Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reading... or...

...what I like to do when I have a brain.

I am 30 weeks along in my sixth pregnancy and for the particular brand of pregnancies God has granted me, this means that I have been enjoying the Return of My Brain for about 8 or 9 weeks now.

My whole family benefits from this slow return of my ability to function. I am once again able to live the Suzy Homemaker life that I truly do enjoy.

One of the sad things to me about spending so much time on the couch resting during those first months of pregnancy is this: if I had a brain during that time, I would spend at least some of that rest reading! But, generally, I don't. It's just not in me to be interested in any thinking at that time.

But around May of this year, I started lurking around our bookshelves for something light to peruse (you know, things I've read a zillion times since childhood like Cadie Woodlawn and the What Katy Did series) and then earlier this month it really hit me: I needed some books!

This is what I've been reading:

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and his wife Faith D'Aluisio

Filled with photographs of the families they interviewed from all over the world, this book gives an interesting picture of the foods that are consumed and their costs. Each family is photographed with the amount of food they normally consume in a week's time. For some, the sprawling pile of pre-packaged items fills the entire kitchen. For others, meals for an entire week hunch together on a dirt floor.

Aren't you curious now? How would your week's amount of food compare to those pictured in this book?

Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

My friend Stacy over at With Great Joy read this a few years ago, I think, and I've been meaning to read it for awhile. The author writes about her experiences with the foster children in her home.

Another author, Augusten Burroughs is quoted on the front of the book, saying that Harrison's story is "...shocking, brutal, heartbreaking and ultimately redemptive..." After reading it, and passing it along to my husband to read as well just so I could discuss it with him, I'd say Burroughs got three out of four right. Harrison's depiction of the failings of the foster care system and the damaging effects on the children within it is shocking, brutal and heartbreaking because for most of the children she writes about, there is no ultimate redemption. While it left me with a sad heart, this story has grown my desire to do something in response to God's exhortation in James 1:27.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27

Protecting the Gift:Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin De Becker

The kids and I have been learning about various ways to "be safe" in our Personal Safety Unit. We've memorized our address and practiced calling 911. We visited the police station once and crossed the road the correct way several times. We've also talked about privacy and taking good care of our bodies. So it made sense for me to read a book about good ways to teach our kids about safety. De Becker does a complete and thorough job of categorizing what we should watch out for and how to protect ourselves and our kids. I would consider this book a good resource if you want to recognize a predator with plenty of time to be the survivor rather than the victim in many different dangerous scenarios.

That said, I didn't really enjoy reading this book because it was scary. I'm pretty sure the author intended the information he shares to be more empowering than scary but reading about all the many ways our kids can get into trouble and the many kinds of trouble that are out there looking for our kids was, well, scary.

Maybe I read it too fast. Gulp, gulp, gulp! I'll get through this icky casserole quickly so I can
move on to what I really want to be ingesting: dessert!

And currently, my dessert: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

I've enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver's snappy writing since I read The Bean Trees in high school... (or maybe it was Pigs in Heaven). This particular title, a memoir of sorts about a family and their attempt to grow what they eat and only eat what they can grow, give or take some farmers' market items, comes to me at the perfect time. The experimental garden in our backyard has begun to add to our salads and I'm ripe and ready for any ways I can add more healthy, cheap eats to our table.

I'm only a few chapters in so I'll have to save my complete thoughts on this book until I'm finished. I will say this: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle brought me out of almost napping mode to a full sitting, no, I think a standing position today so that I could find my phone. I had to call my mom and tell her the amazing information I had just gleaned from Chapter 2 about the real life experiences of the asparagus plant. Really? The asparagus grows into a four foot tree?! I was shocked to learn that this vegetable that both my mom and I enjoy only looks as we see it in the supermarket for maybe one day of it's life... and it was banned from nunneries during the Renaissance. You could probably google that and find out why.

There you have it! You could call it proof that my brain has been at least partially functional for the last month or so.

Oh and please tell me what you are reading or wanting to read right now! Midway through writing this post, I thought of another book I wanted to read and had to skip over to my library's webpage to put it on hold.

I love doing that!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

And speaking of new things...

... we've had some new issues at bed time now that all three older kids, who sleep in the same room, are allowed to get out of bed to use the bathroom at bed time if the need occurs. And the need does seem to occur more often than Bob and I think is really necessary.

