Blessed Mornings

I don’t know how my kids do it but they NEVER wake up in a bad mood. Cheerful is always the word for the day and joy fills our home.
I like to think that much of their happiness in the morning has to do with something I am doing right. I am probably not the entire reason but just maybe the fact that we aren’t rushing, trying to get hair done, breakfast eaten quickly, and school books found and ready. Searching for a lost shoe in the morning is quite stressful and running late makes people cranky causing the day off with a sour taste.

I do love my mornings; up around six to kiss hubby goodbye, jogging at 6:30, kids waking up around 7:30, easy breakfast, the telling of dreams (or short stories if dreams cannot be remembered), giggles and bed-head. What a blessing the morning is! My morning hours are better than any other and I look forward to them every day!

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We Are Having Another Baby!!!!


So, we are expecting again! Number 6 is baking and should be born somewhere around May 5th, making me about 5 weeks along. We are very excited! We are so very blessed!!!

I am not sick yet but the past two days have proven to be very tiring. Morning sickness usually strikes me at 6 or 7 weeks so I am only a week or so away from misery. It should only last about 8 or 9 weeks. I have known some women to be sick during their entire pregnancy even after delivery! I feel blessed to only have to deal with it for a few months – long months they are however.

I am continuing to jog for 15 minutes 4 or 5 mornings a week. Hopefully I can reduce my exaustion a bit by keeping up my excersize as much as I can. I know that when the morning sickness hits I won’t be able to jog as much but I am sure gonna try! It is just that I hate running. I really despise it and it takes everything I have to keep it up. Actually, I hate excersize all together, lol. I was a child athelete and I think I am just burned out on moving.

Either way, it has to be done. And it is only 15 minutes so I guess I can push through. It’s important to me to stay fit during my pregnancy – it helps the weight to melt off in only months after the baby is born.

I wonder if this baby is a girl or a boy. We have only one girl out of the 5, the rest are boys so I am betting this one will be a boy to, however, my husband never guesses wrong and says he is getting some girl vibes. I, on the other hand, have never been right.
If it is a girl we have had a name picked out for a while. We have used up every boy name we like so I don’t know what we will do if it is a boy, lol.

Who knows. I guess we will find out in about 8 months!

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Vacationing On A Budget

The $8 Vacation

We camp. We love this and the kids get so excited about going. We camp almost every weekend when it is warm enough as long as college and Navy duties don’t call upon my husband. We have gone about 10 times this summer. Most weekends we leave Friday right after an early lunch and come home Saturday night at dinner time.

One night away from home with the kids in a hotel would be around $130, sometimes more than this if we need two rooms, which we usually do. Even if we do manage to get a room large enough for our family of 7 we still need to eat. Eating out is expensive with as many mouths as we have to feed! Hotels are quite boring, you can only swim so much, and check out time is a bit early.
Camping, on the other hand, can be quite the inexpensive vacation, costing us about $8 a night with no checkout time. The $8 is for the camp spot. You could even get away without that camp fee if you are a wilderness camper, but we prefer to have bathrooms close for the kidlets. We bring food from home that we would have eaten anyway, making meals over the camp fire or on our small grill. We bring a half gallon of milk, a small bottle of juice and a 5 gallon container of water. All this is stuff we already have at home. No extra money needs to be spent on food. There are a ton of recipes that can be modified to be cooked in a tinfoil bowl pinched closed at the top. We also have a set of plastic camping dishes (you can find plastic dishes at any Good Will type store) – no need to purchase paper plates!

Yes, camping supplies can be a little costly but you can get a good deal for your money if you are patient and shop around. Our first tent was purchased at the end of camping season about 7 years ago. It was good size for our family of four and our dog and we were able to get it for 50% off because the camping season was coming to a close. Since our family has almost doubled in size since then we upgraded this year and gave our old tent, which is still in excellent condition, to some friends of ours who have since started camping with us too! Camping is a great multifamily vacation because almost everybody’s budget will allow it.
Can’t afford a tent? Just about every family has a tent that they almost never use. See if you can borrow one or purchase one from a friend or family member for cheap. Need a good camping stove? We found ours used on eBay for a steal. Simple swimming pool air mattresses are cheap and great for camping if you don’t want to shell out the money for for a camping mattress. Join your local Freecycle group and see if anybody has any camping stuff that they don’t use cluttering their garage. REMEMBER, you only need to make these purchases once! Taken care of, your camping gear can last many years!

