Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some fun rules at my house

Parenthood has forced me to be more creative than I thought possible.  Here are some of the rules that have become necessary at my house (in no particular order):

1.  If you wake the baby, you get to take care of him/her until the time that he/she should have woken up on their own.

2.  If you come out of your room after we have read stories, brushed teeth, and said goodnight, you are volunteering to do an extra chore, and who am *I* to stand in the way of a helpful child?  (I try to make it something that a person hates wouldn't ordinarily choose to do, for example:  cleaning the garbage can, cleaning the kitchen sink, scrubbing the kitchen floor with a cleaning cloth, scooping the litter box, etc...)

3.  If you leave marks* on somebody by inappropriately using your body**, you get to do the injured person's chores until the marks go away.

*Marks include, but are not limited to:  bruises, split lips, scratches or cuts, broken bones.
**Inappropriately using your body includes, but is not limited to:  hitting, pushing, tripping, or tackling someone, throwing things at to someone, throwing something that "accidentally" hits someone, touching someone when you are angry with them, "accidentally" hitting someone harder than you intended to with a pillow or other object, or not being gentle with someone smaller than you.

4.  If you are saying nasty, mean things can't speak to someone kindly behind closed doors, I will have your father take your door off of the hinges and put it in the garage.

5.  If you will not stop jumping on your bed or taking the mattress off of your bed frame, I will have your father take your bed apart and you will sleep on the floor.

6.  If you jump out and yell "BOO!" to scare your sister, she has permission to hit you as hard as she can, and if you hit her back you will move to the bottom of the behavior chart AND you will do her chores for a week.  (Normally, I do not condone violence, but delicate Marie is completely outnumbered by strapping, bruiser brothers who think--or used to think, before this rule--that it is funny to jump out and scare her when she is going somewhere in the house.  Strangely enough, after the brothers watched me giving Marie punching lessons, they stopped trying to scare her.)

7.  If you break something while disobeying rules (most often:  throwing or launching things), you must pay to replace it.

8.  If Mom is wearing earmuffs, it is because you people can't stop arguing, talking, screaming, singing, or making some irritating noise for ONE MINUTE she is grumpy, and you would be wise not to speak to her until the earmuffs come off. 

9.  At night before they go to bed, I remind the children to pick up everything they want to keep from the main living area of the house.  After they go to bed, I walk around with my laundry basket and pick up the things I find.  Some things I throw away (papers, magazines, toys I'm tired of picking up, craft projects), and some things go in my basket (shoes, socks, books, piggy banks, favorite toys, or toys *I* like).  I used to put all of these things in my closet and tell the children that they had a week or so to earn them back before I donated everything to Goodwill, but then my closet would get full with their things, and they would forget to earn them back.  Now, they must either earn back their belongings (by doing regular chores, extra chores, or schoolwork), or tell me to donate them, in the morning, after breakfast, before they can do anything else (read, play, go outside).  They are required to earn back clothes, shoes, and books, but they can choose to donate anything else.

That's all I can think of at the moment...I'll post again if I think of more.  Do you have any interesting, effective rules at your house?  I'm always looking for good ideas to keep people on their toes =)!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberries with Chocolate...or should it be Chocolate with Strawberries?

Today was another one of THOSE days seemed like a good day for some chocolate!  I try to be polite healthy, so instead of eating it out of the pan with my fingers I thought I would combine my chocolate with some fresh strawberries.

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 Cup of butter, 2 Tablespoons (or more, depending on how bad of a day it was...I used 1/3 of a Cup tonight) of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/4 Cup of milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, or, you know, frequently.  Turn off heat and add 3 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar (whisk this in slowly if you don't want it to be lumpy, but dump it in and stir quickly if you are trying to SAVE LIVES!) and 1 Teaspoon Vanilla.  Mix well.
This is what it looks like when it's done if you opted for the "In the interest of saving the lives of those around me, I am dumping the powdered sugar in and mixing as fast as I can" method.  Lumpy, but STILL CHOCOLATE!
Then, to give anyone who may be interested a CLEAR idea of what to expect, take pictures to illustrate the finished project further.  The pictures must be EXCELLENT, so take LOTS of them, JUST TO BE SURE you are correctly representing the deliciousness.

