Enter your email address:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

On Modesty

We were gathered around the dinner table as we are most nights, passing the ketchup and re-capping our day in between commands to SIT DOWN! DONT TOUCH YOUR BROTHER! and EAT SOMETHING!...

Earlier that afternoon my nieces and nephews had been over and I noticed the Squirt relieving himself in the bathroom while his female cousins were about a foot away washing their hands. He has a sister and they have two brothers, so it wasn't a complete catastrophe, but I quickly shooed the girls out of the room and reminded him that "when we're doing private things we should always have privacy, even if it's just our family around."

Later on that same day Sweet B came out from her bedroom minus pants and asked a friend we had over (an adult male friend) if he could help her change her shirt - in her defense the shirt had a tight collar.

So dinner seemed like a good time to have a family dialogue about bodies and boundaries. I gave B Daddy the "I'm going in" head nod and began a thorough but brief explanation about respecting our bodies as well as other peoples' right not to see our naked body.

Me: "So Elijah - when you go to the bathroom what should you always do? 

Elijah: "Moooooom! (Eye roll) Close the door so no one can see you. If you're gonna show your private parts you should be in your room or the bathroom."

Me: "That's right! Now Britain, if you want to change your clothes where can you do that?"

Britain: "Well, if you have an itch on your heinie and you have pants on, you can scratch it wherever you are, but if you're NOT wearing pants, you should go to the bathroom." 

Me: "Ummmmm- close enough."

I was pretty pleased with the way I deftly maneuvered around the nuances of the topic. Definitely don't want to create kids with body shame around here! We went back to our regularly scheduled conversation and finished dinner. Before getting up to take my plate to the sink, I pulled our just-nursed babe off my exposed-breast and handed him to B Daddy to burp.

It took us far longer than it should have to recognize the irony of the situation given the lecture I'd just laid down.

I just can't imagine where the kids' lack of boundaries comes from.

Monday, March 9, 2015

How (& Why) We Squish 4 Kids in a 3 Bedroom House

Once upon a time B Daddy and I were newlyweds living the dual-income, no kids lifestyle, which meant eating out and wine that wasn't Two Buck Chuck -well let's be honest, it was still Two Buck Chuck, but there was more of it.

In the past 9 years we've added 4 kids and subtracted one income. Today (thanks to the grace of God and B Daddy's work ethic) we're living on slightly more than we made together 9 years ago. Again, plus 4 kids and adjusted for 9 years of inflation.

Our home is a major reason this math still works. Y'all, I LOVE our home. The location, the neighbors, the history, the us-ness of it. We love it for all the reasons I've written about before and the not-so-insignificant detail that we can definitely afford it. 

While we are still paying the bank each month for the privilege of living here, we have aspirations to be mortgage-less sooner rather than later. Therefore all six of us are squeezed in a 1700 square ft, 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house and we plan to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Bringing home the first two babies really wasn't a big deal - they each got their own room across the tiny hall form us and life proceeded as usual. When #3 came home things got interesting.

April 2012 - our third kid in three years is scheduled to arrive. I am in full blown panic mode for months. No one I knew had kids who shared rooms. Or multiple children who required naps at the same time. Everyone asked us when we were moving. Making the decision to put a toddler bed and a crib into the same room had me up at night debating the goodness of God. But we did it because we couldn't find a solution we liked better and it was...fine.

Here's how it worked:

Night time: the first weeks we played musical beds with our newborn and 16 month old. There was a crib in the nursery and a crib and a toddler bed in the "toddler room." We would put our 16 month old and our 3 year old down in separate rooms and when it was time for the baby to "go down for the night" (ha!) we would move our 16 month old into the crib in the toddler room and put the baby down alone in the nursery.  It was a bit of a pain, but once baby #3 was sleeping through the night most of the time we stopped the musical bed routine and just had the boys (a 3 yr old and the newborn) in one room, and our toddler daughter in the other. There were a few hard nights at the beginning when the baby would wake up and cry and I'd have to race in to scoop him up and nurse him in the living room, but since #3 truly starting to sleep through the night they rarely, if ever, woke each other up in the middle of the night when they were sick or fussing.

Nap time: Our 3 year old transitioned to napping in our master bedroom. We'd have one kid in each bedroom and I just stayed away from the back of the house. Important detail: everyone has sound machines.

December 2013 - we found out we were expecting #4 and bought bunk beds for the boys' room.

July 2014 - New Kid was born and he slept alone in the nursery. The other 3 kiddos slept in the bunk beds and the toddler bed in the "Bunk Room"

2015 and beyond - The New Kid is sleeping through the night, so he and our 5 year old share a room. (This is the nursery I decorated thinking the baby and our 4 year old daughter would share) and my middle munchkins share a room (we've stopped calling it the "Boy Room" at it's just the "Bunk Room.") We did this based on sleep schedules rather than gender - the 5 yr old is tired after a day with no nap and wants to sleep in (til 7:30am) so he and the baby are pretty similar with their nightly sleep needs. The middles still nap and they tend to chit-chat at night in their beds and are up at 7am on the dot.

I think once I let go of the notion that each room was for a particular set of kids and relaxed a little about who slept where, most of the stress went away.

As far as naps go, my 5 year old has mostly given them up (although he is napping in the playroom as I type this) so the bedrooms go to my 3 little nappers each afternoon and he and I work out of different rooms in the main part of the house for our "quiet time" each day.

OK, so that was A LOT of words on beds. All to say - managing lots of kids without lots of bedrooms is doable. It seems like an accepted misconception that more kids means you automatically need a bigger home. It takes some flexibility and these will probably not be the rooms our kids leave for college from, but for now the squish is worth it to stay in this neighborhood and in this home.