Camping is such a good thing for children. My kids explore, find new bugs, ask questions, and stare in wonder at wildlife. They learn more in one overnight camping trip than they do all week homeschooling. They swim, laugh, dig, explore, and stay dirty the entire camping trip. As soon as we walk in the door after a camping trip they ask when we are going again.

If you are not much of an outdoorsy person I would still say give it a chance; Camping for your family, even if you don’t want to (or especially if you don’t want to) can bless your family in so many ways. It will create amazing memories that your kids will cherish forever! And you can create these wonderful memories on a very tight budget!

Just don’t forget your blankets!!!!

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Feeding A Crowd On A Budget

I get a lot of questions on how we manage to feed all 7 mouths in our family. Although my husband is in the Navy and we are taken care of, the program he is in doesn’t pay very well so we have had to get creative with our food budget.

With my family of 7, and one on the way, we had to draw the line at picky eating. We make a meal and that is what the family has ~ or nothing. I have learned over the years that kids will not starve themselves ~ one night on an empty stomach will not kill them but will teach them appreciation for the food on the table. I don’t make Joe(8) eat tomatoes or Kait(11) eat olives but if we are serving up Cabbage Patch Soup they all eat it even though 3 of them don’t care for it much. They prefer it to hunger, lol. All in all we try to stick to foods that the whole family enjoys. Spaghetti, Burrito’s, Chili, Grilled chicken, burgers and dogs, meatloaf.

Crock pots are worth their weight in gold!!!
Sometimes if you have a day of the week with a couple of hours to kill (I know, not likely) have the older children (maybe age 8 and up) help you cook up 3 or 4 meals for the week then freeze them. All you have to do is stick them in a crock pot in the morning and dinner is ready on time!
Here are some quick and easy ideas for feeding the larger family.

Two meals out of one roast!

Buy a big roast cut it in half and put each half in a ziploc with some chopped veggies, a couple bullion cubes and your favorite seasonings. Stick them in the fridge, or freeze them if it will be more than a few days until you use them. Then just whip one bag out in the morning, dump the contents into your crock pot, and add some water. Add a salad, pasta, or some bread and you have two dinners out of one roast with almost zero effort! This can also be done in the afternoon with an aluminum foil pocket on a cookie sheet.

Quick Chili – low fat, 11 g per serving!

In a ziploc (we love ziplocs) mix 1 1/2 lbs browned ground beef (adjust amount to your family size) 1 can tomato sauce, chopped peppers and onions (or onion powder), garlic powder, a can of corn, canned tomatoes, kidney beans, Chili powder, basil, and pepper. Fridge or freeze until ready to use. Dump it in your crock pot on low sometime in the morning. You can even have a corn bread mix ready to throw in the oven for the perfect chili mate!

Hamburger Stew – low fat, 10 g per serving!

One of our families favorites!

In a ziploc mix 1 1/2 lbs browned ground beef, chopped onion and peppers, 4 beef bullion cubes, a can of corn, one chopped tomato, a few cut up potatoes, chopped carrots, basil, tablespoon worcestershire sauce, and a bay leaf. Fridge or freeze until ready to use. Dump into a crock pot sometime in the morning, add at least 5 cups water and heat on low until dinner. Remove the bay leaf and add a salad or rice and dinner is served!

Chicken can be used instead of hamburger too! Crock pots are good for pork chops too!

