Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three Little Monkeys

Ever since the boys first started learning to play peekaboo, Jeff has been trying to get them to do "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil." As a result, we've totally messed up two of the kids.

Just watch:

Nothing a little therapy won't fix!

© Trippin' Mama 2010

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eat from the Pantry: The Homestretch

Well, the finish line on the Eat from The Pantry Challenge is here. This week was much better than last week. Taking two nights off last week by ordering pizza one night and taking advantage of the bonus free meal from Chipotle helped improve my attitude.

This week we had some great meals, and I tried a new recipe for potatoes that I LOVED! (I'm sharing it below, don't worry.) I also made classic scalloped potatoes and ham (leftover from I don't even know when) that were delish as always. We even fed company on Sunday when we had friends over to watch the football game.

Here's our supper menu from the rest of the week. Again, we ate leftovers for lunches, with the occasional scrambled egg or peanut butter sandwich for me when there weren't enough leftovers for two. As a bonus for you, I previously posted three of these recipes, and the links are included below.

Sunday - Jambalaya, garlic bread and snap peas with dip.
Monday - Steak bites, crash hot potatoes, spinach salad
Tuesday - Leftover jambalaya, steak and potatoes with veggies/salad
Wednesday - Scalloped potatoes and ham, spinach salad
Thursday - Homemade cream of tomato soup, fish sticks, green beans
Friday - White chicken chili, salad
Saturday - Chinese takeout

We got the week off to a great start when I found some steak in the freezer and was able to make steak bites, one of our favorite treats. The recipe has only two ingredients: steak and butter.

See why it has to be a treat and not a regular on our dinner table?

The recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman. You can find it here. Enter her site forewarned that her food is amazing, but she cooks for hard-working ranchers, so it's not exactly low-calorie. Of course, that's why it's amazing.

Combine it with her Crash Hot Potatoes, which are incredibly easy and completely delicious, add a little veg and you've got a meal fit for a king. Or the WBH.

Crash Hot Potatoes are basically new potatoes boiled then "crashed" with your potato masher, brushed with olive oil and seasoned. I only had regular baking potatoes, so I cut them in half or thirds to make them a little smaller. The Pioneer Woman uses fresh rosemary. I used dried chives from the cupboard. All good.

Stick those beauties in a super hot oven and they come out all crispy and oh, my. Yum. I'm salivating on my keyboard. You can find the recipe here.

Again, I am not responsible for any weight you might gain just from looking at The Pioneer Woman's recipes.

I did have to buy groceries again this week. You know, what with all the milk consumption that goes on in my house and the need for well-rounded meals.

Total groceries purchased: $53.29

I bought fresh spinach, grapes, bananas, 6 gallons of milk, 8 cans of fruit, a loaf of bread, snap peas, hot dogs, avocados, bell pepper, blueberries, a pint of half and half, and veggie dip for our meal with company.

I am not including in this total the orange juice I bought because I started a cold. That's medicinal. Or the ice cream I bought to assuage the WBH. What's the point of saving money on groceries only to spend it on a divorce? If you must include those two items, my total comes to $58.97.

Which makes my grand total for groceries this month $123.90.

(Or $129.58, if you MUST hold the o.j. and ice cream against me.)

Either way, we came in well below our average monthly grocery budget of $425 and easily met the goal of saving $200 for college funds. And I still have meat in the freezer, rice, pasta, some canned fruits and veggies on the shelves, frozen veggies and all kinds of other staples. The shelves are not bare, so I will not have to go out and spend my nearly $300 in savings to restock.

I do have lots of space in the freezer to stock up on good deals, and I have a list of things I still need to use up. I hope to try some new recipes to get rid of the last few odds and ends. Only now I'll be able to but a few ingredients to experiment with!

I learned two big things in doing this. One, I need to keep better track of what's in my freezer and on my shelves and challenge myself to use things up. Bargains are only bargains if they get eaten and don't languish in the bottom of the freezer until they are past the point of no return.

Two, I am a 64-color-crayon kind of gal. That is, I felt very limited by not being able to go out and buy a few ingredients here and there. An extra $20-$30 would have really freed me up to try some new recipes while still using up much of what I had on hand. I will probably do just that in the next few weeks to use up a few more things, which will still save us money on groceries, but will be a lot more fun.

Hope you enjoyed this little foray through my pantry!

© Trippin' Mama 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Secure Your Blog Photos: A How-To

I can't believe I'm writing a post about how to do anything on a blog since I have all the technical ability of a blind monkey. But, after my last post mentioning that I disabled the right-click function on my blog, some of you have asked how I did it.

For those of you who couldn't give a hoot about blogs, HTML code and all things technical, you can quit reading now. Come back tomorrow for more of my usual fare.

Now to the technical stuff. First of all, I didn't do this by myself. I had some code and instructions from the Internet, but no matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to work.

Enter Brad Murray, of Brad and his wife Jen have quadruplet boys. You can check them out at Just promise me you won't abandon my cuties for theirs! :-)

Anyway, Brad provided me with a little HTML code and the instructions on where to insert it in Blogger to disable the right-click function. I followed his directions and lookee there, it worked! Even I couldn't mess this up.

Here are the code and the instructions, courtesy of  Brad, who was kind enough to allow me to share them with you.

The instructions are for Blogger blogs only. The code would work on any blog, I'm sure, but the instructions might differ a little bit if you are using a different platform.

Go to the Layout tab on your blog. Click on "Add another gadget," then choose the HTML/Java Script gadget.

When the "Configure HTML/JavaScript" box opens, paste the code below in the content section. Don't title the gadget.

