Monthly Archives: June 2009

Organizing clothing storage

I often have the conflict between not wanting anything unnecessary taking up room in the house, and wanting to have what I need on hand for when I need it.  Sometimes I lean towards getting rid of anything I possibly can, and other times I lean towards saving what may come in handy one day.  But in between I have fits of regret one way or another – like feeling sorry I didn’t save something I should have, and other times feeling there’s too much excess in and wanting to give away everything right away!  Recently, I saw online photos/virtual tour of an Amish house for sale – it was so, so neat.  Spotless, really.  Not the kind of thing you should look at when you’re postpartum and feeling inadequate about the state of your house. 

My house reflects that I haven’t been actively involved in the organization of things in the last 6 weeks to the degree that I ususally am and yesterday I decided that with the conference done, now’s the time to whip things back in shape!  I started with the attic and clothing storage.  Along with maternity clothing waiting to be packed away are non seasonal/outgrown clothes from the kids they don’t want to keep in their drawers (I always marvel how quickly kids seem to outgrow things!), but I haven’t had the boxes I needed to pack them up. 

I’ve been asking dh for weeks to pick up boxes from the supermarket to use for storage (have to be there at 6 am to get them) but he actually has a life and many other things to do so the clothing piles have been building.  Finally a few days ago we were in Home Depot together and when I saw a display of 18 gallon storage totes, I spontaneously asked him to put ten of them in our cart.  (Dh looked at me and said, ‘is this because I didn’t get you those boxes?’ – but I laughed and told him a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do!)  I really like storage containers because they look so neat and uniform, but they’re definitely not essential since you can use free boxes from the store for the same end result.  Despite the lack of frugality in buying them, for me it’s a value to have things looking neat and organized.  Our home isn’t large and we’re a lot of people with a lot of stuff – and buying nice storage containers is cheaper than building an addition or buying a larger house (not that either of those things are in the works right now!). 

I spent a few hours in the attic yesterday and didn’t finish reorganizing everything (because then I had to take dd camp shopping – and I got a few more storage containers when out with her), but it already looks so much better!  Those storage boxes lined up look streamlined and uncluttered (I chose one color for girls clothes, another for boys).  I was brutal about going through the stored clothing and giving things away if they won’t be used in the near future.  That means that I got rid of all of my clothes in the size I haven’t gotten back down to since I was pregnant with my 21 month old; someone can enjoy them now and I’ll treat myself to some new clothes when I’m back to that size.  I also went through all the girls clothes that my dd8 is too big for.  I’m keeping the baby clothes, up through size 2, but I realized that if I have another girl one day (and I really hope I have more than one girl – I need to even the boy/girl ratio around here :)), by the time she fits into these clothes they’ll be hopelessly outdated.  I now have six large boxes of clothing waiting to be donated to a local clothing exchange. 

Today I took a break from the attic and enjoyed some low key ‘Camp Wernerific’ activities with the kids.  (Until this year it’s always been Camp Imma but this week I asked them if they wanted to rename it, and for now this is what they agreed on).  Tomorrow if I get some quiet time I’ll get back to the attic and finish by organizing all the boots and shoes – it will be so nice to see everything in it’s place!


Is it easier to just do it yourself?

Yesterday I took my dd14 shopping for last minute camp supplies.  Nothing too major since we got whatever clothes she needed before I gave birth- she needed toiletries mostly (and if I ever get around to writing about coupons and health and beauty aid alternatives, I’ll share with you the kind of things she took).  I really love spending time one on one with each of the kids; it makes doing any errand enjoyable.  This is something I’ve only been able to do for the last three years.  One really nice thing about having older kids is that your efforts in raising kids with good middos, thinking skills, and strong values are already paying off in a big way and spending time with them is like spending time with a good friend – they’re so enjoyable to talk and be with. 

I was up late last night helping her with last minute camp preparations – even though we were both tired, it was so fun and at one point we both started laughing so much that we had to stop looking at each other – every time one of us glanced at the other, we started cracking up again!  But we finally got her packed up and ready, and were at the camp bus at 6:30 this morning.  

