Monday, June 30, 2014

Cleaning House:We have begun...The Experiment...

This weekend we have begun a new experiment with the kids. After reading the book Cleaning House: A Mom's 12-month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, We have slowly been transitioning into testing this theory in our own way.

It began this weekend with possibly one of our most needed areas to clean...The CAR! It was a nightmare...truly. I can not remember when the last time it was actually cleaned thoroughly on the inside. If the clutter wasn't enough, we even had a family of moths living in there. I was kind of hoping to have before and after pictures, but I think I would have been embarrassed to post the before picture.

So all the baby seats came out, then all the car seats came out(not the front) and the cleaning fest began. The goal of this task was to complete the car before too much of the day had passed so that they could still have time to do something was Saturday after all. The clutter was first meticulously picked from the back of the van; with the seats removed there was no excuse for missing any little bit and saying it couldn't be seen. Then all the brackets were removed from the bars that hold the seats in place. they were soaked in a bucket and scrubbed with a toothbrush/scrub brush until they were clean. Noah cleaned out each area that held the seat latches, they actually had begun to collect its own layer of compost I think a seed would have grown. When all of this was done the car was vacuumed, cleaned with a carpet steamer, and the whole car was wiped down with a towel and the windows were washed. All of the seats were vacuumed, steamed, and left out in the sun to dry. The baby car seats were stripped of all cloth covering and washed and the seats were scrubbed until every corner containing food was cleaned...eeww, gross, kids are messy, and that is all I am going to say about that. Matt did a great job getting the kids motivated and working hard. It actually took most of the day and the seats didn't get put back in the car until later in the evening, but on a whole everyone pitched in and did some of the work and actually enjoyed parts of helping out and accomplishing the task....and bonus! we have a clean neat clutter-free van that smells better and looks great!

This was the beginning...last night we told them that from now on their beds must be made, and the floors in their room must remain free from stuff. They will have a morning check and if they forgot or choose not to do it they will be losing their monetary award for the day. we will be setting up a jar in their rooms with money for each day of the month-not sure how much yet-and everyday they have the opportunity to keep it by having the task complete. We discussed it with them last night and although they were not jumping for joy excited, they agreed to comply. My hope is that is spills over into other areas in the house eventually...we will see.

The deal with this experiment is that Matt and I are also included and will have to hold to the same rules as the kids, so this will be a wonderful time to start removing all that extra clutter and overflow that has accumulated in our room too.

I hope that by doing these experiments and tasks we are able to teach our children that work and service are not bad words, and situations to avoid in life; that we will be able to equip our children with a true sense of accomplishment, independence, and the knowledge, ability, and the security to know that they can handle the things in life that come their way and that they do not need to rely on someone to do it for them. That in doing these tasks they learn the importance of service and the love of serving others whether it be their family or people around them. And a big reason for me also is that doing things that they may not prefer to do is still important because sometimes we need to do things we don't necessarily like to do in life to achieve a place that we want to be.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book Review: Cleaning House

I feel the need to write about this is amazing! We are entering the realm of teen years with our oldest son and to be completely it is a challenge and a struggle. I was the mom that decided a long time ago not to have "that" kid...You know the one that acted like a teenager. Well, fourteen years later, and the teenager has emerged with full force. How you might ask could that happen when you fought against it, whose to blame, someone has got to be blamed, right? Actually I blame myself mainly, mostly because I fell into the propaganda being fed to people today from all directions. There are so many safe guards, and protections in place for children today that they have now been deemed unable to do anything most things for themselves.

The word teenager didn't exist before the mid 1900's. Early in this century was when the inevitable creation of the teenager began even though there wasn't an actual word for it; it was when the industrial revolution, the dawn of the automobile, government legislators, radical reformers, educators, and emerging advise and parenting strategies came together to form a new group of humans whether knowingly or unintentionally it happened and teens emerged with a whole new perspective on life, liberties and the pursuit of fun. Before this time there were adults and children, there were one room school houses that integrated everyone, there was less focus on labor laws and rights of children-I am not saying child labor is right or acceptable, the point I'm trying to make here is that children were allowed to work, encouraged to work, in-fact it was required of them.They were given the opportunity to learn and grow on an adult level, encouraged to find meaningful work and accomplish it. They were taught to be an integral part of society and how to effectively live and grow into adults

Enter today's youth, and you have an ever downward progression toward adolescence, teenagers, and young adults who can not do anything for themselves, have to be given the opportunity to have ample time to have fun in their lives, ample time to have idle time to just "be a kid", indulged by their parents(protectors and providers) who do everything and anything for their little dears until they are old enough and accomplished enough to stand on their own two feet and become productive members of society. Adolescents and teens never rarely get the opportunity to stand on their own two feet because many of today's parents have to do it for them in the name of giving their children better than they had. The life of today's youth is almost sad...many are never given the opportunity to work because that are required to have fun for an undisclosed amount of time in their life. The idea of meaningful work that teaches valuable skills and life lessons it actually discouraged in the name of child safety and child rights.

