Monday, June 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday. Or Tuesday since everyone's probably asleep already.

Why doesn't Crunchy Christian Mom do more memes? Because I'm always too late.

Take, for instance, Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Most of the time I don't get my menu for the week written until Tuesday. (I used to shop mostly on Wednesdays.) Or Friday. (After cleaning out the fridge to get ready for our CSA produce.)

But this week, I got it written Sunday night for the whole week! And, I thought, hey! I could actually post this for Menu Plan Monday. Except. I was too busy grocery shopping and doing The Monday Thing to blog. (Don't you all do that, too? Rush around Monday trying to catch up on errands and laundry after a crazy weekend?)

So, here I am, finally ready to post my menu. Thankfully, Laura has it set up automatically, so I don't think I can be disqualified for turning it in late. (Unlike most term papers I've ever written and had to talk my way out of losing major points.)

(Shoot, I've already forgotten what we ate tonight... Oh, yeah!) Black bean soup (made with tomatoes from our garden -- woo hoo!) and polenta. I was supposed to make a salad, too, but forgot, as usual.
Tuesday: Pasta salad w/baked chicken, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and whatever other veggies we have in excess.
Wednesday: Breaded tilapia, green beans, and corn on the cob.
Thursday: Turkey burgers w/swiss cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato, and bbq potato chips. (Yum!)
Friday: Vegan Fourth of July BBQ at our friend's house. I'll probably bake cookies, and bring watermelon.
Saturday: Pasta or pizza w/shrimp, tomatoes, basil and zucchini.
Sunday: Salmon, potatoes, and green beans or zucchini.

I'm also planning to make salsa for snacktime (w/corn chips), zucchini bread for breakfast, and stone fruit cobbler to take to a brunch potluck on the 4th. Hooray for a fun cooking week! (And many thanks to my gracious husband for so thoroughly cleaning the kitchen tonight in preparation. I love you.)

Don't forget to go see what everyone else is cooking!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Jena's having another giveaway! Go see!

If only there were a photo to go with this post...

I wouldn't be publishing it.

(Thank you for all the well wishes and prayers for my camera! I believe it's just the flash that's out, so hopefully the camera shop can fix it. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a little story that needs no photo. Or, at least, no photo would be appropriate!)

A few weeks ago we were cleaning up the backyard in anticipation of a playdate the next day. The kiddie pool was pretty gross. Leafy matter from a week's worth of windy days floated on the top, and the bottom was coated in a slimy film from the kids' muddy feet.

But before I could scrub it out and refill it, I had to empty a couple hundred gallons of dirty water onto the lawn. (Lest you concern yourself with wasted resources, I'd been watering the garden with the pool water for 2 weeks, and the lawn needed a good soaking!)

I let as much water out as I could by pushing down on the blown-up sides, and lifting the corner so the water could flow out the tiny valve in the bottom. But it was obvious I needed to leave my old leather garden shoes on the patio, and go in barefoot.

But what about my pants? My long jeans were also splashed, but I didn't want to totally soak them. Neither did I want to go inside with my dirty feet. And I didn't have any shorts that fit anyway.

Fortunately, it was a weekday morning. Our neighbors on the south are my parents, and my mom was over visiting anyway. To the north, on the other side of a 5-foot wall, are three apartments. The back apartment was empty, because our neighbors had just moved out. The woman who lives in the middle was at work, and the front neighbors were out, too.

So, I thought, what the heck. I took off my jeans and tossed them over a patio chair, leaving my knee-length apron over my blouse for modesty, and told my mom to be on the lookout!

Then I got to work, using all my strength and momentum to push and pull the sides of the 6' by 4' pool, slowly but surely sloshing and pouring the water over my bare legs and onto the grass.

The pool was almost empty when I heard a truck engine. A large maintenance truck was pulling down the driveway that runs along the other side of our north fence. It stopped in front of the empty back apartment -- directly opposite where I stood.

Oops. So much for weekday privacy.

I looked around, trying to figure out what to do. My mom was on the patio with my jeans, laughing at me, of course.

