Saturday, May 31

A Few Links

Good morning! My mother-in-law and a friend are in town this weekend, so I don't really have time for a real post. Instead, I'm just going to pass along some of the things I like.

Mrs Fussypants has posted the Frump Fighting Manifesto ... I love this woman. Seriously. And she has a new baby boy. Find his pictures, and be ready to drool.

Amy at Humble Musings has a great post about Subway excluding homeschoolers from an essay contest. I totally agree with what she's saying.

This comes from Amy's sidebar. All Inflation's Little Parts ... a really fun, really fascinating, and slightly depressing interactive chart.

This is a very sweet post about why this mom moved her family from the suburbs to the Slanted Little House is West Virginia, where there are Chickens in the Road. I love this psst, except that she picked the wrong state ... I mean, if she wanted an area far enough out that she couldn't get pizza delivered, why didn't she move in on my street?? Seriously.

Jessica at Farm Fresh has the cutest little girls. Ever. I'm so not kidding. I wish they didn't live so stinking far away, because I want them to come over and play with me my kids. (And yeah, the older one has a stuffed animal in a sling. LOVE IT!!!)

Jenni at Just Chicken Feed is funny. Very, very funny. Her most recent post is about Double Standards, and she has one about hot sauce and chicken wings that mad me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. She teaches her kids the correct names for all parts of anatomy, which makes her husband cringe. I think I love her.

's daughter has five brothers. It appears to be wearing on her psyche.

Amanda at Shamelessly Sassy is good. She's very, very good, and I want her to be my new best friend. One time she chased an ice cream truck, and she's not a fan of too much make-up on 5-year-olds. (She's also not G-rated. If you're easily offended by language, don't go there.) I don't know where she lives. I wish it was Paige, Texas, but I think that might be asking a little too much.

Heidi, the Minnesota Mom, likes to go places that have strange art. I don't get the art. Maybe I'm just too unrefined.

And one final thing. If you have a sweet little boy who loves to be outside, and you've got all kinds of moral objections to chemicals (like ant killer), get over it. Fire ants love little boy feet as much as little boys love to stomp in dirt. Fire ant infested dirt. Kill fire ants, however you must do it, or else you'll spend several days feeling guilty about something like this:

Or this:

And these are quite a bit worse than the look. I counted 56 bites on this foot. I am the world's worst mother. Please don't tell anyone from my church, or maybe they won't let me around their kids anymore. And then I would be sad. Because at lease if I'm not having babies, I can play with other people's babies. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, May 28

Works-for-me Wednesday

Good morning! This is the "Mom, I'm Bored!" edition of Works-for-me Wednesday. Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer needs help. Her kids get out of school soon (like, tomorrow!), and she's a little panicky.

I can't much help her. My kids are younger than hers, so the activities are pretty different. However ... my children have already learned, at such tender young ages, what a very, very bad idea it is to come to me and say, 'Mom, I'm bored!' I simply delight in hearing that phrase. It makes my heart sing. It also makes my house clean. Sometimes, I make them fold laundry. But that ends pretty quickly. They have smaller arms than moi, so one time, I made Sam clean that really gross space between the fridge and the counter. Eww!!

Sometimes, they end up with yard duty. Everything out of the yard! Toys, baseballs, sticks, trucks, etc. They've had to weed the garden before. (Insert evil grin here) One time, I made them clean out all the things they'd thrown in the chicken yard over the previous weeks. You may not know this, but we Stewarts are the frightened proud owners of the World's Most Vicious And Hateful Rooster. That thing would give a pit bull a run for its money!! So they make sure that they don't end up with that job by not throwing things at the chickens. Hey, if you don't throw toys into the chicken yard, you don't have to clean toys out of the chicken yard!

But I'm not always mean. Really. I try to stay on top of things, and when the kids start getting antsy, I give them some help. Sometimes that means stopping what I'm doing and reading with them. If I've got cookie dough chilling in the fridge, like I do this morning, then I'll let them make cookies (I'm the one putting the trays in and out of the oven, of course!) by themselves, which is a really big treat. They do art projects. A stack of construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick will keep my kids well-occupied for over an hour.

But here's the most important thing I'll say to you this morning: I make sure that my kids are not always entertained. Life is not always entertaining. Sometimes, as adults, they'll be bored, and it's very important to me that my kids know how to pick up a book or sit down with one sheet of paper and one pencil and keep themselves quietly occupied for at least an hour. It's one of the things we practice, come to think of it. But I'm not mean about it. It's something we worked up to, them sitting still with one book and one pencil and one sheet of paper, for a full hour.