Today’s home atmosphere was already really different – dd14 was gone, ds15 spends a few hours out in the morning at shul learning, dd12 is working at a camp for 2 year olds this week, and ds10 slept over at my in-laws.  That meant that there were only five kids at home and the oldest was 8.  Usually I do a lot of delegating and directing, which I don’t especially love but I think it’s important for children to learn how to run a house. And it’s also really important that kids learn that their homes aren’t hotels and their mothers aren’t slaves put on this earth to fulfill their every whim, so they need to participate and help out for no other reason except that they live here.

Anyway, with all the older kids out, it means fewer hands to help out and more work for me to do in their absence. That might sound like a negative, but I actually enjoy it.  I like doing what needs to be done more than telling someone else to do it.  I do it, I know it’s done, and it’s easy to stay on top of things.  In many ways it’s more work to delegate everything – I have to remember who I told to do what (and some people require several requests/reminders), when, check that it was done, and in the end it still might not be done the way I’d ideally like it done.  The payoff is in the long term and I very much feel the time and energy invested in teaching them to help out is worth the effort, but sometimes I enjoy not having to put forth so much effort in that area. 

Last year the oldest three all went away to camp for the same 4 weeks, and it was so nice.  They couldn’t believe I told them I enjoyed doing all the work all of them usually do and that I found it more relaxing than having them do it – it seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?  People think I’m so lucky to have kids who help out, and that having helpful older kids is a natural outcome with a large family, but it didn’t happen by itself and plenty of mothers of large families can tell you that they made the mistake of not getting their kids involved in helping out because it was too much work.  I’ve put a lot of time into teaching my kids how to be helpful, and even now, a lot of effort goes into staying on top of so many children and all the details of running a house. 

It’s not that the kids don’t help at all during this time – they still help alot.  But I adapt my expectations of myself and of them.  For now, I’ll enjoy the satisfaction of accomplishing something, and when it’s time to kick back into gear, I’ll be ready to actively get them involved!


Our First Torah Homeschooling Conference – a success!

Wow, what a full day!  As I was getting all my kids up and dressed much earlier than usual this morning, I was thinking it felt like getting ready for a bris. Of course that wasn’t the reason we were all up – I needed to get my youngest 4 (except the baby) to my inlaws and get to the place the conference was being held by 8 am with everyone else so we’d be there before anyone checking in.

We started the morning with a general session by Molly B. Koch, a parent educator with over fifty years experience who’s still going strong at 81!  I bought her parenting book and am looking forward to reading it. She has a wealth of experience. 

I wish I could have been in two places at once and heard each of the workshops being given in each time slot because I know I would have gained from every one of them.  Every speaker did a great job and I’m looking forward to listening to the recordings of those I couldn’t be at.  (Making the cds will be the next project.  :))

After the first general session, we had a workshop on different approaches to homeschooling and simultaneously another on the benefits to the family of homeschooling.   After that was a session on socialization and another on teaching Hebrew reading and writing creatively.  After these workshops, Rabbi Menachem Goldberger of Tiferes Yisroel of Baltimore spoke.  Because of his communal position, he has to walk a fine line when participating in our home education conference because of his support of parents who choose to educate their own children – while not being perceived as being anti the school system.  It’s a precarious balance but I believe he succeeded.  He spoke about the importance of recognizing the needs of every child and educating him accordingly, and shared his experience of 20 years of dealing with homeschooled families in his shul.  

After that there was a lunch break for an hour, and though I reserved a lovely ‘eating together’ room for participants to spend time together during the break, since I spoke with Rabbi Goldberger right after his talk and then to a couple of attendees, I didn’t remember to announce the room was available until most of the participants had already left the conference room.  But I think everyone managed to connect during their lunch anyway. :)

After lunch we reconvened for three workshop sessions.  I participated in one of the first – the Veterans Panel – along with three other moms.  I think we could have easily gone for two hours instead of one if we had been able to accept all the questions people had.  Right after that I gave a talk on Teaching the Multi-Age Family.  I have to admit that I was very, very tired before the day even started, and before I gave my talk I told my dh that I was concerned about being able to be coherent in my talk because of my exhaustion.  I hope I succeeded; I haven’t listened to the recording of me yet and am not in any rush to do so!  (Do you think it’s fun to listen to yourself?  Instructive maybe, but not fun!)

