Monday, February 21, 2011

What did I agree to ?!?

Laura's birthday was on Monday which also happens to be Valentines day, making it both an advantage and a possible disaster. Because both days are one and the same, I only have to remember a single day - far better for my forgetful brain to handle - but on the other hand, if I forget there will definitely be consequences...

At any rate, I wanted to make it a special day for her, but I hadn't a clue as to what she really wanted. She likes flowers...easy. She likes chocolate...also easy. But what would she really want that would be personal and meaningful? I took the kids to the store on Saturday hoping for inspiration (imagine strolling through Target with 3 rambunctious kids, and the 4th watching with interest while other people wonder why you let your kids run around like hooligans...) but was less than inspired. I kept asking Erin what she wanted to get for mommy, but she was not too helpful...too busy running around the store checking everything out. We did manage to find a couple of Valentines day items and a couple of cards, but I was still missing that "meaningful something" I was looking for :(

It was around this same time that an idea began to form. (Note to the husbands - when you start getting these ideas you should proceed with caution). You most stay at home mothers (i.e. works really hard at home) with little kids, she has a lot of responsibilities. She always likes it when I help out or simply take over some of the day-to-day chores like doing the dishes or washing the clothes. My idea? Volunteer to do the dishes and the laundry for 1 week.

I didn't know what I was getting into! maybe I did, which is why I thought that it would be a good Birthday present. I'm sure that Laura didn't think that I would actually keep up-to-date with the clothes or the dishes (I am the consummate procrastinator after all - why do something today when you can do it tomorrow?), but I must say that after a week of painful effort I did manage somehow to keep up with the daily grind of dishes and laundry.

Can you imagine 7 days of full sinks, unending plates and bowls, and too many cups to count? Or the 7 or 8 loads of laundry that I actually started and completed? ( Laura did help me with the folding of said laundry). Most of you can definitely imagine exactly what this the details are probably a bit boring...but I did it :)

Did I learn anything? My pride says I already knew exactly what Laura does every day. My reality during my "adventure" says that there is definitely a lack of real-world experience with regards to the every day happenings in the Daniels' home. I am really grateful for all that Laura does in our home. She is such a wonderful mother to our children, and a loving and hard-working wife. She really does keep this household centered and moving forward.

Thank you Laura for who you are and for all you do.  I Love You!

PS - I think we are going to get a dishwasher this week...dishes by hand just take way too long!
PPS - I am probably not going to volunteer like this again...purchasing a gift is way easier!

Note to husbands: Please consider ALL details of such an agreement prior to proposing it to your wife

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's that time of the month again...

...and I don't mean THAT time of the month. Ha! What kind of blog do you think I running here? I mean it's bulk pickup again in my neighborhood. Ever since I lost all my shame about sifting through other people's garbage and hauling it home in front of strangers, I have had a slight obsession about bulk pickup. Slight, I said. Granted, most of it is certifiably junk by anyone's standards. Hey, I'd like to think I've got some standards. I am always surprised when people pick up the weirdest, most junky things. Case in point: our disgusting, dysfunctional dishwasher missing all inner racks. It was gone within 12 hours. Good riddance, I say.

Tonight coming home from cooking club I just couldn't resist taking just a short, slow, meandering drive around the block. That's it. I didn't even venture more than a half mile from our house and I found what I've been looking for. Okay, I've been looking for a few things. But this dresser will be perfect in the corner of our living room to be used for all my crafty stuff... I think... after I, you know, sand it, prime it, paint it, glaze it (?)... do something with it. But it's got some great lines and it was only out in a slight sprinkle before I saved it (single-handedly I might add) just prior to a downpour. Fabulous! Expect a post about it sometime after the table project, the garage project and the subway art project--but definitely before the kitchen project. I've got way too many things floating around in my head right now.

Isn't she a beauty?