Now, to make it cheap

  • Try not to buy brand name unless it is necessary (like mayo – cheap mayo is gross!).  Often, however, if you can match a coupon with a sale you can get the pricey stuff for very cheap or free!
  • Nobody needs bacon, eggs, sausage, and pancakes every morning for breakfast.
  • Keep pancakes made and frozen and biscuits ready for baking in the freezer too.
  • Cereal can be found for cheap if you look around at different grocery stores. We have a grocery store about 35 minutes from us that sells cereal for $1.60 a box – and the good for you stuff too! We just had to look around for the best deals!
  • Our area doesn’t have a food coop but many areas do. Ask around and see if you can join one.
  • Although canned veggies aren’t quite as good as fresh, they are cheaper much of the year and are easier to cook with making your family more likely to eat them.
  • Make a weekly food budget and stick with it! My daughter(11) has printed out a months worth of dinners and made a grocery list from that (5 dinners a week, the other two days are leftovers or sandwiches) . This way we only purchase what we need and everything gets used. We never waste money on food that doesn’t get eaten!
  • Eat dinner together as a family. I don’t know why this works but we seem to save money on food when we all sit down together to eat. Maybe it keeps us from snacking or picking, I don’t know. All I know is that eating together as a family has saved us money.
  • Stay away from the cookie and chips and soda isle!
  • Limit snacks to fresh fruit, flavored yogurt with grape nuts in it (my fav!) or crackers. Crackers can be separated into baggies ahead of time for the week so snacking doesn’t cost more than thought it would.
  • Learn how to say the word “NO”. It is not good for kids to get everything they want. Number one, they learn selfishness; Number two, they usually aren’t wise in the decision making area and will choose all foods bad for them. Have them pick one bad for them snack a month. That can be a tub of ice cream OR a box of snack cakes OR a bag of chips OR a 2 liter of soda. When it is gone, it is gone.
  • Food should not be free for all in your family. Permission to eat something should be necessary. If you kids are hungry they can have something but you choose what and you choose the portions. Let them have their say, give them a couple choices if you feel you must, but ultimately put yourself in charge of food (and ultimately money) consumption.
  • Rice and pasta are filling ~ add one of them to your meals as fillers.
  • Lastly, try to limit your meal planning and grocery shopping to only one day a week. This will keep you from getting burned out on what to do for meals. Set aside money just for groceries and do not exceed that budget. You will find creative ways to save. Make it a game – see how well your family can eat for $xx every week.

    This may seem hard to do at first but you will be surprised at how your efforts will bless your family – a less stressful mama, an appreciative dad, and healthier kids! After a few weeks you will love your this way of feeding your family and you will feel so good about what you are doing for them.

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Sirens were asounden

So, Tuesday Joe, my 8 year old, asked me if our little farming town could catch on fire. I told him that it was possible but not very likely. He asked a number of questions for which I had no answer and I answered him as well as I could. The day went on and everything was normal.

To my surprise, on Wednesday we heard emergency vehicles drive by almost every hour. It was crazy and we could not figure out what was going on. Finally, my husband came home and told us that he had heard on the radio that there was a fast growing wild fire headed toward our little town. If I am remembering correctly there were 15 small town fire departments fighting this blaze and containment was little to none. You see, we live in a farming community where it is harvest time and wheat is dead and dry. We haven’t had but a sprinkling of rain in about 3 months; prime fire feed.

Joe was quite worried. He kept asking if it was getting closer, what was going to happen, and all kinds of questions that had no definite answer. I told him that the fire was still 3 miles off and we were in no danger but that seemed to make him even more concerned. Our town was never under serious threat, we were just careful to listen to the radio (we don’t have TV) and stay aware of developments. I was more concerned for the farm houses in direct path of the fire.

This morning we woke up with quite a bit of smoke in our house. The air looked clear but that campfire smell seemed to permeate every room. I looked out the windows to see a smokey fog blanketing the town. We turned on the radio and waited for news. Nothing bad yet, still only 10% containment but the winds were being kind and our town was safe for the time being. Joe was not at all comfortable with the level of smog that seemed to hover above.

Not long after lunch we heard good news. The fire was 60% contained and it appears that the fire fighters have won. Lost was part of a train track, a small bridge that crosses a river, acres and acres of farm land and trees, and a few freshly filled grain elevators, but not one house or human. What a blessing!