The degradation of responsibility has trickled in from the mid 1900's, with oh so many steps put in place in order to protect our youth...people have protected our youth to the point of making them one of the most undervalued and under-respected members of society. Today youth are not allowed to work, they are only allowed to learn what they are told to learn, they are taught that they don't count and can't be productive because they have to play until they are about 26 which is now the magic age that most adults are able to stand on their own and be productive whether they like it or not. In my grandparents age and to some extent even my parents, kids had to participate in life, they worked in their homes, they worked for friends families, on farms, in stores, many found jobs in their life, not to make money to indulge themselves with wants, but instead to bring home extra money necessary for the whole family to live. "Teenagers" were getting married, having families, holding down jobs, joining the military(which at 18, they are still adult enough to make that choice if they want, but not other adult choices because they can't possibly know what they want to do with their lives).

No one many do not have faith that a mere child could accomplish "adult" tasks. The idea that a child could carefully accomplish a skill that is deemed dangerous or difficult is just unheard of these days...Recently we found this book, Cleaning House written by Kay Willis Wyma. I have never been so happy in all my life to see such a well written, well expressed, well thought out and even humorous look into another family's life, their struggles, with their children and the world around them. Their quest to help their children and their family break the bonds of inability that today's societal prison has subjected our youth to. The path to ridding their family of self indulgence and entitled behavior documented in a group of monthly experiments teaching lessons of thinking of others around them and seeing that there is a whole world beyond the self indulgent life that has been thrust upon them.

It seems like I have been rather harsh on youth and their self indulgent did they get there? Parents and other well meaning adults in the world...they have been on a never ending downward spiral into the depths of safety, protection, enabling, and in some cases just doing basically everything for their children and the lives of those around because they can't possibly be able to complete that task, without some kind of adult intervention. I don't completely blame the kids, they have been taught and conditioned to believe that they are unequipped for the adult tasks.

If you are struggling with the idea that your children are more capable than society is deeming possible and would like to see your children head down the path to discover how big the world is and exactly how much they can do, accomplish and be on their own, this is a great book to read. There is also a blog (themoatblog)written with Kay's wonderful insight and many other guest bloggers with wonderful information to offer parents.

We will be employing this experiment into our lives to help us as parents, as well as getting our children to learn to love work and service of others.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Baking Adventure: Banana Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting!

I love cooking and baking, which is odd because most people like one or the other. I guess it kind of follows the way I am with life in general...I tend to like or try to like everything. If I don't know about it I will find out, If you don't know about it I will most likely tell you; sometimes if you want to know and a lot of times even if you don't(this can be problem causing, and I have probably gotten both friends and family frustrated with me because of it)...but I digress. Baking is where I was heading today. It had been a while since I baked something so yesterday when I found a whole bag of bananas that someone had forgotten to put away after coming home from the store, I figured it was a perfect time to bake something...but what? Well of course this takes internet research(that gotta know gene that I have) was it going to be pie, bread, cake, pudding...the ideas with bananas is endless someone even posted banana/tomato pizza(personally not very interested). So after discussing with family and lots of oohing and aaahing over the beautiful internet photos, we had finally whittled the choices down to Banana Cream Pie, Banana Cake, and upside-down banana cake(think pineapple, but banana instead).

So here's what I choose to do:

Banana Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting...It is so very yummy and definitely on our make again list. The cake was firm, but remained moist and I was able to frost it without it falling apart. There are a lot of cakes that tend to do that on me. Chocolate is my nemesis, but box cake mix an ultimate evil doer(yes, I have four boys).

The cake is delicious on its own and would probably be great baked in a loaf pan as a breakfast treat, but this is cake and it definitely needed frosting so back to the internet for more research on what goes with Banana cake. Butter Cream...too plain, cream cheese...good idea, but will it be enough flavor, Caramel Frosting would be perfect the dark brown sugar off sets the flavor of banana perfectly, but what I wanted was frosting not a poured topping layer. So I had the genius idea of mixing all three(of course so have other people...I looked it up after I finished the cake).

Here is the recipe that I ended up coming up with. It was a combination of several different ones that I found converted from metric measure, and then I made it larger to make a bigger cake.