Then make sure to move the gadget to the very top of your blog so it will affect everything on the page. I couldn't get mine to move above the header, but I placed it right below, and it works on the whole page, including the header.

Here's the code, but listen carefully. Because I know NOTHING about code, I couldn't figure out how to get this to show up as text instead of functioning as code, so I removed two of these little dudes: <.

For this code to be complete and actually work, the first line needs to have a < at the very beginning, right before "script"). And the last line also needs to have a < at the very beginning, also right before "script." See, I told you I was illiterate when it came to this stuff.

Brad, if you're reading this and shaking your head, feel free to chime in with how I can fix this and make it easier for my readers. I may not be able to deal with this code stuff, but you need to fix a dangling participle, I'm your woman.


script language="JavaScript">
var message = "function disabled";
function rtclickcheck(keyp){ if (navigator.appName == "Netscape" && keyp.which == 3){ alert(message); return false; }
if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf("MSIE") != -1 && event.button == 2) { alert(message); return false; } }
document.onmousedown = rtclickcheck;

And there you have it. I hope it works for you, because if it doesn't all I can offer is my sympathy.
© Trippin' Mama 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Little Housekeeping

My astute readers may have noticed a few changes in ye olde blog the past few days.

First, there is now a good search tool at the top right of the page. I added that in response to my sister Mary's request that I index my recipes. Hmmm... not exactly sure how to do that, but adding a search was fast and easy. If you know the name of what you're looking for, type it in and you should find it. Otherwise, type in "recipe" (or any other search term) and you should get what you're looking for. I'll keep working on that index idea.

Second, all of my photos going forward will be marked with a copyright. I've heard horror stories from too many fellow bloggers about their photos being stolen, and one of the triplet moms I know has even been impersonated by someone, complete with stolen pics of her kids. So, from now on all my pictures will be marked. Unless of course, I forget, which brings me to my next housekeeping item.

Third, I have disabled the right-click function. That means that you can no longer right-click on photos and save them or print them. Sorry grandparents and doting aunties and uncles! If there's a photo you really want, shoot me an email and I will send it to you -- hard copy or electronic -- the choice is yours. It's the least I can do, since I unfortunately have to go all or nothing on protecting my copy and images.

Fourth, even though everyone should know that what I post here belongs to me, apparently it warrants repeating. So now every post will have an annoying little copyright statement at the bottom. It's not that I think all my material is stellar and worthy of copyright. It's just a reminder to the unscrupulous that it's mine, ALL MINE! (Sorry, I slipped into toddler mentality there. Occupational hazard.) Just try to think of the copyright statement as the after dinner mint that your host feels obligated to offer you, even though it will undoubtedly be stale and tasteless.

Fifth, all of the videos will now be hosted through YouTube. If you can't view them on my blog, click through to see if you can view them directly on YouTube.

Sixth...sixth...{crickets}...I got nothing. Nope, nothing. If there's something you would like to see here: functionality, more recipes, tips on triplets, products I love, a new header (Don't pressure me too much, I just changed it!), more stories from my illustious past (ha!), just let me know. I've got 337 posts to go this year, and I'd love to hear suggestions from you.

© Trippin' Mama 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Got A Kid Who Sleeps? You Owe Me.

So it's 9:30 p.m. and all the little people in my house STILL are not asleep. In fact, half are still awake

Yes, we're battling colds, but the battles with sleep around here seem to go on without end.

It is a rare night that we don't get up at least twice with the boys. Usually, it's the same boy.

Yes, the boys are almost 16 months old.

No, I don't want to hear about how your two-year-old has slept 11 hours a night since he was three weeks old. Or how you taught your babies to sleep using Ferber, Pantley, Sears or anyone else's methods. I have all the books. I've read all the books.

And you know what?

For some kids, it doesn't make any difference.

How do I know this?


I have my own little experiment going on right now. I have three boys who all have the same diet, sleeping conditions and routine.

Two of them sleep all night about 95 percent of the time.

One sleeps all night about once a month.

Amelia was not a sleeper. Alex is not a sleeper.

I am no longer a sleeper, and neither is Jeff. We haven't had a full night's sleep since 2006.

Both Amelia and Alex had reflux and other issues that led to their sleep troubles, but I also think part of it is personality. The reflux is long gone for both of them, and still neither one sleeps great.

Amelia finally learned to sleep all night about the time she turned three. Now if we could just help her learn how to fall asleep, we'd be in business. The girl will often lie in her bed for two hours or more before she falls asleep. She's tired. She'll even tell us that, but she can't fall asleep. I'm not sure which of us finds that more upsetting and frustrating.

And now we've entered the phase of fighting going to bed at all. UGH. I don't blame her. I wouldn't want to go lay there in the dark for two hours either.

We've tried it all for our kids. Earlier bedtime. Later bedtime. Calm routine to settle them. Major playtime to wear them out. Loveys and pacis. Noise machines. Lullabies. Night lights. Room darkening shades. Lying down with Amelia. Even flannel sheets to help keep them warm.
Two sleep no matter what. And two don't.

So if you're out there feeling incompetent as a parent because your baby or toddler doesn't sleep, join the club.

And for all those "helpful" souls who can't wait to tell us how your kids started sleeping through the night while they were still in utero, and how your great parenting helped them: Stuff it.

Not only do we not want to hear it, we are tired and we could snap at any minute. You are taking a serious risk waving your well-rested, superior attitude at me, no matter how much caffeine I've had.

Besides, you should be thanking me. Because the Law of Averages dictates that your 11-hour-straight-through-the-night sleeper be averaged out. And I and my 7-interrupted-hours-if-you're-lucky child are doing just that.