But I have to admit, I've got it kind of easy. We've got almost 2.5 acres, and it's really skinny and really long. Only the first half-acre or so has been totally cleared of brush, and we've got paths and small, hidden clearings throughout the rest. The kids each have a walkie-talkie that they have to take with them when they go out there, and I've got one so they can communicate with me. They've been known to leave the house after breakfast, come back around 10 for an apple and some water, and not show back up until lunch. Because they've never been allowed to watch much TV, it's not something they automatically start asking to do.** I've also been known to put a bounty on bugs that eat my tomatoes, so the kids can earn some money if they bring me a jar full of bugs (we count them as we throw them to the chickens).

So, that's what works for me. What do you do to keep your young'ens out of your hair?

**That's a lie. They ask me to watch TV about 27 times each day. But they know that 90% of the time, it just ain't gonna happen, so they're not in the least bit surprised or upset when I tell them, 'NO.' I mean, 'no.' I usually say something like, 'Do you have a fever?' 'Are you bleeding from the head?' 'Did a snake bite you?' 'Is your arm broken?' 'Are you throwing up?' Or something like that. If the answer is 'no,' then they really don't get to watch TV.

Sunday, May 25

What to Write?

Seriously, I've had about 10 different posts swimming around in my head, and I can't coherently form any of them. So I'll just mix and mash them all together in one (probably long and rather confusing) post. :)

New Orleans was interesting, to say the very least. I can absolutely understand, now, how people fall in love with that city. Lyndsey lives Uptown, not far from the Garden District, if that means anything to anyone. Her part of the city didn't have any damage from Katrina, flood or wind. Walk about 10 minutes in several directions, and it's a whole 'nother story, though. Her graduation was at the SuperDome, the first one since the hurricane. The music was great (when was the last time you heard someone say that about a graduation??), the whole thing was very laid back, and many of the concession areas were open, so during the (very long) intermissions, you could get chicken strips, fries, and a beer. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

We went to a crawfish boil at a friend's house, and I got to eat crawdads with this guy. It was very cool, and he laughed at a few jokes I made. (He had also had more than a few drinks, but we don't have to talk about that. We'll just pretend that I was the really small, cute, witty girl from Texas in the cowboy boots who really knows how to put away crawfish, and fast.) It was a small crowd, maybe 20 people total, but they had ordered 150 pounds of crawdads. People, I was in heaven. As a general rule, I don't eat shellfish, but if I'm going to break a rule, I'm going to do it right.

I was going to write an entire post about the Civil War. (Don't let out that sigh of relief just yet. I'll probably make you suffer through read my theories of warfare, politics, changes in battlefield tactics, and so many others ... I just don't have the energy to put into it this morning.) We read The Killer Angels in our book club a while back, and it's one of the best books I've ever read. The whole thing is about Gettysburg, the battle and the few days leading up to it. I re-read that book a few weeks ago, then went to the library to get Gods and Generals, which covers the months before Lincoln was elected through the days before Gettysburg; and The Last Full Measure, which covers from the days after Gettysburg through just after the war.

If you've never read any historical fiction, and never read any again, I cannot stress enough how much you would benefit from these books. I couldn't put them down, and read the first and last one in less than four days. And if you take some of what you read to heart, you'll probably come away deeply saddened for a little while, but also deeply grateful. I cried like a baby at the end (and middle, and maybe the beginning) of each one.

Anyway. I'll go more into that later. And I promise to give you a fair warning so you can skip the post find a time when your attention won't be distracted so you can really take it all in. :)

I've also been incredibly busy with XanGo. I was really disappointed a little while back, because I just couldn't seem to get the business end off the ground. However, I've had some help from the most wonderful woman, Florence, who has really been teaching me how to build my business. And here's the crazy part (are you ready?): I've actually started making money!! I know!! No one is more surprised than I am, believe me. Unless maybe ... wait. Yeah, John is definitely more surprised that moi. Skeptical jackass man that he is. Know what? It's a product I'm in love with, and if I never made a dime after today, I don't see myself without this stuff. So that helps, and I think it comes across when I talk to people.

We tried to expose the kids to chicken pox earlier this week, so even though they haven't gotten sick, we're still under a three week quarantine. Woohoo!! Goodness, I've never prayed, let alone prayed this hard, for all of my children to get sick. Preferably at the same time.

I've been planning for next school year, when we'll start formal school with Sam and Evie. And teach David how to eat play with play dough. With the help of the ever-wonderful Kristie, I've been doing lots of work and research on all that stuff. (That's right, I'm way articulate like that, and plan on doing a bang-up job of teaching my kids to write good.) (And yes, I know it's supposed to be 'write well.' I was being sarcastic.)