Bob calls it The Parade to the Bathroom.

It begins with one child who decides to go. He wanders out to where we are which in a smallish house is not very far away from his bed.

He tells us of his plans to use the bathroom.

He picks at fuzz on the floor.

He kicks a few toys Sounders fashion and tells us how he plans to be a soccer player.

We interrupt to steer him back towards the bathroom. He goes, cleans up and finishes his personal bathroom cycle by swatting his sister ninja-style.

How else will she know that it's now her turn to go potty?

Mercy, crying because of the swatting she received now makes her way out to where we are. She is redirected to the bathroom. Her brother is disciplined for the unaskedfor ninja-ing. Mercy finishes in the bathroom and delivers her own smacks to Brother who is hanging sideways out of his bed, in the dark. He hurts himself trying to retaliate.

Discipline and comfort are dished out to the various people in the room who require them and Bob and I return to our post-dinnertime repose.

But we're listening. Because pretty soon someone will yell to let us know that the cd is skipping... or that we forgot to bring them waters... or that Tigger's jammies won't go back on.

Clearly, we've been remiss in dealing with these little issues at their sprouting and they've grown into habits that we've allowed.

Today, I installed a little reminder on the floor that I'm hoping will help a little, at least with The Parade to the Bathroom which consistently veers off course towards more exciting destinations than the actual Bathroom.

Cross the line on the way to the bathroom or for any other reason after you've been tucked in and the discipline shall fall swiftly, my child.

A little update

The dishwasher is fixed! Hooray! Since the dishwasher is all loaded up and running, I have some time to blog a little about what we've been doing this month.

Bob and I decided it was high time that the kids learn our address, about personal safety and what to do in an emergency, etc. I planned a little "unit" with these goals in mind and we've been having fun with safety related activities for the past few weeks.

For our family, it is important to center all of this talk about "hazards" and how to prevent them and "caution" and 911 in the promises we find in God's Word so we've been memorizing this verse:

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe."
Proverbs 18:10

It is God who blesses us with the wisdom and the ways to keep ourselves safe and ultimately He holds us all in His hands and protects us.

This is a picture of our "tower" with many of our vocabulary words (written and illustrated by the boys and Mercy) attached to it. When the mood strikes us, we line up, ball in hand, and try to hit one of the words on the wall. Then we define it and discuss it a little and practice taking turns.

Our discussions and activities on personal safety culminated in an exciting visit to the local police station. Our little town has a tiny little station-just the right size for our tour.

I'm pleased with how the whole safety unit has come together. In a week or so, we'll begin discussing fire safety and I'm really hoping to wind that up with a trip to a fire station, too.

This past week I've been taking us all to the local pool each morning for our first swimming lessons. None of our kids are exactly comfortable in the water, even in the bath or shower setting at home.

("There's WATER in my EYEeeEEES!!!")

I was a little unsure about how swimming every morning for two weeks would go. Thankfully, Mercy, Daniel and Michael are all doing really well. I've had a few reflections from Michael that he isn't super keen on some of the things he is asked to do but each day we've discussed how we can do better at jumping in or putting our whole face in the water tomorrow.

Grammy visits and watches swimming with Josiah

I experienced this funny but good feeling on the first day of swimming. There I was with Josiah on my lap, sitting in the stands. Off went Mercy and Michael to their class and Daniel to his... and I got to watch! I thought to myself, "Now this is so nice! I can just enjoy what they are learning and encourage them from the sidelines here."

We're ready!

We just haven't done organized sports or classes much yet so it was a brand new experience for me.

Oh and we've been making jam, too. All the strawberries are done. Waiting for raspberries to be ready...

Hooray for doing new things!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bath time and pregnant time

Just a quick post for the record. You know, the record I'm recording.

None of our kids get baths very often right now but this clearly shows that Josiah is enjoying the benefits of one.

A little soaphawk...

Me, at about 24 weeks, I think. This was a few weeks ago so imagine me bigger if you want to.

Standard poses from my non-standard kids.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Heat Wave

It's been unseasonably warm in these parts this week. Mid-nineties is not how I like to spend my spring but my garden sure has taken off.

Here's what we've been doing to keep cool!

First, we set up the Baby Pool.

(Josiah is practicing one of his words, here. Can you guess what it is?)