You are welcome.

Feel free to use your energy to send gifts.

© Trippin' Mama 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Boy Boxes?

Hey, guys! Those are the new toy boxes...

Isaac, Sam and Alex ~ January 2010

I honestly did not pose the boys for this picture. They have always liked to climb into our toy boxes and baskets, and these are a lot bigger than our old ones, so they are even more fun. Basically it's like having a cardboard box to play with, and what kid doesn't like a cardboard box?

I bought these canvas totes at Lowe's last week and I love, love, love them. Clearly the boys do, too!

The totes are sturdy with metal frames inside and best of all, the canvas is attached by heavy duty Velcro, which means you can disassemble them and throw the canvas in the washing machine. Gotta love that feature.

At $9 apiece, they weren't exactly cheap, but well worth the price. I've seen similar totes elsewhere for $20, so I was happy to snag them for less than half that. I bought four thinking that if they survive playroom duty, someday they will make great bins for catching backpacks and school papers for all four kids.

© Trippin' Mama 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Test Cookie

The other day the WBH came home and said, "I talked about your grandma at work today." The grandma to which he refers is my Grandma W., my mom's mom. She was a great woman, a marvelous baker, and she loved to feed people more than anything.

Grandma's been gone for almost a decade now, so I was curious how it was that she came up in conversation.

Jeff went on to explain that someone had implemented an entire project without testing. They discovered after the fact that there were problems with computer access that prevented the right people from getting to the data they needed.

He told his colleagues that they should have heeded the wisdom of my Grandma: "Always make a test cookie."

I had to chuckle.

You see, my Grandma W. was a fantastic baker, and she always, always, ALWAYS made a test cookie. She would put one cookie on a sheet and bake it to see if any adjustments needed to be made before she made the whole batch. Did she need more flour? More butter? A hotter or cooler oven? No doubt this little experiment was one of the keys to her success in the kitchen.

Grandma was one smart lady.

It turns out that the test cookie is a pretty good philosophy for life, too.

While you can't always make a test cookie, you probably should whenever you can. Because it helps guarantee great results in the end.

And if worse comes to worse, the test cookie will tell you when it's time to scrap the batch and start over.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

And Then There Was One

As I write this, Sam is still up. He's been a bit under the weather, so he's allowed.

We were up at 1:30 a.m. with both Sam and Isaac. It's unusual to get up with either of them, let alone both! Isaac had a dirty diaper and went right back to sleep as soon as he was changed.

But Sam, well, turns out Sam was the source of the smell in the nursery, not Isaac. He apparently threw up sometime after we put him to bed. His pajamas and blankets were prefectly clean, but that lion's mane of red hair was absolutely mattted down. ICK! I washed his hair twice and still didn't get all of the smell out, but apparently the smell didn't bother him since he slept in it for about five hours. Another couple scrubs today finally took care of it.

Luckily, thanks to the best piece of advice I received when I was expecting my first baby, Sam's crib was double sheeted. So we removed the top sheet and mattress pad and the bed was ready for him again.

You know, no one tells you when you decide to become parents that you're signing up for midnight vomiting sessions and blowout diapers.

Maybe that's for the best.

Because if anyone really knew all the gross things they were letting themselves in for, the future of the human race might be in serious jeopardy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cooker's Block

It's week three of the Eat from the Pantry Challenge, and it's a bit like getting to the halfway point in a marathon -- you can feel the burn, but the real challenge is mental.

It's been tough to be creative this week. A big reason I took on this challenge was simply to use up things that need to be used up, like a Chicken Helper that I bought, God only knows why. I assume it was practically free. If not, it was a lapse in judgment for sure. Then there's the cod and the venison.

It's good to get these things used up and out of my freezer and cupboards before they go bad (though I'm certain that "Helpers" never go bad) and have to be thrown away. But it would be a whole lot easier to be creative if I hadn't limited myself and was buying ingredients, like sour cream and mushrooms. Sour cream and mushrooms can do a lot of good in this world.

Since we started the challenge, we have not eaten out, but this week it was time. I was out of ideas and pizza sounded like the perfect solution. So we ordered pizza for Friday night's supper. Then today when we took the kids to the local Y to burn off some energy, they had coupons from the local Chipotle for a free burrito. Score!

So here's this week's supper menu:
Sunday: Chicken corn chowder
Monday: Chicken pot pie
Tuesday: Salisbury steak (combo of venison and hamburger, not bad!), potatoes, carrots and peas
Wednesday: Pork stir fry (using the Chicken Helper box mix)
Thursday: Baked cod with green beans
Friday: Pizza (carry-out)
Saturday: Chipotle burritos (free!)

We ate leftovers for lunch and our usual cereal and toast for breakfast.

Total groceries purchased: $53.18

Just like last week, I did buy produce, some staples and a few things to round out meals. I bought four gallons of milk, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, hot dogs, two loaves of bread (Yes, I bought instead of baked.), three dozen eggs, bananas, blueberries, sweet potatoes, pears, mandarin oranges, cinnamon graham crackers, and chicken bouillon.

That brings our total grocery spending for the month to $70.61. Not bad at all!

We are not done buying groceries for the month, since I've got only half a gallon of milk left in the refrigerator, which won't get us through tomorrow.

If I buy a cow it won't count as groceries, right?

Friday, January 22, 2010

For Those Keeping Score...

Just thought I'd share that my 10 minutes of silence are now over. Even though I still have 3 minutes, 17 seconds to go...


