"Just piddlin'." It's my generic answer to "what're you doing?" It could mean anything from cooking to crocheting, reading or painting my nails, hanging out with the kids or cheering their games. My blog covers it all. Pour a cup
Frances is a winner of Top 25 Family Blogs by Moms - 2012
What's your favorite thing to do on family night?
Our weekly family night is Fridays - somehow we've finagled a free evening into our schedule, which is usually packed with practice, rehearsals, and meetings. The menu is pizza. Generally, we order for delivery or pickup. But the kids' favorite is when we get dough and all the pizza fixin's and everyone makes their own. What kid doesn't love rolling out dough - its just like playing with play doh! Everyone makes their own combination - cheese, pepperoni, mushroom - and we rarely have any left over.
Once we've got the pizza settled, then its the hard part - picking out a movie. Six people trying to agree on a movie? Yes, it takes a while, and the debate and voting is part of the fun of the evening.
Its a simple formula - pizza and a movie. But with our schedule, we need simple sometimes. Its one of the few times during the week that we are all in one place, with nowhere else to go, and can relax together.
What has surprised you most about motherhood?
I always imagined the part of motherhood where you read to the kids and volunteer at school and cook them breakfast on Saturday mornings. What I wasn't prepared for was the intense pressure to be perfect, to do this mothering thing absolutely right. Self-imposed or society-imposed, doesn't matter. My actions and decisions and words will factor into who my children become and what our relationship will be. And that's a lot of pressure.
On a lighter side - I don't think I realized how fun it would be to hang out with my kids and how much joy I would get from their happiness.
Lastly - I didn't expect that I would understand my own mother so much!
What's your favorite game to play as a family?
Our closet is stacked with board games and we have a Wii; often the kids will play Dance Revolution and Mario, or Life or Monopoly (when they can find all the pieces) or something from our collection. We also enjoy playing tennis together - never imagined us being a tennis-playing family, but we are. Me and two of my daughters play regularly and when its nice out and we're looking for something to do together, its a lot of fun for all 6 of us to head out to the courts. And - this one is greatly my influence - we watch Jeopardy together, trying to answer the questions. Of course, the Kids and Teens Weeks are their favorites.
To fit in my workouts, i use the waiting around time. My gym has childcare - this was more important when the kids (4) were smaller, but even now, it's still useful. I schedule some of their activities - swimming lessons, for example, there, then the others can swim, too or go to the childcare room, and I can work out. When I have to tag along to their activities, I take my sneakers and other workout stuff, whether some hand weights or a tennis racket, and workout or run while they're doing their thing. Also, I joined a tennis team with most matches at night, so by the time for me to go, usually around 8 pm, everyone's settled and Dad just needs to put them all to bed.
I always shop the sales racks, even at Target.
For coats and seasonal items like that - I buy a size bigger to last 2 seasons, and I buy gender neutral colors - blue, red, orange, yellow. Since I have 3 girls and a boy, I found that my son would end up with a pink coat, I'd always have to buy him a new coat, or my youngest daughter wouldn't have a hand-me-down coat. So now, I get a plain (no print), acceptable to everyone color and they can get whichever coat fits, by the time it gets to my youngest, we might sew a patch or ribbon or something on it if she thinks it looks too boy-ish.
I try to get in my exercise before the kids are up or while they are in school, but sometimes that doesn't work and then I go to my "mommy workout" plan - exercising while I'm waiting for them at their activities - running on the track while they are at swim practice, hitting tennis balls during their basketball practice, running around the neighborhood during play rehearsal.
I wrote up a few of my tips, with some help from a personal trainer on my blog - Just Piddlin' -
I regularly make ribs, pulled pork, chicken in the crock pot. I recently tried spaghetti - it turned out great and *ding ding ding* the best part - the kids loved it. Its real simple - spaghetti and all the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, go off to do whatever you do and come back to a delicious pot of spaghetti & sauce.
my blog post for more details is here - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/06/easy-cooking-crockpot-spaghetti.html
I've got 3 girls & 1 boy, so we're all over the place with goodie bags. You'd think the oldest (13 & 11) would be over it by now but, no, they & they friends still love 'em. And they love getting...... socks! Crazy, wild patterned socks are always a hit. You can always find some fun options somewhere like Target, doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. Lipgloss or small nailpolishes are good, too. Costumer jewelry for the little ones. And rubber balls or small building kits for the boy.