I love this time of year. It's just starting to get really hot (we've been mid- to upper-90's last few weeks), but it's not totally unbearable yet, and my tomato plants are putting fruit on at an amazing rate, my corn is just shooting up, and the Farmers' Market has the most lovely I've ever seen. And everything is still green around here! The heat hasn't smothered everything yet. The summer wild flowers and plants, like the coreopsis and bee balm and blackfoot daisies and cactus plants, are everywhere, and the color is just wonderful. My new morning glories are putting off beautiful flowers, too. I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

And I've either got allergies, by which I'm not usually affected, or I've got the beginnings of a cold. Who makes it all the way through the winter without truly getting sick (even though her whole family was down for the count several times) , and then gets a cold at the end of May??? Seriously? Time to beef up on the immune boosters. My kids should be the sick ones. Life, as it turns out, isn't always fair.

On that note, I'm going to read with the kids for a while, make lunch, and take a nap after I put in a post-lunch movie. Or I may reverse that order, and do nap/movie, lunch, then reading. I'm wild and unpredictable like that, I tell you.

Thursday, May 15


Oooooooh, I leave tomorrow morning, and I'm so stinkin' excited!!!!! Lyndsey (and New Orleans), here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 14

Works-for-me Wednesday

Good morning! I'm back for another edition of Works-for-me Wednesday, hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. Check out her page for lots of other great WFMW ideas. :)

Today, I'm going to cover practicing with your kids. Practicing what? I'll get to that in a minute. But first, I have a confession to make. I haven't been so good about doing this lately with my kids. I've been too busy curing cancer solving the world hunger problem developing an AIDS vaccine adopting children making speeches at important places making micro loans and fixing the global economy following the election campaigns wrapped up in life and neglecting things that aren't on the #1 or #2 spots on the to-do list. Just a little disclaimer.

And this is an idea I got from the Jeubs. They have 13 children. If they say something works, you can bet I'm going to try it! Anyway. Practicing with my kids. Evie has never been very skilled at going to bed politely. Translation: Evelyn has a complete and total nervous breakdown each night around 8:30. It's great, let me tell you. A ton of fun. A barrel of monkeys.

After reading Love in the House, I decided to try this 'practicing' thing on my kids. The basic principal is this: you take time during the day, when nothing else is scheduled or planned, when you (the parent!) are calm and relaxed, and you practice area that could use some work. We started practicing going to bed in the middle of the day. Like 10 in the morning. I would say, 'Ok, kids, we're going to practice going to bed with pleasant attitudes. I can't wait for Dad to see how well y'all do the next time he's here at bedtime!' (John was working a long stretch of closes, so it was going to be three or four nights until he'd be around for bedtime.)

So for three days, two or three times each day, I would randomly practice making the children go to bed. They thought it was the best game ever. And they were doing a great job. I was so excited to show John. And nervous. I really hoped it would work!

Then next evening John was at home, 8:30 rolled around. John told the kids to brush their teeth, and was surprised by the lack of whining and the general air of obedience. But he had no idea what was in store. When teeth were brushed and we had finished the chapter of the book we were reading, I told the kids, 'Ok, y'all go up, turn out your lights, get in bed, and I'll be in there n five or ten minutes to say your prayers.' John gave a sigh and winced, waiting for the wailing, chest beating, and hair ripping crying to begin.


The kids gave me a great big (if not slightly conspiratorial) grin, said, 'Yes, ma'am, I'd be glad to!' kissed us goodnight, and ran upstairs and got into bed. I pretended like nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and said, 'I'll go say their prayers. Can I get you anything on my way back?' He was still a little dumbstruck, so he didn't answer. When I got back downstairs, that's when I got the third degree. I finally broke down and told him how I did it, and he was amazed.

We've used practicing for lots of things. All the kids stay with us during church service (families are supposed to worship together!), and it's hard to control three banshees for that long. We started 'practicing church' here at home, and haven't had many problems since then. It's been great!

So that's what works for me. Practicing stuff with my kids. Any comments? What works for you?

Washing and Packing!

In 48 hours, I'll be on an airplane, headed to New Orleans to see one of my best friends graduate. And I'll be going ... get ready for it ... ALL BY MYSELF!!!! That's right, no kids, no husband, no chickens, cats, random birds or snakes. If I wasn't worried about 1) getting lost, and 2) my family needing me, I'd be very, very tempted to not even take my phone. I'm just so very excited!!! I leave Friday morning, and my flight gets in to Austin Sunday evening.