My two teenage daughters attended my talk though I told them not to waste their time since they know how we homeschool and it would be boring for them.  Interestingly, though, they really enjoyed it.  One told me she never knew there were reasons for why we do what we do, that there was a thought out purpose in various ways I structure our academics; she just accepted that’s the way things are in our house.  So it’s nice that they now appreciate how we homeschool more than they did before attending. 

Then there was a final session before we closed, one on dealing with burnout and the other by my dh on teaching your kids limudei kodesh.   I got a lot of very positive feedback from those who attended the conference and I hope that everyone attending enjoyed themselves as much as I did.  A nice plus was getting to meet three of my until now faceless blog readers (waving hi to Sharon, Yael, and Julie), and realizing that one of them was a Shabbos guest of ours ten years ago when I lived in Israel!  

Someone emailed me tonight the following: “It was a lovely day! Thank you so much for all your efforts and organization which allowed this to happen. I definitely got the feeling that this was something that people NEEDED! A place to go and have questions answered in a relaxed atmosphere.”  And from someone else: “I was able to walk away with some new insights and chizuk. Thank you again for arranging today’s event. It must have taken up a lot of your time. It was a beautiful turnout. I just wish I had more time to speak to all the new faces. They seemed like such a warm, educated, well rounded and intellectually honest group of people.”

My biggest regret, if you want to call it that, is that I couldn’t speak to all the people I wanted to speak to for the time I’d like to have spoken to them for!   I enjoyed every minute with every person; it was really the people who participated as both speakers and attendees who made the day what it was.  My older three kids also really enjoyed it; as a plus, I think it’s valuable for children get involved in helping their community and am glad they had a chance to participate in organizing this with me.

With Hashem’s help I’ll soon decide on a date for next year’s conference so I can reserve the location!


Busy with conference

I wanted to pop my head in and let you know I didn’t disappear!  I’ve been busy yesterday and tonight with details for the conference, so I haven’t been able to post for these couple of days.  It’s not for lack of things to post about as much as lack of time!  Tomorrow night I’ll hopefully be back to posting, once the conference is over. 

For those of you in the area, please come – it’s going to be great!  (9 am – 5 pm at the Baltimore JCC, second floor, $20 for the day.) 


Summer vacation has begun!

At the beginning of the week I told my kids that today would officially be the first day of summer vacation.  I never liked the concept of learning and fun being independent of one another, and I never made a clear demarcation between the two.  Our summer schedules tend to be more relaxed than during the year, but similar.

However, my ds10 has friends who are in school and who homeschool who have all made a clear end date, and I saw that he liked that.  And I understand the desire for clarity on what will be happening when, so I decided to make an official announcement, too. No end of the year parties or celebrations, but he appreciated it.  And as the kids get older, the academic schedule of each becomes more intense and I think everyone benefits from shifting gears and having time to recharge. 

Now I’m spending time thinking about outings and activities for the summer.  Today we spent hours with homeschooling friends at our monthly get together, and when I got home at around 5:45 pm I immediately took a nap.  I’ve been really wiped out this last week – probably from doing too much too soon and not taking my opportunities to nap when things are quiet – and I literally felt like I could hardly move.  One dd had a bas mitzva to attend at 6:30 and I guess she walked the mile or so to get there, because I didn’t wake up to take her (she told me before I went to sleep that she wasn’t going to ask me because she saw how tired I was and would make her own arrangements).   I don’t even remember closing my eyes – I was totally out for a couple of hours!  That was good, since as soon as I woke up it was time to go with the older two girls to our shul’s talent show for women.  It was a really nice evening, and when we got home at 11 pm, everyone else was still awake (except for the baby and toddler) – they had just finished a game of Monopoly.  And the house was a mess.  But they were all happy and I reminded myself that it’s vacation which was immediately a relaxing thought.  :)

Before they went to sleep, I made plans with my three middle kids and wrote it on my planner to be sure it happens – I have a date with ds7 for a card game of his choice and some reading time, ds8 wants to read with me and we’ll watch A Little Princess (she mentioned it but it will be for everyone, not just her), and I told ds10 he could spend 2.5 hours with a friend (who invited him over today but he was busy with other friends). 