Other notable events- our small town was busting at the scenes with help from local store owners. Fuel was supplied by The Grange, other supplies, like much needed ice, were provided by Rosauers grocery store, which opened it’s doors awful early to help out the fire fighters. Grandmas’ baked and husbands’ took food to the workers. As nice as it would have been to have had no fire at all, it sure was a gift to see all these people coming together, trying to do their part.

As for Joe, he has stopped asking if the flames are coming our way. As soon as the smog started to clear he started to feel better.

There are still fire fighters on the scene and I suppose there will be for at least a few days. Thank the Lord for them, as they may have, indeed, saved the homes of the 2500 residents in our small town. We will never know what the outcome would have been without these brave hero’s, and I am glad because of it.

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Ben’s Trash Can Adventures

Don’t I love my little 19 month old. He is completely adorable, smart, and so funny to watch. We laugh a lot at his antics. Watching him grow and learn new things has me fascinated.

Ben is a curious being. He loves to look inside things, tear other things apart, empty cupboards, dump out bags of bread, test dogfood and pet water temperature, the list could go on and on. One of his favorite events is his daily trash can adventure. This event has been passed down from child to child since our first baby. Usually he tosses scraps of paper or magazines he has destroyed previously in the day. Occasionally he scraps something more significant, like a DVD or a leather glove and we suspect he has gotten rid of many dishes in the past as well. Today, however, Ben managed to really step up his trash throwing excersize. This one is a new family baby trash can olymics record!

Today I found one of Ben’s Fuzzi Bunz cloth diapers and two inserts on the floor in front of the trash can. I wondered about it, then thought that maybe they had been dropped when the freshly cleaned diapers had been brought up from the laundry room earlier. I picked it up and went into the dining room where the rest of the cloth diapers had been waiting to be stuffed and put away.

The diapers were not there.

I marched right over to the trash can, knowing exactly what I would find. There, under the wooden trash can lid, sat more than $150 in Fuzzi Bunz, Rumpsters, and inserts, topped with a nice green and yellow pacifier, my wrist brace, and some tomato pieces.

I can see him wanting to get rid of his diapers. He likes to not have them on and we are thinking he might potty train early because of it. It is the pacifier I am wondering about. We have been in the process of “not” taking the pacifier away. He only gets it at night but it is essential to his night time ritual to have the pacifier snuggly in his mouth. Every night I give it to him and say “Sleep well, Ben, and enjoy your pacifier. I will most likely trash it in the morning.” Maybe he is just sick of hearing it that he decided he would rather just be done with it. I don’t know. He is such a silly kid.

I did take it out and clean it thoroughly. I am not sure if I am ready to deal with him not being a baby anymore. He stopped nursing months ago, which affected me much more than it effected him. He is starting to drink out of a regular cup and eat with a spoon. I just cannot handle all this “growing up” he is doing!

Anyway, I guess it is time to get rid of the pacifier, once and for all. I will go ahead and tell him tonight when I put him to bed. “Sleep well, Ben, and enjoy your pacifier. I will most likely trash it in the morning”.

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today’s dialogue

Mom: I am going to the library to return those books and the movie. Please go get “The Rookie” and its case.

Kait: Yes ma’am.

Kait leaves the room and a few minutes pass.

Kait: Mom, where is the case to “The Rookie”?

Mom: Um, I don’t know. You watched the movie yesterday. Where did you put the case? Maybe it was accidentally put with the other movies.

Kait: (yelling downstairs) BOYS! We need to find the case the “The Rookie”.

Stomping can be heard as the boys stampeed up the stairs.

Kait: do you guys know where the movie case to “The Rookie” is?

Joe: I don’t know.

Gabe: What are we doing again?

Mom: did anybody check to see if it is in with OUR movies?

Kait checks the wooden coffee table cupboard, twice.

Gabe: It’s in there Kaitlyn, I can see it right through the coffee table.

Kait: It’s not in there Gabe. I checked twice.

Gabe: (head straight down on the coffee table as if peering inside) It’s in there, your just missing it. I can see it with my x-ray vision.