I figured that as long as I stayed close to the wall, the maintenance crew couldn't see below my shoulders. I carefully dumped out the last of the water, and propped the pool up against the wall in front of me.

Then I waited until both workers appeared to be inside, and quickly backed away from the wall and across the lawn, grabbed my jeans, and walked backwards up the steps into the house, my mother and I giggling the whole way.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My week, in imaginary photos of appliances.

(Imagine a photo of a microwave with a 1.5 inch triangular hole in the front glass.)

Sometime last week, I discovered that my microwave had a mysterious injury rendering it useless. No one in my household had any idea how the injury was created. Apparently, it was an act of God. (Not to blame You, exactly, Lord, but no one else wants to take responsibility. You know us sinners.)

(Imagine a photo of a cobalt blue Kitchenaid stand mixer, its top tilted oddly forward.)

Several months ago, my mixer started acting funny. As in, wobbling a lot, making miserable noises and bumping the paddle against the bowl until the coating was rubbed off the bottom. Yes, I should have stopped before that point. So much for hindsight.

Sometime this week, I went with my mother to Macy's to look for new mixing bowls, because making pizza dough by hand was more trouble than necessary without a deep enough bowl. And I started dreaming of a new Kitchenaid, maybe in a pretty apple green, with lots of extras... like an ice cream maker attachment, a pasta maker, a grain grinder!

Then yesterday, I noticed an odd smell in the kitchen while my mother and I were cleaning out my pantry and doing dishes, but I didn't know where it was coming from. Then I noticed it much stronger when I came in from watering the garden and Scott had cleaned up after dinner.

It was coming. From. The dishwasher.

(Imagine a photo of 10 feet of counter and kitchen sink, piled with dishes, and an empty hole beneath the counter where a dishwasher used to be.)

This is what my kitchen looked like (okay, still looks like) 24 hours after my 10-year-old dishwasher ran its last cycle last night. I was too busy calling around town asking about dishwasher installation charges to actually wash them by hand. Plus I figured my new Energy Star washer would be much more efficient. (Yes, my crunchy side justified my lazy side!)

After doing some research online, we went to Lowe's to pick up a new, white, Whirlpool 1055XTS. For $348 plus tax. Delivery and installation would have been another $115. More than the Kitchenaid Artisan with an ice cream maker.

(Imagine a photo of a large brown city trash bin.)

Sometime after looking at $400 mixers online, I realized that I never put my wedding ring back on after making pizza dough. When I finally cleaned the counters, it was nowhere to be found. I freaked out, assuming it accidentally was swept up with food debris and put in the compost or trash. But I didn't want to tell Scott until I'd looked everywhere possible. So this morning, right after breakfast, I headed out to the trash bin, terrified that I was too late, and the ring might have been in a bag that was carried away at the last pickup.

I pulled out the fabric from the old trampoline that Scott took apart this weekend. I pulled out the three bags of trash my mom and I cleaned out of my pantry. I got down to the two bags of kitchen trash in the bottom of the bin. The only two bags my ring might be in. I prayed. I reached in past the spiders and maggots, and began to dump out the contents of those bags. No sign of the pizza meal we'd eaten the night I took off my ring. And as far as I could sort...

No ring.

(Imagine a photo of me crying on my mother's shoulder as she assured me that I had what was really meaningful, my marriage.)

BUT. God is good. All the time.

My parents have an extra microwave in storage that we can use.

I finally called the Kitchenaid hotline, and I think I was able to fix it.

We actually had the money to buy the dishwasher, even though it wasn't how we planned to spend it.

And when I tearfully told Scott I thought I'd lost my wedding ring, he reached up onto a bookshelf and pulled it out of the little china jar he'd put it in for safe keeping when he cleaned the kitchen that night.


Now, if He would just help Scott install the new dishwasher. He's been working on it for three hours, and it's not going so well. Might have been worth the extra $100 after all.

(Insert truly imaginary photo of a boxy, silver HP digital camera.)