Anyhoo... I had a fantastic birthday this year. I got birthday wishes in the form of store bought cards, homemade cards, phone calls, a text message and from 49 of my facebook friends. Ahh, nothing like a little social media to make you feel more popular than you actually are. It was great. Jared and I farmed our kids out to three different families so that we could go out on the town. And by that I mean spending over 20 minutes trying to find the right exit off of I-95 and I-595 so that we could go rock climbing at an obscure indoor climbing gym (obviously indoor--the highest elevation is the dump, no exaggeration). Yep, I'm still sore and yep, I'm out of shape and yep, I forgot the camera. But it was way fun and definitely worth it. It was a great activity for Valentine's Day because there was no wait like all the restaurants would have had. Jared got me flowers, a card, cake and a note saying that he would do all the dishes and laundry for a week. I am totally taking him up on that offer and I think he is realizing what a big, never ending job they both are. Also received were some chocolates, a cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, an Olive Garden gift card, some make up (courtesy of me) and a gift and balloon left on my doorstep from my new, Jamaican Nesberry picking friend. I told you she was my friend. Thanks everyone for a great day!
I don't want to jinx myself, but this week has been great for a variety of possible reasons. 1. Jared is back, 2. Jared is doing all the dishes and laundry, 3. I got to go to the temple on Saturday all by myself (a great break and spiritual boost), 4. my best friend is back in town and was able to watch my kids today, 5. I got to go to cooking club by myself today, 6. I had a great birthday and got to spend some good, quality time with my husband, 7. the weather has been gorgeous, 8. the kids have been pretty happy lately, 9. Connor is a lot happier now and 10. I rescued someone else's garbage and will make it part of my home soon.

Here are a few of the little projects I've done lately to keep my creative juices flowing. I know what you're thinking. I can't handle taking care of my kids and house but I can spend time on these projects? That's right. Either way I am a little overwhelmed and can't keep up, but at least if I am working on a project I feel like I am getting something accomplished and feel more fulfilled.

This one I thought of by myself and did it in a couple of hours (including painting and drying). The inspiration was that LOVE sculpture with the tilted O. I printed out letters on scrapbook paper and mod podged them onto painted and sanded pieces of 2x4 that I cut. I love how this turned out.This one is probably my favorite. I saw a tutorial on one of the blogs I stalk and decided to try it. The roses are made from scrapbook paper. It was so easy and completely free since I had the frame, paper, foam board and spray paint. I only got a few glue gun burns in the process. Love it!
This was my attempt at making Valentine's Day special for Jared. I pulled this photo out of our wedding album and made the mat out of scrpbook paper. Oh, and I love the Scrabble pieces (not my idea, but the easiest decoration ever).This last one was one I made for the laundry room as a kind of positive mental message to myself every time I do laundry. Again, I printed this out onto scrapbook paper and mod podged it onto a piece of scrap wood. I love it because it looks like vinyl but was way easier. Right now it's just sitting on the shelf there but I'm thinking about drilling some holes in the top and hanging it from some rope or something. And redoing the laundry room is also on my list of things to occupy my time. ...maybe someday.

Happy V-Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food Storage and More

This week I am flying solo as Jared is out of town for work. Sunday was a thumbs down, but we made it till bedtime. I was dreading the week ahead with no break. Connor only slept for about 15 minutes the whole day and didn't go to sleep until 10:00 pm. Cranky, cranky. How is that even possible for a 7 month old? It wasn't till the next day that I realized that having a baby like Connor now and not while I was trying to go to school is just one of the many tender mercies of the Lord. I can handle this (but pretty sure I couldn't have then).

Monday and Tuesday were much better. I have been lugging my kids all over the place because frankly, there's no other choice. We've been to the eyeglasses outlet, Michael's (twice), the grocery store, Office Depot, the post office, Lowe's, the gym and Ikea (all in three days). I try to limit the places I go with multiple kids to two per trip. I went to a Yoga class at the gym, which I have never done before because of my age-old belief that it's not exercise unless you break a sweat. I still don't think it counts as exercise, but I tell you, it did wonders for my stress level. This will definitely have to make it into the weekly rotation. And it was at 4:30 in the afternoon (remember, the hard time of day?) so I think it was a fabulous solution.

Yesterday's coping mechanism was going to Ikea. I got to leave the older two in the kid's club there and just walk around with the other two. Then we got some yummy dinner--5 meals all for $5 (kids eat free every Tuesday). Awesome! I guess I didn't have as much of a plan today, and I did go a little bit crazy. But overall it was okay. I'm ignoring the fact that they are all awake right now. I've also been staying up till 3-ish every night which doesn't help. I can't sleep as well when Jared isn't here so I do things like paint the garage for 6 hours instead.