I make the kids' sandwiches into tortilla roll-ups or stuff into pita bread instead of on sliced bread. Maybe it's the change from regular bread, but they like them better. I fill them with expected sandwich fillings, like ham and cheese; leftovers from dinner like baked or fried fish, chicken fingers; or something they usually would claim they don't like,such as chicken salad. I can also sneak in some spinach or shredded carrots for a veggie. Spread with a little bit of their favorite dressing (ranch, in my house) and they've got a tasty sandwich!
I'm shopping for four kids - 2 elementary and 2 middle-school - that adds up to a lot of pencils and paper. I always take the kids, not just so that they can pick out what color notebook to buy, but also - give them their own pile of stuff and money to pay for it to get in the check-out line. Often, the sales items are a limited quantity per person - let each kid buy their own allowed quantity.
Labels - I buy them cheap online, print them myself using Avery labels on the printer, or print them from my label maker. Sharpies are also great for those hard to label items.
Although I don't want my children to struggle in school, I don't expect it to be a cakewalk either. If they are coming home without any homework, or so little homework that they got it done in school or on the bus home, that tells me its too easy. *Yes, I'm a homework advocate, I think kids should get homework every day to reinforce what they learned in school. In this situation, I have met with the teacher and let them know my child needed more challenging assignments, whether it was graded or not.
We have a color-coded spreadsheet that shows all of our regularly scheduled activities. Everyone's practices, rehearsals, carpools are listed. I also include specials at school that require some kind of prep (bring library books, wear sneakers for gym, etc.) and - very important for busy moms - my own activities, both administrative (PTA meetings) and personal (pilates class, book club) so that I don't forget myself in all the running around. A happy, relaxed mom = a happy family.
An example of our spreadsheet and the folder I carry all of our info in is here on my blogpost - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/keeping-track-of-family.html
My oldest is going into the 8th grade this year, so her first "first day of school" was many years ago. But each year, as my 4 kids head out to the bus stop (long ago, they stopped letting me drive them to school and walk them to their classrooms) - they are so excited and I'm excited for all the year has in store for them, but I'm also a little sad that the sleeping in mornings and long days of hanging out are over. And that each year of school means another year closer to them leaving me.
A few years back, I started hosting my mommy friends for breakfast on the first day of school. We can tear up, coax each other not to cry, laugh, rejoice, all over a cup of coffee and pastries - and doesn't that always make everything better?
I am usually behind schedule as far as sending out birthday invites, so getting them printed somewhere is definitely not an option. I always let the kids make their own - they can create them on the computer and print them or use some of the billion scrapbooking products I have around the house. I make sure that they include their name & age, our address (or party location), my name and phone number. They enjoy making their own and adds to their excitement about their upcoming party.
We got our middle school girls phones this year. But not for all those "in case they need to contact their parents" reasons - but b/c I understood the peer pressure to have one. I know - bad parenting. Put it on the list of the mistakes I have/will make with the kids. More on my decision making here on my blog -- http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/01/blame-it-on-jeans.html
But there are a few conditions
- it stays on the kitchen counter at night, no phones go to the bedrooms after bedtime
- we (mom & dad) can check the messages, texts, emails when and if we choose
- not to be used at the dinner table at home or in a restaurant, not at church
- they can be taken away at anytime - not doing well in school, not keeping up with other must-do activities (piano practice, reading, chores)
- oh and please please don't get it taken away at school - they will never see them again.
