Wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend…

…and Looking Forward to Advent

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Liz made it home from the hospital in time for Thanksgiving dinner and we were truly thankful for that blessing.  Friday was spent recuperating from the hectic week.  Richard decorated inside the house Friday and Saturday.  The tree is now up.  The Christmas village is up and lit.  The outside decorations are completed and are lighting up the neighborhood tonight. Today was also a quiet and restful day.  Other than Mass, no on went anywhere.

Thanksgiving is truly over in our house.  The last of the turkey was used to make a Turkey Divan and the rest of leftovers were also finished.  So now the Christmas dinner plans begin.

We have started a technology free week for the children.  No computer, DSs, computer time (other than specific school subjects) or MP3 players.  This came about because of the constant nagging for time on the computer, borrowing my Nook, time on the Wii.  This resulted in horrible attitudes if the answer was no.  So I declared all electronics turned off as of today.  Only Richard or I can turn on the TV.  Right now we are watching Mankind.  So the children will be allowed to watch the recorded show sometime this week.  The computer will only be used for typing lessons and their spelling lessons. 

Today was a bit rough as they figured out how to occupy themselves without the electronic babysitters.  By the end of the day they were getting it.  Tomorrow we will take a trip to the library for new books to help occupy their time.  My overall goal is to have no electronics throughout all of Advent, other than special shows Richard or I OK ahead of time.  We will see how that works out.

My other major accomplishment this weekend was pulling together my Advent unit for the six year olds. This unit is based off of Elizabeth Foss’s Advent Unit using Tomie DePaola books.  I used her recommended books and pulled together a day by day lesson plan for Advent and the Octave of Christmas.  You can see my plans here.

I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed weekend.

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Menu Planning Monday

Back to Menu Planning Monday.  Since I have already pulled together my dinner menus for the rest of the year, this will be very easy!

Breakfasts
Cereal, muffins, or waffles

Lunches
Sandwiches or dinner leftovers

Dinners

Monday
Baked chicken
Mashed potatoes
Spinach

Tuesday (Children’s Choir Practice)
Fend for yourself

Wednesday
Spaghetti
Salad
Garlic bread

Thursday — Thanksgiving Day
Turkey
Stuffing
Gravy
Green bean casserole
Candied yams
Brussel sprouts

Friday
Thanksgiving leftovers
(Possible Turkey Divan)

Saturday
Chicken & dumpings
Fruit cups

Sunday
Pulled pork sandwiches
Chips
Fruit

Changing of the Holiday plans

This has been a rough month around the house.  Just about everyone has had a cold for the past a month.  Last week included an ER trip with Abby for a severe case of croup.  According to the ER doctor, croup has been really bad this year.  They are seeing 10 and 11 year olds coming into the ER.  My neighbor told me one of his friends, an adult doctor, even was in the ER with croup.  So we aren’t the only ones dealing with illness.

I can only guess my two at the community college brought it into the house.  I just wish it would leave!  Unfortunately, it has boomeranged back to me.  I thought I had dodged the bullet about week ago, but last night at 2 AM it hit me full force: sore throat, stuffy head and cough.  I have yet to figure out why illnesses most often hit in the middle of the night, at least for my family.

Today was spent mostly hunkered down at home.  Richard took the boys up to church to deliver the Boy Scout popcorn that had been ordered last month.  Everyone else was too sick to go.  I refuse to bring people that are hacking up lungs to church, myself included.  Once Richard was home, I headed back to bed.  Six hours later I was up and still feeling horrible, just not as horrible.

This illness has also forced a change in our Thanksgiving plans.  We were going to Virginia to spend the day with my mom.  However, she has severe COPD and I don’t want to risk her getting this cold.  I am afraid that we could lose her if she was to come down with it, as bad is has been for our family.

I have tracked a pattern for my family, at least for at least the past 5 years. The week of Thanksgiving seems to be peak time for the family to be ill.  We often have had to change plans because one or more of the children have been ill. I won’t subject anyone to sick children, although I have been told to bring them anyway a few times. I feel that no one enjoys the day.  The sick child because they aren’t home, Richard and I because we will be dealing with sick, cranky children that just want to be home, or the others at the dinner worried about becoming ill.  So we choose to stay home and it frustrates some people.