Silence, Golden Silence

There's a reason they say silence is golden. It's because anything that rare is worth a lot. Almost $1100 an ounce today, according to the trusty Internet. Though I don't know how to convert ounces to minutes. It probably requires some complex calculation involving the space-time continuum.

Or something like that.

Can you tell it's been a LOUD day and my brain is a-jumble over here?

How about yours?

It wasn't that the kids fought a lot today, or even cried that much. They were just loud. And constant. Amelia could have worn down the Energizer Bunny with her questions today. And the boys are moving to one nap, which is still a little tough for them. That meant some crabbiness this morning.

Yesterday was one great big toy fight after another. I would have paid a lot for a room that would automatically divide into three, sealing each of the triplets in their own space with their own toys. The divider must be opaque, though, because if they can see each other they will, of course, want someone else's toy.

So now I have escaped for a few minutes. Amelia is in the tub, probably relentlessly grilling her daddy about the physical properties of soap bubbles or why water is liquid or some other line of questioning that is nearly impossible to answer. The boys are all in bed, and hopefully falling asleep. I don't know.

Because when I say I have escaped, I mean I took my laptop and ran for the basement playroom as soon as the boys hit their cribs. Can I get an "Amen!" for wireless? All I can hear down here is the furnace blower. And possibly screaming, if anyone were screaming. Which it appears they are not. At least not right now anyway.

I don't know how much 10 minutes of this golden silence is going to cost me, but today it's worth every penny. Trust me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guaranteed Chill Chaser: Wild Rice Soup

Our weather here is cold, wet and generally miserable this week, so here's a recipe to warm you up. This wild rice soup is nice and creamy, not too thick.

I often make this with no meat, but it is good with a little turkey or chicken thrown in, too. In a pinch, or if you want to be a little more health conscious, you can substitute milk for the half and half. But trust me, the half and half is totally worth the extra time on the treadmill.

Wild Rice Soup

1/3 C. uncooked wild rice
4 C. chicken broth
1/3 C. butter
1/2 C. chopped celery
1/4 C. chopped onion
2 carrots, shredded
1 tsp. minced garlic
2-3 potatoes, sliced thin

Chopped, cooked turkey or chicken, if desired
Flour to thicken

1/4 tsp. pepper
1 C. half and half
Salt to taste

Rinse rice and drain. Combine rice and chicken broth. Cover and cook until tender, approximately 45 minutes.

In a separate pan melt butter. Add carrots, celery onion, and garlic. Cook about 10 minutes, then add potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in flour (2-3 tablespoons).

When rice is tender, stir veggies and pepper into rice and broth. Add chicken or turkey if desired. Cook 5-10 minutes longer.

Add the half and half, heat and serve. Salt to taste.

This is sure to chase away the winter chill. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Keeping Those New Year's Resolutions

Did you notice the new photo in my header? One of my New Year's goals was to give you a new picture to look at, and there it is.

But can I just say, whew!

I hope that gets easier with practice. Perhaps if I'd do it more often I wouldn't have to reteach myself every time...

The photo is from the boys' first birthday photo session. We were lucky enough to get a nice fall day to play in the park with our super photographers. It's hard to believe that was almost four months ago!

I showcased a bunch of our photos from that day in my New Year's Eve post, and here are a few more of my faves just for fun.

I'd write more, but blogging time is limited and design time (and I use that term very loosely) cuts into my time to write. But there's always tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hoops, Baby!

It's a little early for March Madness, but we got a basketball hoop for the boys and Amelia for Christmas. Check out their moves on the court (formerly known as my family room):

I love that Isaac is shooting with two balls at once, and that Alex gets so excited every time he makes a basket. (And I do mean every time.)

Of course, sometimes we still get confused about how to use the basket...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mind Over Body

So I finally took the plunge and went back to an organized exercise class. I haven't been in a class for almost two years. Two years during which my abs did this:

Here we are at 36 weeks, just 3 days before delivery.

During my break from organized exercise, I birthed three babies, nursed them for six months, and got up repeatedly night after night. Doesn't sound like much of a break, does it?

Anyway, I'm taking a Pilates class at the local Y. The Y that Jeff and I have been members of for almost three years. The past two weeks mark the first times EVER that I have actually exercised there.

Our membership was free through Jeff's job, part of their wellness plan. I guess my lack of participation points of a major flaw in the wellness plan, doesn't it? But considering I was either pregnant with triplets or getting them through their first year of life for the majority of that three years we've been members, I think I have an excuse or three.

Instead, we've taken advantage of the Y's programs for Amelia, especially swimming lessons and ballet. But now it's time for me to get it in gear.

I did Pilates for years before having kids, and after Amelia came along. I'm glad to be back at it. But most of all I enjoy having a regularly scheduled hour all to myself out of the house.

Even if it does leave me with aching muscles the next day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Alex and the Silverware

We've been giving Sam, Isaac and Alex a spatula to chew on from time to time -- a favorite for teething boys. And we've only recently started giving the boys silverware to try out. Clearly, Alex has been learning by watching.

Apparently, we've been holding Alex back by not giving him silverware!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Cupboard's Not Bare Yet

We just finished week two of the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. It hasn't been too tough yet, which probably means I keep way too much on hand.

I was able to use up a tuna noodle "helper" that I don't even know why I bought. I suppose because it would be fast and easy. But they aren't that tasty, so I turned it into a tuna noodle casserole that was MUCH better than the original "helper" meal. All of the meat and the homemade tomato soup in my menu (below) came from my freezer.

In addition to the tuna casserole, this week's experiments included making cauliflower cheese soup from a frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce mix and making my own flour tortillas. The soup turned out pretty well, and the tortillas were perfect.