My mom is driving up tomorrow evening, which is super cool of her. (THANKS, MOM!!!) John's pretty excited about this, because he'll be able to take the older kids to do something cool in Austin on Friday, like go to Barton Creek or Hamilton Pool, and not have to worry about taking the baby with them, because David will be here with Mom. Not that John doesn't love to go places with the baby, he does, but it's just much harder to do anything water-based with a very squirmy 19-month-old who has no fear of anything whatsoever. Except the little rooster, who likes to chase and attack him on a semi-regular basis. But we don't need to go into that now. :)

So I'M SO EXCITED and I get to see my friend Lyndsey. And I get to meet some of her friends, and put some faces to names I've been hearing for 4 or 5 years.

And all today I'll be terribly busy washing clothes and packing clothes and unpacking and repacking my bags, because I'll be there for two nights, so obviously, I'll need about 27 different outfits, complete with shoes. Lots and lots of shoes. But I will be smart enough to wear flip flops on the airplane, in case the airport people decide I look like a terrorist bomber and want to scan my shoes. Because, I'm telling you, you never can tell about those little short girls that live in the country. They can be mighty feisty and stubborn, I hear. Seriously. Just ask John.

And I'll be washing sheets and cleaning my house and weeding the garden and making sure that there's enough food available while I'm gone so John doesn't have to worry about that.

Will y'all please pray for me? I'm very nervous about flying. I mean, not about the safety of flying, I have no qualms about that. I'm afraid I'll get lost, or my luggage (which will be all carry-on) will get lost (HEY! Fears aren't always rational, ya know!), or someone will speak unkindly to me, and you know what? John isn't going to be there to hold my hand, literally and figuratively, and help me. Because as much as I like to 'play' grownup, I'm not. I'm really just a little kid. Don't tell anyone. :)

Friday, May 9

Friday Confessions

Ok, so we've covered a few things on previous Fridays.

You know about the imaginary affair I'm having.

If we meet, and I weighed 250 pounds (which honestly, would not be flattering on my 5' 2" frame!), you'd know why.

Maybe we could watch bad TV together sometime? Or listen to some music that might make your ears bleed?

I have a secret life.

And of course, I was a very, very, very bad big sister. (Back when I was still bigger than my brothers, both of whom are now well over 9 feet tall. At least it seems that way to me.)

Remember how we talked about not telling my husband about these things? Well, to be totally honest, he knows. He's about as far from stupid as you can get, so yes, he knows. But I'm serious about this one: YOU CAN'T TELL HIM!!!!! It's a real secret, one that he can never, ever know. He'd be mad at me for weeks. And take my trouble-causing precious children and leave me. This is serious, people!!!!!!

I think anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about coffee. I love it. I would die for coffee. Me and coffee, we're like thisclose. Brea + coffee = BFFE. Seriously.

I've had some issues before with the drink of the gods, though. Each time I get pregnant, it ain't planned, so I don't have time to slowly wean myself off the crack juice smack good stuff caffeine. I get horrible headaches.

(One time, my mom called me and seriously thought that she had brain cancer, or a benign tumor at the very least, because her head was hurting her so bad. She was in tears. I was wearing a green shirt. I don't know why I remember that, but I do. Sorry. Anyway, she was so miserable that she was about to call someone to drive her to the doctor. I asked her if she had had any coffee that morning, and she said no. I told her to make a really strong pot, have two or three cups, and call me back in like an hour. I totally felt like a doctor. Her headache went away!! She was having caffeine withdrawals! And I totally established, yet again, how brilliant I am.)

(Mom, I'm sorry I shared that. But it was too good to pass up. Please still come and visit me next Thursday. I'll have some of your favorite coffee creamer.)

Ok, I digress. Sorry. Anyway, David is over a year and a half, I want seventeen more babies another baby, and apparently, we can never plan these things. So if I do end up pregnant, I don't want to go through those headaches, on top of the morning sickness, yet again. So I've started making the switch over to a lower-caffeine coffee.

For the love of all that is good and right and pretty in this temporary world, DON'T TELL MY HUSBAND. He really doesn't know. I started about three months ago, by adding one-half spoon of decaf to the six spoons of regular coffee.

Ever few weeks, I would add one-half scoop more decaf, and one-half scoop less regular. At this point, we're drinking half-caf coffee. I can live with that.

Ok, I know this might now seem like that big of a deal. But it is, trust me!!! You don't believe me? Well, here's what John looks like when he wakes up in the morning and the coffee isn't finished brewing. Sam snapped this about a week ago with the old digital we've been letting him play with.