Oops!  There's a lump of powdered sugar on that one...better lick it off and try again....
Hmmm, that kind of looks like I'm flipping someone off....better lick it off and try again....
Well, that one looks OK, but maybe I should demonstrate the polite way of getting the chocolate in your mouth proper way of dipping a strawberry in the chocolate, JUST IN CASE there is somebody out there who doesn't know how!  (This is all about HELPING OTHERS, so sacrifices must be made!)  Better lick it off and try again.....
Hmmm, not quite sure if that strawberry is in focus....better take a bite before the chocolate drips off and makes a mess and try again....
Well, hopefully this is good enough because I think I'm about to go into a sugar coma.  (HOWEVER!  The people around me don't seem as loud obnoxious rambunctious irritating bothersome as they were a few minutes ago!)  As you were.
*Note:  this makes a lot of chocolate, but you can keep what you can't eat because you're in a sugar coma what's left in the refrigerator.  To make it dipping consistency again, microwave it for 15-30 seconds and stir.  Keep microwaving and stirring until it is the consistency you want. 
*CAUTION:  For SAFETY PURPOSES, make sure your chocolate does not have an extended stay in your refrigerator.  We wouldn't want you to get sick from chocolate that has gone bad--better safe than sorry ;-)!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

PSA: Notebooks and More on Color Coding

*Edited at the bottom

We move a lot/see a variety of doctors, and I quickly became tired of one doctor asking me about one of the children's medical histories and me not remembering those details and the doctor not finding the information in the child's chart.  So!  I bought little spiral bound notebooks in family colors for taking to doctor's appointments.  (Actually, I originally had files on my PDA where I kept this information, but then the PDA died and I didn't want to replace it, so I bought notebooks, wrote down everything I had in the PDA, and figured that this way I could give the information to the child when they grew up and moved away.)

Mine is the sparkly heart notebook.  WHAT?!  They, uh, didn't have my family color.  (Also, disregard the dirty table;  the table-cleaning child isn't up yet...)

Every time someone has a doctor's appointment, I try to remember to bring their little notebook.  I write down:
*the date--helpful for looking up information from that appointment weeks, months, years later
*the doctor's name (if it is a specialist or someone different than the regular doctor),
*the height and weight measurements the nurse takes at the beginning--this has been helpful for figuring out the correct dose of over-the-counter medications at a later date when I don't remember how much someone currently weighs
*(during the appointment) the doctor's diagnosis and any medicine prescribed--this is helpful when you see a different doctor and they ask what medicines your child has been on already for long-term issues, or if you end up taking your child to Urgent Care for an ear infection or something that doesn't go away, and then you  see your regular doctor for the next visit.

I TRY (and often forget) to also write in their notebook when someone starts throwing up or having a cough or fever at home because the doctor always asks how long the symptoms have been going on, and these things tend to be a blur after days of dealing with cleaning up after a sick child, sick child being VERY GRUMPY, sick child waking up during the night....and I write down any incident that I think could lead to a future doctor's visit:  newly walking baby falling on his head multiple times in a day, any time someone falls/crashes into a wall/fights wrestles with a sibling and I wonder if it might lead to x-rays at some point, baby eating peanuts left out by siblings (possible allergic reaction), or anything I think is unusual (see below:  drooping eyelid and walking on toes).

For writing down appointments made at the doctor's/orthodontist's office in my portable calendar (planner?) I found one of those pens that has lots of colors.  This becomes tricky if you have a large family because most of the pens I found had only 4 colors.  I kept googling and eventually found one that had 10 colors on it!  (Similar to this one.)  It's not the best pen I've ever used, and some of the colors are light/not quite the right shade, but it works for keeping track of appointments made on the go (since I didn't want to keep 7 markers in my purse....although, my purse is already huge, so it probably wouldn't be too hard to keep the markers in my purse if I left them in their box...)!

Last night, as I was trying unsuccessfully to get to sleep, I remembered more things that I have bought in our family colors:
*Razor scooters conveniently came in our family colors!
*Those big (basketball size), rubber balls the younger kids like to play with.
*Bottles of bubbles--no fighting over who the bubbles belong to!
*Picture albums--oh how I wish I had noticed (did they even exist then?) photo books when I started keeping pictures for the kids!
*Popsicles--the dreaded, hated ice cream truck had whistle pops in our family colors;  this halted any chance of people fighting over the whistle when they were done with their popsicle.