Since I keep a stocked pantry, it won’t be an issue to pull together a Thanksgiving dinner.  I have already bought three turkeys were sale (39 cents a pound!!). I can’t beat a 24 pound turkey for under $10.  Tomorrow we will take a bird out and start the defrost process.  Come Thursday morning it will be defrosted and ready to go into the oven.  I already have the rest of the fixings for the dinner, all we will have to do is put together the side dishes.

We will miss visiting with my mom and brother, but we still have a lot for which we are thankful. Hopefully everyone will be well by Christmas so we can spend some time with her then.

A little of this and a little of that

The Big Fall Clean, is just about done. We only have the garage to get done.  And honestly unless we have a warm day, it will probably wait until the Big SPRING Clean.  I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the cold. 

I have been keeping on the children to make sure the rooms stay organized.  I am happy to say that they are doing great and are at the point where a once a walk through is all I need to do.  My youngest three right now are the best cleaners.  They hop right up when I tell them their room needs to be straightened up and they get it done.  They will do what ever I tell them needs to be done, when I tell them.  I started a reward system  and they love it.  They get to pick a coin out of the spare change jar for each job they do.  Right now they are looking for things to do to get “paid,”  I often have to tell them the work is done.

With the house and children basically under control, it is time for me to take a look inward and get MYSELF back under control.  I need to make sure I am getting enough rest and eating better.  Over the past 5 years I began going to bed at 2 AM and getting up 6 AM, which is leaving me very tired.  My plan for the next month is to make sure I am in bed by midnight each night.  My goal for January 1st is to be in bed by 11PM every night.

I also fell off the menu planning bandwagon about a year ago because our family life was so unpredictable.  I began to wing it for dinners.  We started to rely on the “quick” things in the freezer or a quick trip to pick up a couple of pizzas.  The rest of the meals were hit or miss too.  Whatever we had in the house was up for grabs.  Shopping was does haphazardly so we often ran out of things like cereal or waffles.

I decided to restart menu planning.  I have decided that breakfasts and lunches will be quick and easy to prepare.  Breakfasts will consist of cereals, waffles and occasionally eggs. Lunches will be dinner leftovers, sandwiches, and sometimes a “treat” like Spaghetti O’s.

Today my goal was get the dinner menus planned for the rest of the year.  I searched the web and found an Excel template by Vertex.  Two hours later the menus are complete!  A load has been removed from my shoulders and I know what we will be having for dinner for the next six weeks. 

If I am not at home, then Richard can check the menu plan and won’t have to figure out what is for dinner.  Plus he will know we have the food in the pantry and freezer for these meals.  In addition to Richard, I have at least three children who are trained in the kitchen, so they could jump in and take over so it won’t all fall on Richard.

I also am going to make sure we keep enough fresh fruit and vegetables in the house.  When I was checking the produce drawers I saw we had 10 apples, a head of lettuce and two cucumbers.  My children can go through all of that in one day.  I prefer fruits snacks over cookies any day.

I have my shopping done so we are ready to go!   Here is link to my menu plan for rest of November and the link to menu plan for December. 

Superstorm Sloppy (Starting the Big Fall Clean)

I FINALLY broke down and started The Big Fall Clean.  I have been putting it off for many reasons, but reached the point where I could not take the overall mess and clutter which has crept into the bedrooms and the rest of the house over the past year.

Last weekend we started in the girls’ dungeon dorm room.  This is the 2nd largest bedroom and houses 6 beds, dressers, clothes and a MINIMAL amount of toys.  This room ALWAYS looks like a tornado has gone through it, overturning the dressers and dumping the clothing out all over the floor and beds.  When I walk into the room, miraculously the dressers are right side up and in the correct place.  There must be some weird vortex in the room that is causing this effect.  I am betting is a unique combination of weather phenomena in the house: Hurricane Abby, Hurricane Maggie and Hurricane Marian.  These meet up and combine often with Typhoon Emma and Typhoon Becky.  These five storms collide with Monsoon Mandy, leading to Superstorm Sloppy.

To clean up from Superstorm Sloppy, we started what has been affectionately become known as a Room Dump.  A Room Dump is when EVERYTHING, other than the furniture, is taken out of the room and usually dumped placed into my bedroom.  Once everything is there, sorting, purging and reorganizing happens.  I decided to do a modified room dump,  since the older girls had been keeping their clothing within the dressers and closet. The majority of the mess was from the 6 year olds and the 18 year old and most of it was the clothing on the floor.

It began with the girls picking everything  up off the floor, including those items stuffed under the beds, and moving to my room.  Once the floor pick-up was completed, the 6 year olds emptied out their dresser drawers.  The older two dusted, swept and vacuumed the now vacant floor while I was sorting through the clothing in my room, most of it belonging to the 6 year olds.