Then in the afternoon I’m going to try something new – I had an informal family meeting with my kids at the beginning of this week about preparing for Shabbos and making it more relaxing for everyone.  With these long Fridays it feels like there’s plenty of time to do everything, so there’s no sense of urgency and we end up doing too much at the last minute.  I felt there’s no reason for tension at the last minute, and the reason for the meeting with the kids was to get them on board so it’s not me imposing a new schedule on everyone, but something they’re invested in themselves.  We decided we’re going to do all the cooking on Thursday afternoon from 3 – 6 pm instead of Friday, except for challah and fresh salad.  Then on Friday morning we can do the cleaning, have time for a family trip, and still get home with plenty of time for everyone to shower and get dressed.  That’s the idea, anyway – I’m optimistic about it and we’ll see how the next couple of days go!


Breakfast shakes

>>Shakes for breakfast are my favorite things. What do you put in yours?
I generally like to put in either yogurt or milk or leben, whatever soft fruit i have in the house, like strawberries, grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, etc… bananas (preferably frozen, but non frozen is also ok), and lately i’ve also been adding wheat germ, whole sesame seeds, and flax seeds. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit i either may or may not add some sort of thing to sweeten it. It comes out delicious.<<

What’s great about shakes is that they’re so versatile, easy, and tasty!  You can put just about anything in and it will turn out great!  For my shake today I’ll have 1 c. raw whole milk, 1/2 c. kefir, 1 raw pastured egg, 2 bananas, and 1/2 oz coconut oil.   For the kids I’ll be using bananas, milk, and peanut butter for the kids, with some coconut oil thrown in.  But really it can be anything that is around the house – if I had to say a recipe, it would be milk/kefir/yogurt with fruit and some kind of fat.  (Sometimes I prefer to have the coconut oil separately because when I use frozen fruit it clunks up into tiny pieces. )  I don’t add any sweetners – a ripe banana adds a good amount of sweetness. 

I find that a shake is a super breakfast – it’s very filling, packed with nutrients, and especially helpful to me with a month old infant, easy to make and to drink. 


Are kids embarrassed by frugality?

>>Also, something else I was wondering… My son right now is only 2 years old, but I know I grew up with a frugal family and I was embarassed of it.  Do your kids have a similar mindset to you in terms of natural stuff and frugality, or do they get embarrassed about it? How do you keep your kids proud of what you’re doing and not embarrassed that their mom is one of ‘those moms’ :roll:; like I felt when I was a kid?  Is living your kind of lifestyle a little more accepted (where you live) than it was (where I grew up), apparently?<<

I grew up without much money and I always felt less than, so I know what you mean.  When I was younger I planned to make sure my kids had everything that everyone else (plus!) so that they wouldn’t feel bad to be different or have less.  I attributed my negative feelings as a kid to being poor.  But that’s not actually the root of the feeling – it’s an insecurity about who you are and what you do that you convey to your child that they pick up on, not if you are just like everyone else.  If you are confident about what you do and present your choices to your family (or anyone else) matter of factly, it makes a huge difference in how you and what you do are perceived.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that even those who do things just like everyone else also have kids who are embarrassed by them.  So being ultra conservative and conformist isn’t the answer to having kids who are embarrassed by you.  Actually, I think it’s when parents put a high value on being like everyone else that it becomes a lot more important to the kids, and those kids are much more likely to be embarrassed by any perceived differences than kids raised with the idea that it’s a value to live with integrity.

I don’t label myself as a ‘natural’ or ‘attachment parenting’ person.  The things I do are part of who I am, but they aren’t my identity.  I’m a middle of the road person, and if you were to look at me you wouldn’t see visible differences between me and anyone else.  (Anyone who knows me in person is welcome to disagree in the comments section :)).   Why would anyone look at me and know I spent 1/4 – 1/2 of what the same size family spends on food?  People don’t know by looking where you buy your clothes, if it’s at the super duper sales, at a thrift store, or at the beginning of the season in overpriced stores.  And if they learn that you have a great quality life for a lot less than what they think it’s necessary to spend, most people would be interested and positive about that, not hostile.

I’ve said before that frugality isn’t about doing without, but about living within your means while making choices about how you spend your money that are valuable to you.  We make choices and that’s how I explain things to my kids.  I don’t feel apologetic that there are many people in the world that have a lot more money than we do.  We have a great quality life and I constantly communicate my feeling to my kids that we’re so blessed to have all that we have (not just material things, but quality of life things).