More things I have used colored tape to code:
*Ear buds/headphones--although those can be bought in family colors
*(Inexpensive so they are all the same color) MP3 players

Edit:  I remembered something else!  I just recently bought a bag of balloons because my kids will be entertained for HOURS a while if I give them a balloon every so often.  BUT, I CAN'T STAND to hear "He/She's touching MY BALLOON!!!!" the whole time they are playing with balloons, so I purposely picked a bag that contained our family colors.  When I pass out balloons, a person is only allowed to play with THEIR color of balloon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's For Dinner? Quick and Easy Cheese Wedges

I LOVE a good biscuit, but I rarely make them because they are so sticky and messy (sticky and messy equals more cleaning up time!).  I finally found a recipe that is quick, so yummy, and it isn't messy!
The delicious finished product!
Original Recipe with my alterations in italics:
2 Cups Flour (for the above batch, I used 1 1/2 cups wheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour)
1 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder (seriously?  I round it to 2 teaspoons and have noticed no ill effects)
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Cup Chilled Butter
2/3 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I use whatever is in the fridge;  I think it was some sort of 4 Mexican cheese blend for this batch.)
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons dried Parsley
3/4 Cup Buttermilk (I NEVER have Buttermilk, so I put about 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar in my liquid measuring cup, fill it up to 3/4 with milk, and let it sit for a few minutes.)
1 Large Egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients (technically the first 6 ingredients, but I always add the parsley here too), then cut butter into flour mixture until coarse crumbs form.
Coarse Crumbs, I think....
Stir in cheeses and parsley.
Yum!  I have the bad habit of putting my measuring cup over the bowl and then dumping the shredded cheese in, so I accidentally end up with more like 1 Cup of shredded cheese because I love cheese BECAUSE SOME OF IT SPILLS when I'm dumping measuring.
Add milk and egg all at once.  (I mixed the egg in with the milk before I did this step.)
Knead into a 9-inch circle on floured surface <-------(I don't do this because it is messy and sticky!  I just use my spatula and mix it in the bowl.)
No floured surface necessary!
Cut into 12 wedges.
I scooped the dough right out of the bowl into this pan, smoothed it down with the spatula, and then cut it.
Bake for 20-22 minutes.
So delicious!  Try not to burn your mouth when you are overcome by the enticing aroma and must try it immediately!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

PSA: Color coding family members

As we have had more children, I have been VERY GRATEFUL that I started color-coding things early!  It just sort of happened at my house:  Ian went through his firefighter/fire engine phase, then David LOVED "Blue's Clues".  Ian claimed all things red and informed me that David could have all things blue, and our color-coding system was born!  I decided that those colors were pretty close to their birthstones, so from then on I would assign children their color according to their birthstone color.  I also assigned Husband and I colors (mostly for calendar purposes).

A pack of markers that goes on sale at school supply time is about $1, and usually has:  black, brown, red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and orange.  Also, I've noticed that a lot of things come in red, blue, yellow, and green, so keep that in mind as you choose colors.

Color coding people has been VERY HANDY for: 
*writing appointments on the calendar:  it's easy to glace up and see who has something that day
*cereal bowls, cups:  NO MORE FIGHTING OVER WHICH COLOR CUP SOMEONE IS GOING TO USE!  After a few times of saying, "I'm sorry you want the _______ cup, your family color is _______." they GAVE IT UP and just used their color!
*toothbrushes:  no more mixing up toothbrushes!
*plastic Easter eggs:  when we have an egg hunt, everybody knows to only pick up THEIR color of egg, so we have no problems with one person getting most of the eggs while someone else hardly gets any
*re-usable water bottles:  everyone has their own color, so no fighting over who it belongs to
*notebooks, folder, pencils, scissors, backpacks, lunch boxes:  no more wondering whose school supplies are lying around

For things that I can't buy in different colors, I went to the paint section, I believe, of a certain store, and discovered that they now make duct tape in different colors!  So I bought a roll in everyone's family color, and I use that to mark things that are identical or don't have a specific color (toothbrushes, bags of candy or boxes of cereal for Christmas/Easter/Valentine's Day, toys from kids' meals).  This is really helpful at Christmas, or any other time a lot of new things come in the house, because I can tag everyone's new toys and then I don't have to try to remember which thing belongs to which person. 

Color-coding has been a BIG HELP for me!