And, Lord, about my camera? I'm not quite sure why it stopped working tonight. But it doesn't look good. I REALLY REALLY want it to start working again.

'Cause I just spent the money I hoped to use on my first digital SLR on a new dishwasher that's driving my husband nuts.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer in the garden

We've been moving slowly around here since returning from our weekend of camping at the beach. It was 95 degrees yesterday, after highs in the 60s in Morro Bay. I might be wilting, but my garden is loving the heat! We came home to our first pink tomato out of at least 100 green ones, and my oldest gobbled it right up. I'm not sure it was actually ripe, but he enjoyed it anyway.

We also had two giant sunflowers bloom this week, and they sure bring a bright spot to the yard. We planted four packets of flower seeds this spring, but I'm not the best at sprouting flowers from seed. Apparently they like to be watered. 'Course, I wasn't expecting the rainy season to end the first week of February.

I pulled up a few carrots yesterday, and my middlest picked the first green bean. The carrots haven't done as well as I'd hoped. Many of them never sprouted at all, and a few rotted before I got to them. The ground was a bit uneven, and the water pooled in one spot. Also, that corner of the veggie patch got more shade than I anticipated, and they probably needed more sun.

The heat was also a good reason to dig a mud hole -- in my neighbor's backyard this year, instead of ours! I filled in last year's mud hole for the veggie patch this spring. It made for nice, loose soil, though the boys were a bit disappointed. I told them they could dig another hole on the other side of the yard where the soil needs some work, but they haven't yet. Maybe they'll be content to play across the street this summer.

I'm already making plans to expand the garden for fall planting. About the only thing I could put in right now is eggplant, which I might do if I can find some soon. Otherwise it's time to order more seed to start indoors where it's not so hot. Then I can put them in the ground in September. In the meantime, I'm waiting on Scott to bring home old newspapers from school so I can start mulching over the weeds and preparing the new beds. I've got a pile of old boxes my neighbor Cassandra left me when they moved last month, which I'm planning to use under mulch for the paths.

We'll see if I actually get that all done! The best time to work outside is turning out to be after 6 p.m., when the sun has gone behind the house. The sun is on the yard from 7 a.m. on. We're staying up later, and waking up later, which isn't my favorite. Maybe I should start napping in the afternoon so I can more done in the morning!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day weekend

Camping at the beach with my parents was lots of fun, especially for the boys, of course. Friday night we got started with a round of those gooey, chocolatey, camp necessities otherwise known as S'mores. The next morning, Scott took the older boys to the beach to look for creatures in the tidepools. They had made a friend with another boy from a campsite across from us, so he went along with them, too. Unfortunately, I have no photos because I was back at camp with my sleeping Littlest, but I trust they had a good time!

The campground hosted some old-fashioned activities for the kids that afternoon. It was SO COOL! Totally my thing. (And the kids had fun, too.)

They learned to milk a steel cow, to use a bow saw, to pull clothes through an old-fashioned ringer and hang them up with clothespins. (I joked that I'd be having them do the laundry at home from now on!) They dropped pins into milk bottles, walked on tin can "stilts," and competed in sack races. I think I took about 100 pictures. My oldest said that it was the best "fair" he'd ever been to!

My dad and Scott took the older boys on a Father's Day canoe ride around the bay Sunday morning.

They were sun-kissed and starving when they came back. (The boys just because they're growing, since Daddy and Papa did all the work!) So we ate lunch across from the dock on the patio of our favorite restaurant overlooking the water.

We went down to the beach late that afternoon. My oldest loved the sand, my middle loved the surf, and my littlest loved holding onto to mama so he wouldn't get blown or washed away.

It was a beautiful weekend. Happy Father's Day to my dad, my Love, and any other fathers reading this!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Busy week, headed into a busy weekend!

My littlest boy definitely enjoyed his day -- thank you for all the birthday wishes! He was a little overwhelmed at all the attention at first, until he realized that he had birthday PRESENTS to open! We gave him a wooden train set which he was so excited about he almost missed dinner. My grandmother came to celebrate with us, and I baked -- what else? -- peach cobbler. Yes, we still have more peaches!