I know I would get used to it if Jared were gone more often; lots of people do it and manage. But I am looking forward to a few kid-free moments next week, especially since it's my birthday week. I don't know how or when, but I'm thinking of maybe checking out Habitat for Humanity or getting a new outfit or something. Crazy that I long for these outings alone. I do like my kids, really. Sometimes it's just too much of a good thing.

On to the real reason for the post...

About two months ago we had the prompting that we needed to get our food storage in order. We had always had some (we went on food storage binges in 2004 and 2007), but it was never quite a year's supply. Not to mention we've added a few more bodies since then. So we rearranged our finances to be able pay for everything, weighed down our van after a big trip to the dry cannery and ordered a bunch of other things online. We bought a lot of food at BJ's before they sadly closed the store right by our house and we ordered a nice electric wheat grinder. There's still a couple of things we need (like a water filter, large propane tank and generator) but for the most part, we feel very well prepared.

Aww. Cute Marissa sitting on one of the cans. I love this picture.

It was definitely a lot of work to go through what we had and figure out what we really needed/wanted for our specific family. We have it all tracked on a program on the computer. But probably one of the biggest dilemmas about food storage and Florida is no storage space. And you can't store food in the garage because the heat and humidity will rust cans and spoil food. I envy all my friends and family in Utah with basements every time I go. But... this is where we live so we had to be creative.
...or this would happen every day.
Just so you know what we are talking about, we ended up getting about 200 new #10 cans of food, as well as a good amount of spaghetti in pouches, a bunch of 10 lb. bags of flour that we put in the big white containers and all that "other" stuff (peanut butter, oil, canned goods, etc.). That's a lot of food! And keep in mind, 4 out of 5 closets in our house were already filled with food storage.
This is only part of the food we got.
Oh my, welcome to my messy house.
Honestly, I feel like we were blessed to be able to figure out where to put all of this. And somehow we even have more space in the closets that were full before. One of the solutions was to take off the fabric liners underneath the couches to store boxes of #10 cans. We fit almost 50 cans under each couch and love seat set! And you don't even know they are there.
Another solution was to build two platforms with casters on them to go under our bed. That also held about 50 cans. We did have to buy some bed risers to fit them under there, but it's only 3 inches higher and we utilized our small space. Yes, we have become one of "those" families like in the movie the RM. We sit on and sleep on our wheat.
Here's our closet...
...and one of the kids' closets (no clothes in this one)...
...and of course our pantry is well stocked too (although slightly less organized than a few weeks ago when we first did this).
The next step about this whole process is to use it. We are really good at going through rice and pasta, but we needed to start using the wheat and beans since we have a few couchfuls. So the goal was to make something from food storage every week. Not just me either. I imposed this goal on Jared too. I made some black bean soup (it was better the last time I tried it a few years ago but still edible--to anyone older than 6 at least), some wheat bread and rolls (it was all right) and some corn bread (again, I thought it was good). I've been using freeze dried cheese in casseroles and enchiladas, putting sausage TVP in eggs, making oatmeal for breakfast more often (as opposed to never) and I've been mixing powdered milk with regular milk and forcing my kids to use it. The stuff I got is from Honeyville Farms and is way better than the milk you get at the cannery. I like it even better than regular milk (thanks again for all the advice Callie!)