By perfect I mean they were edible, but not so good that I feel compelled to make my own instead of buying them from the store, which is ever so much easier! Oh, and they were all oddly-shaped. The only way I could have made them round was to cut them. But this was more fun, like a Rorschach test on your plate!

Hmmm...they never look this way at the restaurant.

Really, the tortillas were a lot of work. There's a reason Mexican restaurants have those little machines that flatten the tortillas for them. But we had an avocado that I needed to use up and it was really only good for guacamole. With no chips or tortillas on hand, I didn't know what to do for a meal. But I had flour, shortening, baking powder and salt, so I thought I'd try making tortillas. Everyone needs a new challenge once in a while, right?

The tortillas were much better turned into oven baked chips, this week's Pantry Recipe of the Week. I will definitely make these again, but probably from store-bought tortillas. They were tasty, and I like that they have less fat and I can control the salt content or add any other seasonings I want. (Cinnamon and sugar chips, anyone? Yum!) Unlike the tortillas, the chips were fast and easy to make.

Homemade Baked Tortilla Chips (Adapted from

Flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and/or wheat tortillas
Olive oil or cooking spray
Seasoning of your choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay the tortillas out on a cutting board and brush both sides with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice. (Salt, pepper, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar, etc...) Stack the tortillas in piles of eight. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut through the pile of tortillas, cutting into 4 equal triangles.

Arrange tortilla triangles in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake for approximately 6 to 7 minutes until crisp, and the edges start to curl and turn lightly brown. Watch the chips carefully after 5 minutes, as they can burn easily. Once the chips are done, remove from the oven to cool. Chips will continue to crisp as they cool.

Here's our supper menu from the rest of the week. Again, we mostly ate leftovers for lunches, except for a couple days when Jeff took sandwiches for lunch instead.

Sunday - Chili with venison, veggies and dip
Monday - Tuna noodle casserole
Tuesday - Tomato soup with grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches
Wednesday - Baked potatoes, cauliflower cheese soup, salmon patties
Thursday - Fish sticks, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables
Friday - Chicken tacos, guacamole, homemade flour tortillas
Saturday - Perkinsville pork with pasta and red sauce, garlic bread, green beans

Total groceries purchased: $17.43

I did have to buy groceries this week just to keep the kids in milk and get some fruit and vegetables. I bought milk, bananas, oranges, canned peaches, avocados, sweet potatoes, and one loaf of bread. The milk at $2 a gallon for 4 gallons was almost 50% of my bill. Still, since my total last week was $0, we're well on our way to meeting our savings goal for the month.

Next week watch for more venison and cod to appear on our menu somewhere, though I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to use them. We also will have the answer to the great "bake or buy" debate over bread. I know how to bake bread. (Thank you 4-H.) I have the ingredients to bake bread. But do I have the time or energy? Stay tuned...

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Reluctant SAHM

Today I've got a guest post up at Multiples and More about how I reluctantly became a SAHM after our decision to have one more baby gave us three instead!

If you're dropping in from Multiples and More, welcome. Feel free to look around. You'll find everything from the funny things my preschooler says and does to pictures of the dust bunnies in my house. From my latest rant to a favorite recipe or two. If you are in need of a good laugh, check out the triplets playing with their Tupperware lids.

Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Latest Complaint

My latest complaint...inspired by Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop.

Last weekend Jeff and I went to the holiday party for the local parents of triplets and more group. We had a blast. Of course we did. There were 30 couples there free from the daily rigors of caring for many small children, the alcohol table was well stocked and the food was fantastic! It was great to reconnect with old friends and make new friends and just not be responsible for anyone but ourselves for a few hours.
While we were talking one of the dads mentioned that one of the comments he gets about his triplets that annoys him the most is: "I know exactly what you are dealing with. My sister-in-law (cousin, friend's brother, etc...) has twins."

I have to agree. That's pretty annoying.

Because really. Knowing someone who has twins qualifies you as an expert on the day-to-day caring for higher order multiples?
Oh no, my friend. It's not that easy.
First of all, the multiples you are discussing so expertly are not even yours. Truth be told, if they were you would probably be the first one saying, "I have no idea how you manage three (or four or one more than the number of multiples you have)." We are forever wondering how in the world we would manage four instead of three.
Secondly, until you have kicked a small child away from danger because your arms were already full of kids, you have no idea what it's like dealing with higher order multiples. And until the logistics of safely bathing your children or getting them out of the van and across the parking lot sans stroller begin to resemble a complex math problem, you might want to hold off on sharing your expertise.
I often find myself in situations where I can honestly say that having triplets plus one probably isn't very different than having four kids all different ages.
And then there's the other 95 percent of the time.
For example, getting ready to go outside in the winter. Amelia, who is 3 1/2, can use the potty and put on her snow pants, coat, and boots with minimal help and a little verbal encouragement. The triplets on the other hand, must be fully dressed by mom or dad. It's a major workout. Three sets of snow pants, three sets of boots and three coats. I sweated off three pounds the other day.
(And who on earth bought coats with two layers to zip up? Oh, wait, that was me. Well, I won't make that mistake again, trust me!)

Or how about the bathing? We used to whip all three babies through kitchen sink baths in less than 15 minutes total. Until they started to protest because they wanted to play in the water. So we moved to bathing all three in the tub together. Easy with two parents: one to tend the tub and one to bring babies in and take them out. But just one parent? That's a little trickier.