Wednesday morning we met some friends at our local creamery and candy shop to tour the kitchens and see how they make their ice cream and taffy. I'm afraid I was too busy enjoying my treats to take any good pictures!

Though I didn't make that birthday banner, I did sew a few bean bags for the boys to play with. We found a bean bag game board for the backyard at a yard sale on Saturday, but it didn't come with the bags.

Tomorrow we head out for a weekend of camping at the beach tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be back online next Tuesday -- with lots of pictures!

Monday, June 09, 2008

My baby turns 2.

Dear Littlest,

Tomorrow you turn two! I tried to explain that to you today, and showed you how to hold two fingers up. You've been learning to count, preferring "Seven, eight, nine!" to "One, two, three." We read you a card that came in the mail today from your great-grandma, and you ran around yelling, "Happy Birt'day!"

I planned to go next door to sew a birthday garland tonight after getting you to sleep, but you were so wound up it took an hour, and my eyes are too sleepy now.

After nursing for 20 minutes, you suddenly pointed your finger at the ceiling in the dark, saying "Hey! Seeit! T'uck driving! Seeit? Brmm, brmm. Oh! Choo choo t'ain! Oh! Tractor driving! Derrit goes!" You kept that up for a while, pointing at imaginary vehicles and talking about them. I'd laugh and tell you to go to sleep, and you'd kiss the trucks goodnight, and nurse some more. Then -- "Oh! Dump t'uck driving! Derrit goes!" You started all over again.

You are so much fun. Every morning, your brothers can't wait until you're awake. They come in to peek, and lay on the bed to watch you if you're nursing. You call out their names as soon as you open your eyes. Then you mew like a kitty until I pet your head, and you sit up to see if Emma the cat is on the bed.

Right now you love your construction vehicle puzzle, monster truck videos, trains, jumping on the trampoline, toast with lots of butter, and being with your family. We love you being with us, too.

Happy Birthday, Baby.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weekend projects

We're still enjoying life with the TV off except for the occasional DVD. Yesterday I made the most of Scott being home by spending the afternoon and evening in the kitchen...

...canning four quarts of chicken stock, and three quarts of chicken noodle soup to take with us camping next weekend, and peeling and slicing peaches to freeze.

After the boys went to bed, I went next door to use my mom's sewing machine, which she taught me how to use last week. I'm helping my friend Sarah greenify Children's Church by sewing cloth napkins for snacktime. It took me two hours to make two napkins, but aren't they cute?

And I made them all by myself. :) I think they'll go much faster after this. Something was wrong with the bobbin, so I had to stop and fix the thread a few times on the second napkin, but I figured it out this morning.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Peaches, playing and other busyness

My sister was home this week, after a two-month stay in Hawaii, which was one reason I didn't have time to blog. Lots of visiting, lots of eating. Now I'm catching up on housekeeping, getting ready for my littlest's 2nd birthday, and making plans for our camping trip Father's Day weekend.

And I need to make time to can all the peaches that are bending down the branches on my parents' tree. As much as I love cobbler, I really don't need to be eating any more of it right now! Smoothies are good, lots of smoothies...

I'm enjoying all the comments on our TV-free week! It has been nice not to have the noise, and to watch the boys playing together more actively. We did put a movie on yesterday afternoon, because we were all sort of tired and grumpy and needing a break, and that's what they wanted to do. It gave me a chance to make a yummy dinner, so I think it was worth it. But really, I don't think they found it as satisfying as they thought they would.

Right now they're drawing pictures with the neighbor kids and scouting out snacks, after nearly two hours of playing lightsabers outside. Peach smoothies, anyone?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Too busy not watching TV to blog.

Who knew NOT watching television would suck up all my time and energy? I'm exhausted. (But happy!) LOL.

Monday, June 02, 2008

TV-Free Week

Crunchy unschoolers walk a line on the subject of television.