Banana Cake
2 sticks of butter softened
3 cups of sugar(next time I will use less) I used half white half brown
5-6 mashed Bananas
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
3 Eggs
1/3 cup of milk(or cream)
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, add bananas, milk, eggs, and blend then add the flour and baking soda. Stir gently until combined. Divide into baking pans. This recipe made two 9" pans. Bake in a preheated oven 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. When a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean its done.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 cup cream
8 ounces(one block) of Cream Cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla
powder sugar

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat until sugar is melted. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted and combined. Let it cool a bit and add in the cream and vanilla. When cooled to room temperature, transfer to a mixing bowl and begin adding powder sugar until you get frosting consistency. The cooler the mixture gets the thicker it will get. If it seems to thin, it may be too warm. Let it sit a while and whip it up again when it is cool to the touch.

If you like Banana and Caramel, Bananas Foster, or any of the other combinations of banana brown sugar this will definitely be on your go to list for cakes.

Try it out and let me know how yours came out. Our kids wanted to eat it for breakfast...

Happy Baking!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Four Years Old

Happy Birthday Evelyn! 

Four Years Old

One Month Old

Four years ago today we were blessed to have Evelyn Grace come into the world and into our life and our family. 

One Year Old 

Two Years Old
Hobbit-ish Mischief
She is tough, and tender, the perfect mix of tomboy and princess. She has developed a perfect balance of hanging with the boys-in fact she can out-do the boys when it comes to getting dirty and making a mess-she loves frogs, bugs, mud, and always ready for an adventure and an explore...

Jedi Training With
...but also loves everything girl...dresses, shoes, dolls, nails, purses, and pampering and is always ready to dress up in her prettiest princess dress at any point in the day. She has just the right amount of sass and sweet.

Two Years Old
Tinker Bell Princess

There is never a dull moment with our baby girl. Full of adventure and mischief, a twinkle in her eye, and a smile that can melt your heart. 

She entered into the world of Jedi, knights, dragons, swords, lightsabers, mud, trucks, and everything boy and transformed our family dynamic beyond anything we could have ever imagined and conquered our hearts.

June 2013
Three Years Old

She is Beautiful...

November 2013
Sweet Smiles


February 2014
A style of her own


Easter 2014


Our Evelyn

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Rambunctious Nature of a Puppy

What do you mean...fix my ears?!
We haven't mentioned Lucy in a post in a while.She has grown quite a bit...she's sweet, cute, smart, goofy, and oh so much trouble right now. I know it won't last, but this is probably the most frustrating part of having a puppy...the digging, the jumping, the disobedient, obstinate nature that can test practically anyone's patience. Nothing is safe from the "monster" that is puppy attitude. We have been lucky so far she has been very good about controlling the urge to attack the chickens, so far she only chases them down and pounces on them, then she lets them go. I'm sure it stresses them out a bit, but it is better than death. 
She loves to help me with things like redecorating the yard, playing hide and seek with the kids shoes and toys, but the hardest thing for me to get over besides the chickens is her need to "help" me in the garden and with my plants that I have been carefully been nurturing. She thinks that it is rather amusing to dig out and "transplant" my garden plants and decorative plants. She has taken a particular interest in my asparagus plants and my potted plant with the hens and chicks. We randomly find a hen here and a chick there.
I have told Matt that she can smell what I touch and she is purposefully grabbing my plants to annoy me...sometimes I actually believe it. Did I mention the digging? She has created her own little lair under the chicken coop...I can only bet that she is lying under there plotting out her devious plans.She also has an interesting relationship with the baby. Most days she doesn't bother with him, but sometimes she feels the need to put him in his place, like licking him until he begins to cry, or my favorite she knocks him over and sits on him. My guess is they will figure out their relationship over time, I just wish she wasn't so rough on him because he really does love her.
Peeking out of her lair
So her cuteness...her ears have a life of their own on top of her head and flap around wildly sometimes they sit on top and look like a cap brim. She loves to play with balls and run with the kids. She always sits at attention astutely watching the chickens until she just can't stand it and has to give chase to one or two. She has a defeated look when she gets caught and sulks away. She loves to try and jump up and enjoy a lap and a scratch especially if that lap is occupied by the baby. She and the cat have bonded and they are often playing and sitting together in the yard. Maurice kind of put up with Lucy in the beginning, now he looks for her companionship. They sleep on each a chair if we leave them open. I suspect that eventually they will be sharing a chair.

So yes Lucy has been trouble...Yes, she has tried my patience, even beyond the measure of my children(that is saying a lot)...Yes the transition has been more difficult than I have thought or hoped, but she is wonderful and she and I are adjusting. I'm hopeful that time will turn her into a reliable, hardworking part of our homestead and family. On a happy note she has definitely kept the raccoon at bay; and we really haven't had any problems with the food being taken, or the chickens being attacked since she has become part of our family.