesteading and I just couldn’t let those 8 apples rot!  I did consider just chopping them up and tossing them into the compost heap but which would, in turn, help the veggies we’re planting this year but, I just couldn’t do it.  Then I decided to whip up an apple crisp (yummy!) but David and I are trying get in shape and I don’t like the shape that apple crisp encourages me to be.  Canning seamed the best idea and I briefly considered applesauce but that was vetoed due to the fact that, a) I can take or leave applesauce and, b) in my mind it would take either mashing the apples or pulling out my blender and I didn’t feel like doing either of those things, jam it is!

 I googled around a bit to find some recipes and then fiddled with the ingredients and amounts, this is what I came up with!

Apple Pie Jam Syrup

8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced

1/2 cup water

1 TBSP butter

3 cups granulated sugar

2 cups dark brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 box pectin

Combine diced apples, butter and water in a pot and cook on medium until the apples are soft but not mushy.  Add sugars, cinnamon and pectin, stir constantly and bring to a full boil for 2-3 minutes.  Pour into half-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Process for 10 – 12 minutes.  After processing, flip upside-down and leave overnight.  In the morning, if there are any unsealed jars (the button pops up and down when you press it), put them in the fridge to use first.  All others can be saved in your pantry for up to a year.  I was able to fill 8 half-pint jars. 

I can’t wait to try this after it’s finished sitting!  Believe me, I was licking my fingers enough to tell you that it tastes delicious but, I can’t wait to have it on toast or a sandwich or maybe even poured over vanilla ice cream!  Bonus, the house smells AWESOME!  If you try the recipe, please, let me know what you think!

EDIT: It looks like the jam didn’t gel properly.  If you try this recipe, perhaps try adding another half or whole box of pectin.  Unaltered, it makes a lovely Apple Pie Syrup!  We can’t wait to try it on pancakes and/or ice cream!

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