Too small items and out of season clothing were put into the Give-Away Box. The remaining clothing was folded and laid on my bed in piles, organized by girl and type of clothing (shirts, pants, etc.).  The girls and I talked about how to organize their clothing.  Up to this point they had individual drawers  with all of “their” clothing in the drawer, but they have started to “share” the clothing and it often gets mixed up or not put away at all.  “We” decided to organize the main dresser with shirts, pants, and skirts/skorts drawers since they all wear the clothing now.  The other dresser would contain the underwear, socks and pajamas. Once that was decided, we went to work putting the clothing away.

A second issue I have with my girls is they are all snugglers.  They love to snuggle under the blankets, many of them, too many of them!  In the morning these blankets often wind up on the floor.  Each bed had 5, yes 5, blankets on them.  Imagine 6 beds, 5 blankets each.  Many days there would be 30 blankets on the floor.  We reached a compromise of 3 blankets for each bed, after all winter is fast approaching.  Actually the benevolent dictator stepped in and set this limit since everyone was arguing.  The remaining blankets were packed up and banished to the hinterlands of the garage.

The final issue causing chaos in the room was the sheer number of stuffed animals living in the room. Again I limited the girls to no more than 5 stuffed animals on the bed, not including the special lovey.  I know that number still seems high, but it a step in the right direction.  30 animals to keep track of are much better than 130 or more.  The unchosen were boxed into two boxes.  The first box is the 2nd string; those animals that are loved, but didn’t make the cut.  This box was put on the top of the closet, and the girls will be allowed to switch out animals every so often.  The second box was banished to the garage, just like the blankets. If no one requests an animal from this box, it will be somehow become “lost.”

The girls’ room has been done since Saturday and I have been following through to make sure it remains this way.  I make sure the beds are made every morning, keeping the blankets and animals off the floor.  When laundry is put away, I follow up after dinner to ensure it was put away properly.  If the 6 year olds do not put the clothing in the correct drawer, I call them all up and make them put it where it belongs.   Slowly good habits are being built.  My plan is to never have to do a complete room dump again, just seasonal dresser dumps to weed out clothing.

Next up on the agenda is the boys’ room.  Now THAT is a scary thought!

A blessed day

Last Wednesday, Liz and Mandy did not need to be at the college until 11 AM. I had a very hectic and busy weekend and week up to that point, so I decided that I wasn’t going to go to physical therapy. I shut off my alarm and slept in.  At 9:00 Marian came into our room, climbed on the bed between Richard and I and wanted to know why we were still in bed.  We told her because we felt like it. She giggled and our day started.

I sat up and started talking to Marian about silly things like why guinea pigs don’t have tails, why I have dark brown hair and she has blond hair and when we were going to have a tea party.  After a few minutes Maggie and Abby came in and joined us on the bed and the silly conversation continued.  Slowly one by one, all older ones meandered in and joined us.  Thank goodness we have a king size bed!  It was a wonderful, family time full of laughter, bonding and fun (with a few tickles thrown in for good measure).  Who would have thought it would happen on a Wednesday morning!

It was getting later and Richard had a hard time motivating himself to get out bed and take the oldest two to the college.  But he finally got up and got them out the door by 10:30, even they had a hard time leaving.

Around 11 I finally kicked everyone off the bed and out of the room so I could get dressed for the day. When I came downstairs about 20 minutes later, the middle four had started fixing lunch for everyone.  They made a great team getting the grilled cheese sandwiches on the table by 11:45.  The family fun continued through lunch and even through the usually hectic lunch clean-up.

After lunch we went our separate ways.  Douglas, Becky, Emma and Patrick headed up stairs to play on their Nintendo DSs.  Even then they were playing together, something called “versus.”  Don’t ask me, I just heard a lot of laughter and groans over the next couple of hours.  Abby, Maggie, Marian and I had that tea party we were talking about during the morning time.  Richard joined us for a while.  It is funny to see Daddy at the tea party, but the girls had a blast.

Then it was time to pick up Liz and Mandy and get dinner going, so our day came to a close.  But the closeness the family enjoyed throughout the earlier part of the day lasted for the rest of the evening. There was very little of the usual bickering and squabbles that happens with dinner clean up and bedtime.

Spontaneous moments that build up the family which couldn’t happen if the children were away at school are one of the reasons we home school.