I'm not kidding. He is not a pleasant person to be around before he has his coffee. Well, I find him rather pleasant, actually. The kids don't have any issues with his, either. I guess he's just an acquired taste ... or something.

Here he is after he has that first cup. For real. I just took this picture yesterday morning!

Mmmm ... isn't he just dreamy? Doesn't he look nice in his work clothes?

You know, I so rarely post pictures of John and me together. It's just that one of us is usually taking the pictures, so we never seem to be in the same shot. But a friend of ours did manage to get this great, totally candid picture of the two of us chatting a few weeks ago.

Am I having a great hair day or what!?!?

I know, I know. Again, I digress. Sorry.

Coffee. Yeah. I changed our coffee without my caffeine-loving husband having a clue. His energy level hasn't changed one bit. He seems to have more, actually (which I attribute to the fact that he's been drinking this fabulous juice each morning!). But, if I told him, he'd start telling me how tired he's been lately, and how he's had no energy, , and been totally sluggish at work, and if I asked him how long he's been feeling that way, he'd stop, look at me suspiciously, and ask me when I started jacking with the coffee. I'm just saying.

So maybe we'll just keep this between the two of us, mmm-kay?

And yes, those are my real eyelashes. God has been very good to me. For real.

Wednesday, May 7

Works-for-me Wednesday

So I'm not doing what Shannon is doing this week. She's doing Doesn't Work-for-me Wednesday. I'm doing a Reverse Works-for-me Wednesday. I need your help!! Please, HELP ME!!!!

(Well, we all know I have issues in other areas, like donuts, I love a man who isn't my husband, and, well, I was a very mean sister when I was younger. But I think that's more than any of you can fix in just one comment!!)

So. Here's where I need some help. And I'm going to open up and be honest here. I need help with my grocery budget. My household budget (John gets upset when I call it an 'allowance,' so we've agreed on 'budget') is around $600 each month. This goes for anything I buy. Food, drinks, trips to SAM'S Club, diapers, Sonic, Whole Foods, and any various outings I choose to make, like grabbing a cup of Starbucks on my way to my book club. When it comes down to it, I spend around $450 each month on actual food groceries, and that feels like waaaay too much to me. I know some of you are very talented at the food budgeting, so HELP ME!!!

Here's some things you should know:
*We like to eat well. I will not feed my family hot dogs and mac & cheese because it's cheaper. (If I eat hot dogs, it's because I have a craving for hot dogs. My mom is going to throw up when she reads that. She hates hot dogs. I didn't get to eat them when I was growing up. But I digress ...)
*I will not make anything that has Cream of Fill-in-the-Blank Soup in it. So don't give me links to cassaroles if Cream of Fill-in-the-Blank Soup is an ingredient.
*I'm getting a freezer today. A big freezer. A chest freezer. I'm so excited, I can't even tell you. So I can start buying more things in bulk; I can also start making 3 and 4 times the food and freezing it. YAY!!! So if you've got a great recipe that freezes really well and is fairly healthy (but see above!), please give it!!
*I don't care how healthy a recipe is; if it doesn't taste good, I absolutely will. not. eat. it. I'm just saying.
*I don't do the coupon thing, because everything I buy is generic, so even with coupons, the name brand stuff still costs more. Yes, I do compare on a regular basis.

So, do you think you could help me cut some corners and save some money? I'd love to get to the point where I'm spending under $400 each month on food. Please, I'm begging you!!! Help me!! Let me know what works for you!!!!!

(And if you can't help me, please leave a comment and let me know you stopped by. I just love comments; they make my whole day!!)

Tuesday, May 6

Still Here

I promise, I'm still around. I've just been really busy, and pretty distracted on top of that. And I'm in a bit of a funk at the moment. Nothing to worry about, just one of those things that lasts for about two days, and makes me think, 'Hmm, I need to spend more time outside with the sun on my back, and less time inside being exceptionally inefficient and getting nothing done even though I'm busy all the time.' You know, one of those things. :)

On the upside, I've learned how to make jam, and it's sinfully easy and delicious. And I've learned that, if you totally mess up, and the jam never sets and is kind of runny, if you then take it and heat it up a little, it makes pretty much the best pancake syrup. Ever. I've got a new pancake recipe that makes this one taste like sawdust in comparison, and I'll try to post it later today.

You know, I haven't been baking much in the last few weeks. That always helps my spirits. Maybe I'll make some cookies and muffins and take them to some friends ... Hmm, I feel a little better just thinking about it!! :)