Amelia's old enough to be in the tub by herself for a minute or two as long as I am within earshot, but not the three little ones. You can't carry all three, and you can't put one or two in the tub or even in the bathroom and then go get the third. Once you get them all in there, you have the same problem getting them out. Now that the boys can walk, one parent can sort of herd them to and from the bathroom, though we almost always have an escapee. And we are virtually guaranteed someone will pee on the carpet before everyone gets diapered.

Sometimes my head hurts from trying to figure out how we're going to deal with the logistics of three babies, let alone three plus a preschooler.

Until your babies outnumber your arms, you will never know "exactly what we are dealing with," so please, keep your opinions to yourself.

Or, if you'd rather, come on over. I'll be happy to treat you to the full experience.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Uncle Paul and Aunt Staci's New Baby

Amelia got a dollhouse for Christmas.

It's proven to be a pretty good present. She plays with it quite a bit, and recently moved a herd of My Little Ponies into it. (And I think I've got problems keeping MY floors clean?!)

It came with this cute little doll family.

One of the first times we played with it she picked up the daddy doll and said, "Can this be Uncle Paul?"

Uncle Paul is my brother. Amelia's only met him once that she would remember--just this past summer. So it was a little random, but whatever.

"Sure that can be Uncle Paul."

Amelia held up the mommy doll. "And this is Aunt...Aunt...what's her name?"

"Aunt Staci," I supplied.

"And the boy is Max and the girl is Lainey," said Amelia.

Then she picked up the baby. "What's their baby's name?"

"Uncle Paul and Aunt Staci don't have a baby. They just have Max and Lainey," I explained.

"Oh. Well we don't need this baby then," Amelia said as she chucked the baby over her shoulder and across the room.
I retrieved the baby and we talked about pretending. Finally, Amelia decided that since this is "just pretend" it was OK for Uncle Paul and Aunt Staci to have a baby.

So after some debate we named the baby Timothy. ("What kind of name is Timothy?" Amelia asked before she agreed.)

Good grief, girl! There's literal and then there's literal.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Little Better Off

Today one of the babies woke early from naptime with a wail. From the ocean of drool that we're wading through the past few days, I figured it was probably a tooth. The intense gnawing on the pacifier confirmed my suspicion.

So, I dosed him with a little Tylenol and settled in to hold him for a bit. I didn't expect him to fall back to sleep, but he curled up warm and cozy on my lap and drifted off.

My chores were calling. The playroom was a disaster area. The kitchen floor still needed to be swept up from lunch a couple hours earlier. The dishwasher needed to be unloaded.

But I recently wrote about my struggle to find balance, so I pushed all that out of my mind and held my baby. I marveled at his long lashes. I listened to his soft breathing. I snuggled him up tight against me.

My house is worse for the time I spent with my baby.

But my heart is better for it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spring in the Midst of Winter

Here we are in the deep freeze of winter, and suddenly the garden catalogs start popping up like dandelions in springtime.

I love garden catalogs. I love that I have seven of them in my mail basket and we currently have 6 inches of snow outside.

It's a welcome sign that winter won't last forever at a time when we're shoveling snow and the only thing growing around here are these:

Yes, that's a dust bunny. A LARGE dust bunny. Sometimes I like to hum a few bars from The Magnificent Seven as they roll across my hardwood floors. Whatever. A little dust never hurt anyone, and besides, the kids find them entertaining.

But I digress. Back to the garden.

I'm hoping to do better on the gardening front this year than last year.

Last year I had pathetic tomatoes. Pathetic as in I got fewer than a dozen tomatoes from four plants. Shoot, my sister did better with a pot on her apartment balcony!

Notice the lack of fruit. One of my "tomato" plants. I'd post a photo of my sister's plant, but it puts mine so to shame that it's embarassing!

I had abject failure in the form of a blueberry "bush."

Seriously, who sells this thing as a blueberry "bush"?

The pumpkins sucuumbed to fungus. (Though to be fair, I realized what was happening and never treated them.)

And the deer ate most of the peas, cucumbers and squash.

On the plus side, I did have a nice crop of green beans, carrots and lettuce. I got a few potatoes, and Amelia's watermelon grew big enough to have a taste of the fruit.

Look, Mom, it's even edible!

Now that I've had several months to forget (mostly) the failures, the excessive amount of green beans we ate, and the constant need to weed, I'm excited to try again. So I'm busy poring over the garden catalogs debating which peas are the best and whether to try another blueberry bush. (You can bet that this time I'll be making sure to find out exactly what they mean when they say "bush.")

I have a plan to ward off the deer, though Amelia insists that we need to share with them. Nice sentiment, but I'm not putting work into a garden to "share" with the animals. I'll spare you the details of the plan. Suffice it to say that in another year my three boys will love to help "protect" the garden from the deer. (Hey, the guy who has the nicest garden in the neighborhood swears by it.)

I will move my tomatoes back out to the garden plot, since they clearly didn't get enough sun up by the house. And I will plant my seed potatoes BEFORE they start to rot. I may even sprout a watermelon seed or two in the house so they can get a little head start.

Ah, yes, spring is right around the corner. Can't you just smell it?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Momchanical Engineering

One of the things I was not prepared for when I became a mom was the engineering demands. The topic of assembling hundreds of pieces of equipment and toys in the first few years of your child's life never comes up in "What to Expect When You Are Expecting."

I just want to say it here: I am NOT an engineer.

I have a journalism degree. I am a word nerd of the highest order. Which means I can copy edit the heck out of the multitude of assembly instructions that come with baby gear (and now toys). But actual assembly? That's a little hit and miss.

I think hospitals should offer classes in baby gear assembly and daily handling along with courses on birthing, breastfeeding and baby care. Next to the mountain of intricate gear you must handle, bathing your slippery newborn or coaxing him or her to nurse seem like simple tasks.