We got a Cookin' With Food Storage book and out of all the recipes in it, the one Jared tried first was the wheat meat. What is wheat meat you ask (as I also did)? You grind some wheat, mix it with some water and kneed it till you have a hard block of...uh...wheat and water. Then you let it soak in hot water for an hour then run it under cold water rubbing all the grainy stuff out. (FYI, I'm not explaining the process because I think everyone should try this recipe, I'm just trying to paint a picture here). Then you let it dry out and bake it in the oven. So far it's just a wheat brick. Next you let it simmer in some beef boulion, bacon and seasonings for a while until it magically turns into meat. THIS is what Jared wanted to try?? But try it he did and it was interesting. It was certainly as edible as any of my food storage recipes. We wouldn't die, that's for sure. Well, maybe our kids would. We had so much of it that we just kept it in the fridge, cut it up and added it to our scrambled eggs for week or so. Honestly, it tasted just like sausage when it was made like this. Amazing. Next time (I say that like there will be a next time), I think the "brick" just needs to be a little thinner and I could see it tasting like milanesa or chicken fried steak. Way to try something that I never would have tried Jared.
Here it is.
And lastly, recently a whole community of Jamaicans now wants to be friends with me thanks to a formerly unknown tree in our front yard. It's been there since before we moved here 8 years ago but just this year it has started to yield a lot of fruit. People stop and ask us what it is all the time and until last week I didn't even know. Then my new Jamaican friend informed me it was a Nesberry tree and they are extremely sweet and delicious. Several other people have come and taken fruit as well, with my blessing. All of them sing the praises of this celestial fruit. Tonight my "friend" knocked on my door and gave me a ripe one to try. It's kind of like a kiwi on the outside and kind of pear-like and papaya-like on the inside. I think it may be a little bit of an acquired taste, but it is definitely sweet and good (again, not to any of the children though). Anyone around here is welcome to take some to try. If our tree keeps producing like this you may just have to lock your cars when you go to church so I don't leave them on your seats. Hey, at least we're not growing a bumper crop of zucchini.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Seriously, I don't ever intend to have these long, random, rambling posts. But I can't seem to ever get anything finished these days, so... in an attempt to record some of the last couple (kind of difficult) weeks, here you have it.

Wednesday, Jan. 26
Today the three main things I am grateful for are:
1. I don't have a headache! At least not yet anyway. But it's been a good day because of it.
2. I am back down to my pre-pregnancy weight! It took 7 months but alas, I made it. I blame the stomach flu for those last few lbs., what can I say? I ate a bowl of ice cream in celebration.
3. The weather is a beautiful 63 degrees and it feels so nice--all week actually. We are loving it!

Three questions of the day:
1. Why were they playing such non-kid friendly music in the kid's club at the gym today? My child came home singing something like "You're a jerk, no I'm not"--which is a song I don't know but also kind of don't want my kid knowing.
2. Why do people keep trying to sell me stuff door to door? Three people from the same company came by today. Still not interested.
3. Why will my baby not sleep? It seems like he only gets about a 30 minute nap every day, but he needs way more. Sigh. He was a great sleeper for about 3-4 months because he sucked his thumb. That is until we went to Utah where his thumb got so dried out, cracked and started bleeding. He hasn't been able to suck his thumb to sooth himself since. I'm glad I don't have to break him of the habit later, but total bummer that he now doesn't know how to go to sleep on his own.

Thursday, Jan. 27
Okay. Actually, every day starts out pretty good, but without fail I end up losing it by the end of the day. Let me be more specific. It's 4-6 pm that is hands down the worst time of day for me. I'm tired, the kids are done playing nicely, dinner needs to be somehow magically whipped up and probably the worst is that Connor is sooo cranky by this time and will not go to sleep. It's just all those little not particularly stressful things throughout the day that just add up until I snap. Connor tips over a gallon of water all over the kitchen, Alex still hasn't done what I asked 6 times ago, Marissa bites her brother, the house is a mess again and I can't even put the baby down without him screaming. Okay, let's face it, Connor not sleeping is probably the main factor that's putting me over the edge lately. I really could handle the other things better if it weren't for that.

The other day I had a brilliant idea for how to get through until dinner. Since the weather was so nice I thought we could go across the street to ride bikes at the school. I knew Connor would be happy in the stroller and Marissa was dying to use her new helmet so I started dinner and off we went. Sounds so ideal, right? Yeah, maybe for a mom that's not on the edge. Alex kept hurting his foot on his training wheels and had to change footwear twice. Crossing the street meant somebody getting stuck in the grass while somebody else was veering off into traffic. It shouldn't have been difficult, but the stress level was rising. Then there was trying to teach Erin how to ride a bike without training wheels. Jared had taken them off and gone with her only a couple of times in the last few days, so she wasn't exactly proficient yet. I, of course, had never been out with her nor had ever taught anyone how to ride a bike. Everything I did was wrong: it was the wrong parking lot, I was holding on too long, I didn't hold on long enough, I made her run into that car, I made her fall again, that wasn't how daddy did it. That was it! I declared that it was time to go home and, amidst the baby crying, the two year old crying about not getting to ride her bike long enough and the other two frantically picking up everything I told them to pick up, proceeded to go on a rampage about what a brat Erin was being and even called her that. What a mean, mean mom. I still feel bad about that one--and dang it, she keeps bringing it up. From now on, Jared is the sole bike riding teacher, thus adding yet another reason why he should never die: so that my kids won't still be using training wheels in college.