Kait: (totally annoyed) This isn’t a game, Gabe. This is reality.

Mom and dad give eachother a funny look.

Joe: I know where it is! It is down stairs, I’ll get it.

About 10 seconds go by.

Gabe: Oh, I know where it is. It is down stairs on the DVD player. I’ll get it.

5 or so minutes go by.

Mom: Maybe it is in with the other movies.

Joe and Gabe return from their underground lair.

Joe: It isn’t down there.

Gabe: I will check to see if it is with the other movies.

2 or 3 more minutes go by.

Kait: I found it.

Mom: where was it?

Kait: Down stairs.

Mom: where downstairs?

Kait: In the video drawer with the other movies.

Mom: You mean it was with the other movies?

Kait: yeah, somebody must have mistakenly put it away.

This little short drama is brought to you by the Culbertson kids. What a group of total space cadets.

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Go Forth And Multiply… The Links???

It seems that my husband and I are cursed to only be able to produce little Links. I am not sure what the problem is, maybe it is the beans, or tortillas. Or maybe it is that stinking video game, Zelda.

Joseph is 8 and his whole life revolves around this little green character. He rarely gets to play video games – When I say rarely I mean like once or twice a month for maybe a half hour at a time. I think this might be why he pretends it so much. He made a costume and shield out of spare fabric and wood scraps and wears it every day.

What is it about this little elf-like creature that has him so obsessed? I never pretended to be Pac-Man or Donky Kong as a child. The thought never crossed my mind! Could you even imagine what that might have looked like? All little girls would pretend to be princesses and all little boys would pretend to be GI Joe’s. (For a while I pretended to be married to Joey Joe McIntyre ~ but that is an embarassing story for another day).

So, now Gabe(5) and Matthew(3) have started following suit. They are both wandering around the house saying “HUU” all the time while jumping or slicing through invisible villians with their swords. I now have the blessing of 3 little Links accompanying me.

Everywhere I go.

Everyday.

I am happy to see that they have such great imaginations and I am pleased that they are able to construct costumes and do woodwork to make shields, however, I am getting really tired of having Links at every turn. It is madness!

I remember once, quite few years back, that Joe actually cried when I told him that he wasn’t really Link. He was Joe, pretending to be Link. We had to explain this because of an incident with another child and he didn’t understand. When I asked why he was crying he said “I thought I really was Link”. At that moment I almost cried, myself, thinking that my child had some warped brain disease that caused him to confuse reality with pretend. A quick talk to some elementary educators relieved me of my concern. They said “no, it isn’t just Joe, all little boys are weird. Just be glad he isn’t pretending to be Cinderella”.

We are praying that Joe will grow out of this soon – and take his younger brothers with him. But, until then, we will just take pictures and video so we can laugh at him 20 years from now when he has his own wife with a little dude following her around doing the exact same thing.

Now, if only I possessed the talent to steer his imagination the way I wanted it to go and have him pretend to be somebody useful like, say, Emeril Lagasse.

I must go. I’ve gotta pry the Link suits off my sons’ and get them ready for church!

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Oh Where Art Thou Tomatoes?

Every so often, usually this is a good 4 or 5 times a day, something goes missing in our house. Usually, it is a sock or slightly more significant, a shoe. Never a pair of anything, just one and they always disappear right before we have to rush off somewhere.

Today it was not a sock, nor a shoe, that had me looking all over. Today, it was about 5 freshly picked tomatoes that were in our tomato bin ~ I know this because tomatoes are my very favorite food. I have a tomato sandwich every morning for breakfast and yesterday we had quite a number of tomatoes in the bin on our counter, this morning there were none.

How curious.

I looked all over. Did one of the kids put them in the fridge for some reason? No. Did my daughter eat them last night while we were out? No. Were they trashed? A quick inspection of the kitchen trash told me the answer was no. Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to get them out and eat them – or at least I wouldn’t tell you if I did. I just wanted to know if I should stop looking for them. I looked for a short while and then gave up, deciding that I had more pressing things to do.

Like reheat and drink the coffee I had poured an hour before.