The challenge starts early, when you have to assemble the crib. No pressure there, right? It's only the place where your precious little bundle will be spending many an hour, hopefully sleeping in safety.

Next comes the mobile for the crib, a darling little piece of torture that will likely lead you to say a string of words unfit for newborn ears, or adult ears, for that matter. Then there's the bouncy seat, the infant swing, the breast pump... But at least you get to handle all that in the privacy of your own home.

Then you find yourself at the hospital, needing to rethread the straps on the infant car seat so your wee one will fit for the ride home. I'm pretty sure this would make a great test for new parents. If you can't get it done with a minimum of cursing, you can't take your baby home with you. Sorry!

Next thing you know you are knee-deep in daily engineering feats: folding and unfolding strollers, getting the straps on the Baby Bjorn right so Junior doesn't hit the floor, fastening and unfastening safety locks. And your child's safety and well-being depends on your competence. At a time in your life when you are more tired than you have ever been.

And just when you feel like you've conquered all those momchanical engineering problems from highchair buckles to safety locks, along comes a new problem. Your kids have figured out them out, too.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pantry Recipe of the Week

We are completing Week One of the Eat from the Pantry Challenge. So far, so good. I'm trying to avoid having to do all my experimenting at the end of the month, so I tried a new recipe this week. It was a turkey casserole that used up a stuffing mix I had on hand, and it was pretty tasty.

But it's not the Pantry Recipe of the Week.

I've got one that's even better.

See, the challenge this week was that I have to provide an appetizer for a holiday party we're attending tonight. Fortunately, I still have a few special ingredients on hand because of the holidays, including a can of artichoke hearts. So it was off to to see if I could eke out a spinach artichoke dip, since I have some frozen spinach too. lets you pick what ingredients you have on hand and turns up recipes for you. I like it better than or any other recipe search I've tried. It pulls in recipes from everywhere, and you can "store" your pantry contents there, so you don't always have to re-enter staple ingredients like butter, flour and milk.

My search turned up several different versions of spinach artichoke dip. I'm not a mayonnaise fan, but I was a little short on the alternative ingredient of cream cheese or sour cream, so I had to do a little substituting. And I substituted my way to a winner. I will never order spinach artichoke dip at a restaurant again. You might not either!

Here's the recipe:

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip
• 1 (8 ounce) package light cream cheese, softened
• 1 (5.2 ounce) Boursin garlic and herb cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup light sour cream
• 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained, chopped
• 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, drained and thawed
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Beat cream cheese, Boursin and sour cream with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add remaining ingredients, mix well.

Spoon into 9-inch pie or quiche dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20- 25 minutes or until very lightly browned. Serve with pita chips, tortilla chips or veggies.

The Boursin garlic and herb cheese makes this a real knockout. Unless you don't like garlic. And then I'm not sure we can be friends.
OK, we can still be friends, but warn me about your aversion to garlic before you come to dinner, would you?

Here's our supper menu from the rest of the week. We ate leftovers for lunches.
Sunday - Chicago style spinach pizza
Monday - Turkey pot pie (filling from the freezer), lettuce salad
Tuesday - Roast turkey breast (from freezer), mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans
Wednesday - Leftover turkey and pot pie
Thursday - Corn and Turkey Casserole (leftover turkey, stuffing mix and creamed corn from pantry)
Friday - Wild Rice Soup (leftover turkey, wild rice from pantry)
Saturday - Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip and pita chips to take to the holiday party

Total groceries purchased: $0

You can see that our meals certainly are not suffering during this challenge. At least not yet!

I will have to head to the store next week since we've been out of bananas for 4 days now and I'm nearing the end of my available fruit and milk. Challenge or not, I still have to feeding growing little bodies well-rounded meals!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Finding Balance

My job as a stay-at-home mom is to take care of the kids and run the house. Who knew these two things could be so incompatible at times? And not just because the kids make messes faster than I can clean them up.

Here's the real dilemma: Do I play Ring Around the Rosie with my one year olds or tackle the bathtub rings? Do I join my daughter in rearranging her dollhouse, or do I clean my own house? Hopscotch or hot meals? Coloring or clean clothes? Dolls or dishes?

I thought I left the whole work-life balance issues behind when I left my career. Turns out I have the same struggles, but at least now I get to contend with these challenges while wearing comfortable shoes and my favorite pair of jeans.

Now clearly, some things have to be done. Kids must be diapered and fed. Dishes and highchair trays have to get cleaned. Food has to be swept up from the least once a day anyway. Necessary, but not nearly as much fun as giggling with the kids or as rewarding as teaching my boys where their noses are.

I try to do what chores I can during nap time, but there's no way I can get everything taken care of in a couple hours a day. The trick, as always, is deciding what HAS to be done and what can wait or get skipped now and then.

Just like magazine models give us an unrealistic expectation of what a woman should look like, home and family magazines do the same. Is it realistic to expect a perfectly clean, organized home, made-from-scratch meals and cute treats to boot when I've got four kids age 3 and under? No more realistic than being a six-foot tall size 0 with a flawless complexion.

Yes, I know that a clean home and good meals are part of raising my children in a good environment. But what kid wouldn't trade a kitchen floor that's mopped daily for 20 minutes of playtime with mom? Or a lunch plate that looks like a clown face for parental face time?

It's all about balance.

I try to keep that in mind as I look around my house. True, we're not making it into House Beautiful, or even Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon. Not with that pile of laundry to be folded, today's mail (and yesterday's too) lying on the kitchen table, and more than one toy not put away in its proper place.