Second, the Slip and Slide comes out of hibernation. For those of you have been to our house recently, it does indeed hibernate in a pile in the backyard. A big dirty pile with slugs. But look! It's all clean now!

Third, head to the beach for dinner! Bring the Beerocks you made early in the day for easy traveling food.

Finally, make sure to at least wash your feet before you crawl into your bed and pray that it won't be so hot tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Taco Tuesday

I know it's not Tuesday yet. Tomorrow is Tuesday. And at our house tomorrow is Taco Tuesday. And since it's such a big hit at our house, I wanted to record it here and share a recipe or two with anyone who wants to start a Martes de Tacos como La Familia Montgomery.

Before the recipes, here's a little background... (Oh and this post really is about tacos and Tuesdays. If you want to skip to the end, there's a cute pic of the family there. I don't mind if you do.)

A couple years ago, I decided that it would be easier to plan our dinner menus if we had the same type of meal on a few of the days in the week. This has made it easier for me to choose what to put on the menus in the first place. Sometimes, I just run out of good, easy, cheap meals to make for our dinners. Knowing that I didn't have to come up with something new and fancy for 2-3 nights makes it that much awesomer to be the main dinner maker in my house.

What I came up with is this:

Tuesdays we will eat some kind of mexican-style food (Taco Tuesday)
Wednesdays we will probably have spaghetti (hmm... Wednesdays don't have a name...)
Fridays we will have homemade pizza (Pizza Night)

That leaves 4 other days to figure out meals though I generally follow a pattern for those days too. But their pattern isn't as interesting so I won't write about it here.

On to Taco Tuesday!

Like I said the name of the game for planning meals around here is cheap and easy, well, and healthful if I can get all those adjectives to describe a single meal.

This is what I usually make:

Since that's kind of hard to read, I'll re-write it here with some directions too. I just like how used that little 3x5 card looks. We make this stuff a lot!

Bob and Rebecca's Spicy Taco Meat

1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 can Rotel Original Diced Tomatos and Green Chilies (sauteed sweet peppers works too if you don't feel like doing the Rotel thing... add more seasonings to taste if you do this)
1 clove of garlic smushed in smusher
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or maybe less... or more if you are spicier than I am)

Brown ground beef. Add onion, Rotel, and after a few minutes, the garlic, sugar (yes, I put sugar in it!) and the chili powder.

Then, if you've doubled the recipe, like I usually do now for my family, it will look something like this:

We generally use this filling for soft tacos, or burritos. The normal sides (refried beans, diced tomatos, shredded lettuce, grated cheddar, sour cream, and of course Tapatio for Bob) accompany our spicy taco meat in a hard or soft tortilla. In the past, I have been known to make my own tortillas. Currently, we purchase them ready made but I'm hoping to return to the homemade kind soon. If you are open to a little extra preparation, freshly made tortillas really make this meal super yummy.

Fresh Tortillas (from Maria Teresa Bermudez's Mexican Cook Book)

Combine, in a large bowl:
4 cups flour (I usually do something like 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 white)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cut in(as if you were making pie crust):
1/2 cup shortening or try coconut oil if you have it... it's yummy too.

Stir in with a fork:
1 and 1/4 cups warm water

A sticky ball of dough should be the result. Knead it on a floured surface until it is somewhat smooth. This recipe yields about 18 tortillas but I'd recommend only cooking up what you are going to eat right now for dinner. You can save the rest of the dough, in little balls in your freezer and they will be all ready to thaw and become fresh tortillas when you want them. That's what I do anyway.

Here's the only sort of critical part: The actual rolling out and cooking of these guys. It can take a few tries to get just the right amount of heat on your frying pan. Place your pan on the stove and let it heat up around Medium High while you shape and roll your tortillas.

After you have divided your large ball of dough into about 18 pieces, cover all but the one you are currently rolling so they don't dry out. Before I roll out a tortillas, I shape the little dough chunk into a ball and then flatten it with my hand until it resembles a, well, a flattened ball? Then I roll it flat.

I use a rolling pin on my floured counter top and roll the tortillas as THIN as possible. Or leave it thicker if you like it that way. Thinner tortillas are easier to work with when it's time to fill them and serve them.

Once it's nice and flat and round, let it cook on your preheated frying pan, flipping it once. It took me a while to get this just right but you should have a few good ones if you make this whole recipe. Serve 'em up warm!

Viva el martes de tacos!