Monday, Jan. 31
Thank goodness for good friends! I honestly don't know what I would do if it weren't for some great friends here. This morning I had had it with the fleas. They had to be eradicated. It seems that I am the only human in this house that the fleas like to prey on, which is good for everyone but me. I bought the good (expensive) flea medicine for the cats last week since the Walmart stuff obviously wasn't working--and yes, we still have the cats. The jury is still out regarding them. Turns out most of my friends and family are cat haters since I've only had one vote to keep them. At any rate, I called my friend and dropped the kids off for a few hours while we bombed the house. What a relief. Oh, and I picked out some new glasses.

Tuesday, Feb. 1
Huge, huge headache... again! I had one last night and even woke up with one. I can't do anything except lay on the couch. Ugh.

Wednesday, Feb. 2
There are very few days where I get to the end of it and feel fine. I truly and honestly feel completely exhausted at the end of most days. I guess that's what I get for having 4 kids in 6 years. And I no matter how hard I try, I always feel like I'm failing. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that tomorrow will be any different from today. But slowly and surely change does come. Just this week Connor has learned how to crawl and is much happier getting around (though he still doesn't sleep). Erin is riding a bike without training wheels. Alex finished his reading chart (36 books!) and Marissa... I can only hope that she will be potty trained soon. When I told her to use the potty she said, "No Mommy, I already finished my potty chart!" Gotta love how a two year old's mind works.

Tonight after Jared got home from his volleyball game I had gone over the edge again. Really, I was doing just fine all day and through dinner, but that last hour--you know, the one after the first contiguous 14--that was the clincher. My coping strategy lately is to walk out the moment Jared walks in on days like this. Tonight I went to Michaels until they kicked me out and since I figured Jared could probably use a little more time to finish all the cleaning that I couldn't manage, I made my way over to Walmart where I strolled my favorite aisles in peace, complete peace--all except for the "Walmart mom" yelling at her kid a few aisles over (no joke). There I looked at plastic bins (a whole aisle full), cheesy Valentine stuff and office supplies. I walked by the bra section and wondered if I would ever buy a bra from here like that lady bra shopping with her boyfriend. I spent a good amount of time in the paint section and agreed that all those 50% off paints that had been returned were there for a good reason (horrible!) and I wandered around in the last remaining Walmart fabric section in my area (truly a travesty). Most of the fabric was still ugly, but sometimes I get lucky. And I finally found some vinyl to make something oh-so-creative. I picked up a toilet plunger (a good one that wouldn't turn inside out and splash heaven knows what on me, as I experienced today with my cheap one) and spent more that I wanted to on other miscellaneous "must have" items. Of course it wouldn't have been a trip to Walmart or Target unless I drove away forgetting something that I needed but didn't get because I left the house so hastily without a list. Hence my never-ending love/hate relationship with the big box stores. No doubt we shall meet again for another late night therapy session.

Thursday, Feb. 3
Wow. Tonight I actually feel quite good. No headache and I still have some energy. Maybe that's because I didn't work out today and didn't do a lick of housework either. I might feel even better if there weren't a child still awake whining for me to break off more tape (no idea what she's doing by the way--I'm just breaking the tape). I went to a fun brunch in the morning which was a great break from the monotony. Connor only slept for 15 minutes today! During his nap, since Marissa was asleep, Erin was at her friend's and Alex was painting I decided to whip out that canvas that I bought 8 months ago and try my hand at a little acrylic artwork. Like I said, Connor's nap lasted 15 minutes so the artwork is incomplete. If I had a dime for every project I started but didn't finish, well... I don't know what. Am I supposed to say something after "if I had a dime"?

The great part about the last few days is that Connor has slept through the night. That's a big relief. He really is a lot happier now that he can move around and even though he is awake knocking over the cat water and eating the cat food (back to those dang cats again), I am okay with him as long as he is happy.

Sorry about the long, journal entry post. I just had to get this one off of draft and on to publish.