Did you share a bedroom growing up? Did you love it or hate it!? How many kids do you have and how many bedrooms is your house? Would you do the musical bed thing like we have?  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Chicken, Three Ways

Pretty much every week there's one of these in my grocery cart coming home with us. At Costco they are $4.99. $4.99!! WHAT!? Each time this bad boy comes home with us he has a future life in three meals:

Meal #1 - I slice off a breast, a leg and a thigh and serve those alongside a roasted vegetable and some Artisan Bread or rice. My current favorite veggies are roasted broccoli and roasted kale:

Roasted broccoli and/or kale
  • Pre-heat oven to 425.
  • Wash and chop two heads of your green veggie (I like to separate the broccoli head from the stem and peel/chop the stem as well - it's delicious - don't waste it!)
  • Spread on a baking sheet and drizzle with a healthy coat of olive oil, sprinkle with salt
  • Roast for 10 minutes, shake the pan around to turn the veg and roast 5 more minutes or until just starting to brown. (For kale, usually 12 minutes is enough, just keep your eye on it) 

Meal #2 - later on in the week I pull the hacked up little guy back out of the fridge (if I was super smart I already did this after prepping Meal #1, I'm not usually super smart.) and pull all the remaining meat off his bones, remove the skin and chop it up. 

Then I make one of the following Master Meals:
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Pesto Pasta
Pad Thai
Chicken Divan
Quinoa Fried Rice
Chicken Curry with Apples

Chicken Pot Pie

1 cup chicken broth (if using store-bought, go with low-sodium, so you can control salt in recipe)
1 small potato, diced (sweet or regular)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I pretty much only ever use yellow onions in every single recipe)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (substitute 1 tsp dried thyme or poultry seasoning)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk (we only buy whole for the kids and it helps make all these recipes extra yum)
2 tablespoons All-Purpose flour
2 cups leftover rotisserie chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 9in pie crust
1 egg, lightly beaten (crack into a cup, whisk a bit)

  • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. 
  • In a medium saucepan or dutch oven (I use my dutch oven for everything) bring broth to a boil. 
  • Add potato, carrot, onion, thyme, salt and pepper (add more salt than you think you need if you're a novice cook - I find lots of my recipes that don't taste quite right just need more salt)
  • Simmer 15 minutes or until veggies are soft
  • While they simmer, whisk the milk and flour together. 
  • Slowly add the mixture to the vegetables, stirring until thickened. 
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in chicken and peas. 
  • Pour filling into a pie plate, cover with pie crust and cut a few slits in the top
  • Paint with egg wash 
  • Bake 25-30 minutes, until filling is bubbly. 
Store-bought pie crust works just fine! But to be thrifty and/or avoid a trip to the store, try making your own using this recipe. It is really easy (trust me, pastry is not my thing) and can sit in your freezer waiting for the one time a month you're going to use it. I usually have one or two in my freezer, which makes this recipe something I can almost always put together.

Meal #3 (or at least the foundation of it) - Right after I pop that pot pie in the oven, I start making chicken broth. I've posted about this before, but making chicken broth is ridiculously simple, ridiculously cheap and will make you feel ridiculously capable. 

Homemade Chicken Broth
  • Throw the carcass of the chicken you've just picked apart into a large stock pot and cover with cold water.
  • Add in the tops of carrots, the skin of onions and/or garlic and any wilted celery you have laying around.
  • For good measure add two bay leaves. Or don't. It's optional, this isn't supposed to be stressful. 
  • Bring to a boil, then simmer for HOURS. This is the important part. I don't know if it's possible to simmer a broth for too long. Is it?? I usually leave mine simmering from whenever I started dinner (6ish) til bedtime (10ish) 
  • After several hours, pour the broth out through a strainer and into a waiting tupperware container (or two, or three).
  • Leave on the counter overnight and in the morning, skim the fat that comes to the surface. 
  • Pop in the fridge for use in a soup later that week or freeze in 1 cup portions to make cooking simple later on down the road. 
In order to facilitate my broth habit, I keep a gallon size Ziploc in the freezer for the sole purpose of collecting my vegetable scraps when I'm making other meals. The tops and ends of carrots get thrown in there, celery I let wilt goes in there, the skins of garlic and the ends of onions all get collected. If I ever have half an onion in the back of a fridge drawer that's starting to look not-so-fresh, I'll throw it in my broth bag. This way, I can pretty much always make broth once I have a rotisserie chicken carcass on hand. Also - carcasses can be frozen in the same bag if you are feeling lazy and not ready to tackle broth at the end of a day!! Just throw it in your scrap bag and wait until Saturday or Sunday, then use the same method just as if you were making broth from fresh ingredients.

At the grocery store you can pay more money for carrots with their perfectly usable tops, ends and skins already cut off, these are called baby carrots. You can also pay more money for celery that has the ends and leaves cut off as well. Unless I'm making a crudite platter, I always buy whole carrots and celery. They cost far less per ounce and every part of them is usable! One of the best investments you can make in your home-cooking career is a knife skills class. Learning how to chop vegetables quickly and efficiently will save you loads of time in the kitchen and is actually pretty fun. Or you can come over here and I'll teach you what I learned when I took the class. Yes, actually let's do that. Call me to schedule a time to come play kitchen with me. 

Using homemade broth will elevate all your soups and sauces flavor-wise and also it's SO HEALTHY! AND CHEAP! Please please please try it out and let me know if you do! 

Next week I'll post a few of my Master Meals that make use of chicken broth - if you can't wait, you can find our family's favorite Chicken Noodle Soup on the blog here.  

site design by designer blogs