I figure we're doing OK as long as we aren't in danger of being on one of those HGTV messy house shows.

And I’d say we’re a couple thousand rounds of Ring Around the Rosie away from that happening.

P.S.: After I first posted this a friend of mine sent me a comment by email. She said her mom had a sign in her house that said, "My home: Clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy." My new mantra!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Time to Play with Snow

Today we got 6 inches of snow. I know it's not much to my friends and family who live in the Frozen North, but it's a pretty decent amount here. (Yes, I know I live in the South.)

It's beautiful stuff, all white and fluffy.

Unfortunately, it was too cold out and too late by the time it quit snowing to take the kids out to play. So I brought the snow in to them instead.

Everyone got a little more interested in the snow when I started to make it into snowballs.

Alex gives it another shot.

Sam takes a taste.

Isaac analyzes the snow.

I don't know what they'll think when we get them out in it this weekend, but I can't wait to find out. In the meantime, Alex thought this was a great way to enjoy the snow!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Are You Up for a Challenge?

Some of my fellow mom bloggers (Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom) have issued a challenge for the New Year.

The Eat from the Pantry Challenge encourages us to use up what we have before hitting the store. What I like most about it is that Crystal and Jessica haven't laid out hard and fast rules. It's up to each person to decide how to make this challenge work best for them.

Are you in?

I am!

Now there's no way we can go a whole month without going to the grocery store. The number one reason for that? MILK. Gallons and gallons of it. And bananas.

Milk and bananas are to the boys what oxygen is to the rest of us. Critical fuel. The disappearance of the last banana can cause a disturbance of epic proportions around here.

But, I have lots of things in my cupboards and freezer, so this will be a great way to clean things out.

My plan is to make as many meals as I can from what I have on hand, and to go to the store only for essentials (read: milk and bananas), some fresh produce so we can have well-rounded meals, and the occasional ingredient to complete a dish.

I'm hoping to save at least $200 on groceries this month.

Why $200? Because that's what we are trying to put away every month for college funds: $50 per child. Doesn't seem like much, does it? But at 6 percent interest, in 18 years that $50 per month will become $20,000. And that's a pretty good start on the average four-year $60,000 tab. (Reader's Digest, Dec. 2009)

So anything extra we save by doing this challenge we will put toward the kids' college funds. That is in addition to our planned goal of $200 a month.

Step one is to take stock of what I have. Well, actually step one is to carefully open the pantry and hope nothing falls out:

It hasn't always looked this bad. I blame babyproofing. I have fewer and fewer things on the bottom shelves so the boys can't get into them when I let them roam the kitchen. That shelf third from the bottom is in reach now, so I have to take all those things out and put them up on the counter every time I turn the boys loose.

Another reason to use things up! Less work for me.
Like most challenges, this one will start out pretty easy, but by the end of the month it will definitely be harder. I'll keep you updated on our progress and share some recipes along the way, too.
If you want to join the fun, you can go here to link up your blog and see what others are doing. So far almost 700 people have joined the challenge either via their blogs or through comments and as Facebook fans.
How about you?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jumping Jacks

Recently the boys have learned how to jump. Well, more or less. They often "jump" with just their upper bodies, never leaving the ground, though all of them have caught air a time or two.

Alex is probably the best jumper right now. But he usually lands on his seat instead of his feet!

Of course Amelia is eager to help her brothers master this new skill.

Not bad for beginners!

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Bedtime Blues

I hate a bad bedtime.

You know the kind. Where there's lots of whining, negotiating, dragging of feet (the three year old) and crying and screaming (the 15 month olds, and sometimes the three year old, too!).

I have to work very hard not to let it ruin my whole day.

But it is so frustrating to me that four children who go down like champs for the naps can fight bedtime so hard.

Fortunately this is not an every day occurrence, but tonight was one of those nights.

It's not too bad when one child has trouble going down, but when two or more have trouble, it's a real struggle for all of us.

And when everyone is FINALLY in bed and quiet, there are still dishes to be done, laundry to fold, and picking up to do--the things that usually get done in the extra hour plus we spent getting kids to sleep tonight. And I just don't want to face it.

By 8:30 p.m. I am ready to be done for the day. After 14-hour days, plus getting up some at night, I am ready for the chores to be done and to have some time to catch up with my husband or do something for myself for a change.

Three babies plus a preschooler all day is physically and mentally demanding and by 8:30 my patience is limited and I'm reaching the end of my physical capacity, too.

Seems I need to learn how to do a quick recharge for nights like tonight. And I need to not let it ruin what was a pretty good day. The boys were lots of laughs, and Amelia and I got to bake together. As I just pointed out, it was a 14-hour day, so I guess letting the last hour and a half cancel out all the good is really silly.

Just gotta shake off these bedtime blues!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

There's No Place Like It

Dorothy had it right.

It may be loud...

It may be crazy...

But it's home.

And there's no place like it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Just Relax

Sometimes you just need to relax...

Hang out...

And have some fun...

Which is exactly what the WBH and I are doing this weekend.

All by ourselves.

Yep. We have been sans kiddos for more than 24 hours now.

And at last report, the house was still standing and so were Jamie and Sarah, who gave us this time off as a Christmas gift.

Talk about a gift worth more than gold!

We miss the kiddos, but we have enjoyed having some time to ourselves to reconnect, have entire conversations without interruption, and eat hot meals. It's the first time since the boys were born that we've had more than a couple hours for just the two of us. That is without chores to do, bills to pay, or errant children to tuck back into bed. It's been nice.

Vacations are always nice.

And homecomings are even nicer.