I loved my Barbies and my board games, but in the "nostalgic" category - has to be an over-sized teddy bear my uncle gave me when my family left our home country to move to the U.S. It still in my house and has made its rounds in my kids rooms, has been refurbshed, and had its arm and leg sewn on countless times. No one's allowed to play with it b/c its so delicate now.
I don't really do Black Friday, mainly because I don't like getting up so early in the morning - still sleeping off all that dessert from dinner. BUT now that some stores are opening at midnight on Thursday, I did go out last year - b/c I'm always up at midnight. If anything, I will do that again.
Thanksgiving is one of my big baking days - especially when, like this year, my SIL is hosting and I get dessert duty. Sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, brownies, some other sweet I want to try out. And then no family get together is complete without my FIL's banana pudding.
My family itself is a "crowd" so these school vacation days require me to start thinking about the big lunches, then I'm ready for friends & family to drop by through the holidays. I like to make food that's simple, can stay easily heated (like in a crockpot) or served room temperature. Chili and chicken wings works well, especially for a football Sunday. I also like to make a big pot of turkey gumbo (perfect use of that turkey carcass). If I plan ahead, I like to make Korean dumplings - I make them early in the day and then just fry them up as kids and family wander thru the house asking "what's there to eat?"
I like the family photos and the newsletters are entertaining, but the special touch? An actual, in ink holidays note and signature from the family (or family representative, usually, mom). With all the electronic messages and mass printed cards, its nice to see real, actual handwriting from your friends & family.
I send leftover anything from dinner that fits into a thermos - spaghetti, chili, macaroni, rice and sliced beef. My kids also like quesadillas - I make them up real quick in the morning - a couple of tortillas, shredded cheese; I will add meat sometimes - leftover chicken, pepperoni slices, ham slices. Wrapped in foil, they stay warm enough until lunch time.
For the mornings - I will put hot chocolate in a thermos for my daughter, something to keep her warm on the bus stop.
For the kids' Christmas stockings, I give each 3 gifts - to represent that gifts brought to baby Jesus, gold, frankincense, and myrhh. I give them something of value (could be cash, gift card, etc.), something for their body (lotion, lipgloss) and a religious item.
This year - I thought we would start having an Advent calendar, but then realized that we are in a debate on whether to count from 1-24 or 24-1. Either way - they are ensured 24 pieces of chocolate.
Being on a different meal plan than your family can present some challenges. As a vegetarian, I face a similar situation (I've listed my post about vegetarian meal options).
One of the easiest ways to meet everyone's meal needs is to fix a full healthy meal, with something for everybody, rather than cooking two wholly different meals. Its hard to suggest a particular meal, b/c people are all on different diets (South Beach, low carb, vegan, no cook, hi protein, etc.) but here's a few ideas.
- Cook your families full meal - you fill your plate with the veggies and a salad, ignoring the carbs and meat
- Whatever you've selected for your own "diet" meal - cook for the whole family - grilled chicken, baked fish, salad
- Eat what the family is eating, but just smaller proportions
Whatever you do - don't skip meals, its unhealthy for you and an unhealthy message for your kids.
My kids' schools (elementary and middle) have them on a regular basis for years. They don't seem to bother the kids, they're part of their regular routine. We had fire drills, tornado drills, and some kind of bombing drill (i dont know what those desks were going to protect us from) when I was in school. Now the kid's have "red" and "blue" - the colors are a signal to the teachers of the situation, the color coding makes it not seem so scary.
Indoor activity is hard, considering the obvious household obstacles (coffee table, TV, etc.) but on rainy, cold, snowy days, the kids do need to move. Most times the kids play some of the active games on Wii like tennis, bowling, etc. and they love to DANCE, either the dance games on Wii, or the old-fashioned, turn on some music and move.
What helps you stay organized? Whether it's a special coupon binder, calendar app or color-coded closet, we want to know all the little tricks and products that help keep your life organized. Please share a photo if you have one.
Between the 6 of us, we're always going somewhere and need to take something with us. I wouldn't say we're super-organized, but we're getting there.