As unschoolers, we recognize the value of the easily-accessible medium of TV, with its great potential to be educational -- even if every last SpongeBob Squarepants storyline and Cartoon Network themesong weren't on the list of things we hoped our kids would know by age 6.

As refugees from the Kill Your Television camp, we're ducking and covering -- by avoiding the conversation of avoiding television.

Why? Because we read people like Sandra Dodd, who assures us that TV won't actually kill our kids' brains, and might even give them things to think about.

Believe me, I tried to avoid television. We didn't even own one the first five years we were married.

But when my oldest was just learning to talk, I was an exhausted, postpartum, mother of two in cloth diapers, and I didn't have enough brain power to keep a continuous stream of words going to narrate his world and help him learn English. Instead, he memorized the script of Ice Age, after discovering the joy of animated features at my mom's house. Soon after, she bought us our own TV, so we'd go home every once in a while.

I promise, his vocabulary and speech patterns are much expanded since then -- in a good way. (I'm not sure the male obsession with bodily functions is at all avoidable, or even related to television.)

I've spent plenty of time watching how my kids watch tv, and noticing what they learn from what they watch. While they are particularly attuned to storylines and themesongs, that's not the worst thing in the world. What is a television episode if not a chapter in a story? And we all know how important music is for the brain, right?

They've also learned countless things about the natural world. They've learned a little Spanish, a little Chinese, a little mythology, a little politics, and a lot more. And they don't sit and stare at the television for hours. They are rarely just watching TV. They're often playing with Legos, having a snack, running back and forth updating me on the latest joke -- all at the same time.

My point is, I know they are not frying their brains when they watch TV.
So then, why are we attempting to live without it for a whole week?

Because I've also noticed how easily I can settle myself into the chair in front of the computer while the boys appear to be engrossed in a favorite show. And how the time can stretch along without them complaining, but past the point where I know they'd probably rather do something that required my involvement, if only I were more engaged with them.

Both TV and the Internet are an endless source of learning potential -- and therefore also easily distracting from other activities we want to do. Especially when we're tired. The other thing I've noticed is that the busier we are outside of the house, the more likely we are to come home and "veg out" in front of the screens.

So, we agreed to take this week to set some new habits. More time outside in the morning when the weather's nice. More time together in the afternoons reading, baking, playing games, or doing projects we've been thinking of.

We're slowing down a little, so we have the energy to do the things we really want to. Today we skipped storytime at the library (another endless source of learning potential that can suck up all the free space in your living room!). We still had plenty to read from last week, and we were enjoying ourselves in the garden too much to rush.

The day went surprisingly smoothly. I realized my older two often go to the TV when they're transitioning from one activity to another, even looking for creative inspiration. The first transition without that option was a little bumpy, but it got easier. They spent most of the afternoon playing creatively with each other, like they usually do with friends, but lately have often struggled to do just the two of them.

They also helped me bake -- and eat -- another peach cobbler. Because that's what we needed after all the birthday cake yesterday!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

My date with danger

I took my middle son to a birthday party at the rollerskating rink this afternoon. The birthday girl's mommy and I shared a moment of insanity when we picked up skates for ourselves along with the kids'.

Besides the fact that I hadn't been on skates in fifteen, possibly twenty, years, I had no excuse not to risk a broken arm or tailbone and just get out there. Right? My littlest was at home taking a nap, so he didn't need my attention off the rink. And my thighs and behind definitely needed the exercise. So what if I ended up in the emergency room? What's life without a little risk?!

Plus, my 5-year-old needed a partner for the couples' skate. And he actually wanted me to be his partner. That was reason enough to embarrass myself as I tried to remember where to put my feet so I didn't fall on my face or flat on my back.

Thank God, I never fell. My poor boy did a few times, probably because of me, but since he's already so close to the ground, he recovered well. I don't even want to know what would have happened if I hadn't screamed my way back to a solid upright position the first time my skates started to slip out from under me.

I might have gotten everyone's attention, but at least I'm not wearing a cast!
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