I went on about my chores, picking up toys off the kitchen floor so Kaitlyn could sweep and mop. I thought about the fresh picked tomatoes a few times throughout my day and was baffled at what happened to them. Nobody knew. Not even a clue was left as to what happened to my beloved tomatoes – though we questioned the troops, save the 19 month old who would have nodded yes to anything we asked him.

It was just about time to start making dinner. I needed my dinner making caffine fuel so I grabbed the coffee pot and poured a fresh cup. I usually use a flavored, refrigerated creamer but I am running low and doing my best to conserve. Sugar and milk it was. I grabbed the milk out of the refrigerator and moved to our large sugar bowl. When I took off the lid and stuck my spoon in it hit something a little non-sugar like. I peered in to see what? Is that a tomato??? Sure enough, all of my tomatoes were snug in my sugar bowl.

Now this is curious.

Everybody in my family enjoys tomatoes except for Joe. He doesn’t like them so we never force him to eat them unless they are baked into what we are having ~ he doesn’t seem to mind them that way. So that rules out somebody hiding them so nobody will use them for dinner. We also have more tomatoes ripening in a friends garden across the street where we can pick them freely. So that rules out somebody hiding them so I won’t eat them all.
We question everybody again, hoping to find out what exactly happened – simply out of curiosity. Nobody was in trouble. I was actually finding the entire situation quite humerous. Once again they all were clueless. Of course we didn’t ask the baby. At 19 months old he couldn’t possibly have any idea how the tomatoes made their way into the sugar bowl.

The baby.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had found him earlier in the morning perched on a chair trying to flour his face. I looked at him again and it all became clear! The tomatoes were sitting in the bin, which resides right next to the flour bowl, which neighbors the sugar bowl.
We had figured it out! Ben, our sweet little monkey (much the climbing child), had put the tomatoes in the sugar bowl, put the lid back on it without spilling anything onto the counter, then opened the flour bowl and proceded to decorate himself.

And, with that, the tomato mystery was solved. Now, if I could only figure out where he stowed the match to my brand new, very expensive, Harley Davidson riding gloves. Perhaps we will never know. Or just perhaps it is sharing a jar with the rice!

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Human Preservation Obsolves Kids’ Toys Of Guilt

God Blesses us in so many ways. I was just telling my husband last night that I have been happier in my first decade as an adult than I ever was as a child (I didn’t reach adulthood until I was about 22 years old). I would never go back to childhood in a million years. It wasn’t horrible, but my life now is just so filled with joy.

Like the joy of Matchbox car foot puncture in the dead of night.

My kitchen looks more like a playroom than a place set aside for preparing food. There are more children’s objects on the floor of the kitchen at any given time than anywhere else in the house.
Why? Nobody plays in the kitchen. There isn’t a jungle gym in there. It is not bright and colorful to attract stray play things who are bored of being alone in their rightful places.

I have recently been enlightened after pondering the kitchen toy floor problem.

The answer is that quite often, what you will find in our kitchen is food and our children live to eat. You would think that they had only heard of and smelled food but never actually tasted it. When we sit down to meals they eat like mad, dish after dish, until there is no more (with the exception of Gabe, who eats a lot but does it ever so sllloooowwwwlllllyyyy).

Recently I have taken to paying more attention to the toy issue, sure that I would likely spy toys sneaking around corners then making their break for the kitchen before the cat sees them and attacks. What I was surprised to find is that it actually wasn’t the toys themselves that were the culprits.

Here’s what I’ve discovered. 
It turns out that when my kids smell food they run into the kitchen, toys dangling from their short, child sized arms. As soon as they spy food on the table their little hands open in glee and whatever they are holding falls crashing to the floor. This appears to be an instinctive reaction designed to preserve and prolong life because you can tell by the way they race to the table, sit there wiggling and waiting for the blessing to be said, that they are, in fact, on the verge of starvation.

It is so good to know that they have that instinctive reaction. They definitely got that one from me, for I am known to drop everything and run for coffee in the same child like fashion that my kids run for food. Speaking of coffee…

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