Calendar - I use cozi.com for an online calendar - everyone can access it, it sends reminders to the appropriate person's phone or email, its color-coded. And its easy to use. I also use a regular, old-school datebook that you actually write in, too.
Schedule - I make a spreadsheet of our standard activities and post that for general reference.
Misc. - I've started using my cell-phone to maintain some order in my head. The camera function is great for shopping, organizing, being inspired. Oh - and taking pictures of the kids!
More on my scheduling efforts - http://slackermomof4.blogspot.com/2012/08/keeping-track-of-family.html
I personally didn't do anything that exciting. But a friend called me, chit-chatted, asked my how old my daughter was (odd question since I knew she knew the answer) and asked if that was old enough to babysit. And just today - a friend posted a pic of a sonogram with the baby "holding" a football :-)
For my son - I took a picture of him every week on his birth "day" which was Thursday. I used disposable cameras that were only for this weekly photo so they wouldn't get lost. I took pictures at home, on special occassions, on vacation - whatever was going on. Just 1, always on Thursday. At the end of the year, I developed them and put all the photos in his baby scrapbook. How fun to see his growth over the year.
Like most active kids, my daughter had a collection of tee-shirts from school, camp, church, even birthday parties. As she outgrew them, I had put them aside. When she left elementary school, I made them into a quilt. I cut out a panel from each tee, about 12"x12", interfaced the blocks so they wouldn't stretch, then sewed them all together. I added quilt batting and a back. Some of the trim pattern was left over material from her nursery set. (Photo is not on my blog, but I posted on flckr)
I like food that can be grabbed up easily, no utensils and not a whole lot of mess, whether at the beach, poolside, at the zoo - or on a busy day, in the car. Some of my favorites: quesadillas; seaweed rolls (sushi style); sandwiches; and fruit.
I have tips on how to prepare these foods and how to pack it all on my blog post from my "Pack Your Bags" series.
Aside from the traditional PB & J and turkey & cheese sandwiches? I make the kids tortilla rolls (kinda like a sandwich, right?) - turkey & cheese with spinach and a dab of dressing, chicken salad, leftover roast from dinner - you can put almost anything in there and it's a little bit different. Pita bread is a good option, too - same fillings, but it seems different with another "bread".
My kids have 2 stand-bys that they can make by themselves, once I turn on the stove for them: spaghetti with meat sauce and tacos with all the fixin's. I've taught them how to boil and drain the spaghetti noodles, cook and season the ground beef, use either canned tomatoes or jarred spaghetti sauce, and toss together a salad. For tacos, they (again) cook and season the ground beef, and arrange all the toppings - cheese, lettuce, salsa, and whatever else they think would taste good.
I'm terrible at potlucks b/c I'm always thinking, "if I make this what else will there be to go with it?" or "what if someone already made this?" so instead of a dish, I will go with dessert if that's an option. Cookies, brownies, but usually red velvet cake.
My kids and I do enjoy berry picking, and we can hardly pass a "pick your own" orchard without pulling in for a basket of apples or peaches. We also make trips to the local farmers market - not as direct as the orchard visits, but still a different experience than the grocery store. They also go fishing with their father, then enjoy delicious fresh fish for dinner - from the ocean to the table.
We have an ice cream maker and get creative with the ingredients to make different flavors .a coffee, banana split, strawberry. And we've also figured out making sorbet with fresh fruit. It takes about 30 minutes for a fresh batch.
As a child, my mother taught me to crochet and cook (among other things). I'm working on passing down these same skills to my daughters. They are picking up cooking faster than crocheting. I think 5 or 6 years old is about the youngest age to start with either, though it would have to be simple things - crocheted chain stitches and rolling cookie dough.
Here's a blog post about our three generations cooking dinner together.
My kid's are excellent swimmers - 2 of them are on the swim team. However, I still warn/remind/require that they never go swimming alone. At the beach, they like to go on walks, and again, I remind them not to go anywhere near the water (there's a pond and small, shallow inlet where they walk) by themselves.