Kids tend to have a lot of social insecurity since they are in the process of figuring out who they are and where they fit in. I think it helps a lot that I homeschool, so my kids aren’t constantly exposed to the judgments and assessments of immature peers – it’s that ongoing exposure that creates a lot of insecurity.  My kids haven’t internalized the belief that if you do anything different from everyone else, that something is wrong or shameful about you.

My kids aren’t embarrassed by me, but not because I made it my goal to keep them from feeling that way.  We spend a lot of time together and they respect who I am and what I do; I think the feeling of respect is the core of why I don’t have this issue.  They like me (well, most of the time – less when I’m reminding them to wash the dishes!), and I like them.

As far as if my lifestyle is perceived more positively here than somewhere else – I can’t say.  Maybe.  In my opinion, it’s not so much about how people view your lifestyle as how they view you.  As I said, I don’t wear the different choices I make on my sleeve, and I generally find people to be quite positive when I do discuss choices that I’ve made that are outside of the norm (eg homeschooling).   While I think it’s less about the choice and more about the individual, if I were in a community that was rigid and judgmental, I’d undoubtedly have a different experience.  So I’m grateful to live in the community I do, which is wonderful!


Green Popcorn

This is a fun light meal since it feels like a snack, but is loaded with healthy fats that fill you up.  Extra virgin coconut oil has a coconut flavor that isn’t always appreciated but I like to use it when making popcorn – it’s a good way to sneak in extra nutrition and it tastes great!

Green Popcorn

  • 1/4 c. popcorn
  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 1 T. vegetable broth
  • 1 t. spirulina
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheese
  • 2 – 4 T. melted butter

Pop the popcorn in coconut oil. Mix the remaining ingredients, and stir into the popcorn.  I’ve only made this once, so there’s probably a better way to mix this al up, but this worked for today.


Weekly menu plan

This week I’ve made some nutritional upgrades to my menu, though I don’t know how immediately apparent it will be just looking at my menu.  I want to increase the amount of coconut oil and bone broths we eat daily and minimize grains and flours.  Instead of grains as a side dish, I’ll be increasing the amount of vegetables served with the meals, in addition to regularly serving fermented vegetables with the lunch and dinner meals.

I do some of this to a degree but not nearly as much as I’d like to, and now is a good time to improve our nutritional habits since I’m easing back into actively running things.  I’ve been sleeping late in the mornings, and breakfast hasn’t always been what’s planned but what is quick (oats with milk and eggs are our typical easy breakfasts).  For that reason we haven’t been soaking flours before using them since to do that you have to prepare ahead, and we’ve gotten into the habit of using the freshly ground flour as is.  There are worse things a person could eat, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

I’m also noting in the menu the fruit and milk/kefir being served with breakfast, as well as the vegetables being served with the other meals (though I don’t generally plan which vegetables to serve until the night before – it often depends on what most needs to be used).  I realize that leaving that out gives the impression that our meals are more sparse than they are.

Sun – breakfast – shakes; lunch – green popcorn; dinner – turkey hash, roasted yams, peas and carrots

Mon – b – coconut pudding, cherries, milk; l – cauliflower quiche (double recipe), sliced tomatoes sprinkled with fresh oregano; d – zucchini beef bake, brown rice

Tues – b – banana/peanut butter shakes; l – cauliflower quiche, Mexican corn and peppers; d – Avgolemono (Greek egg-lemon soup), falafel balls, Israeli salad

Weds – b – breakfast tacos, kefir, fruit; l – green beans and potatoes with sour cream; d – stuffed cabbage soup

Thurs – almond blueberry muffins, milk, fresh pineapple; l – stuffed cabbage soup; d- CORN (clean out refrigerator night)

Today I’m planning to soak the raw pecans I bought a few days ago, and then they can dehydrate overnight.  I’ll soak some flour for banana bread, and hopefully get some fermented vegetables going – I want to try a couple of new recipes.  I’m pretty wiped out today, though, and the 5 oldest kids are out, so what I want to do and what I actually do may end up being very different. :)


How to freeze bananas

When you have bananas that are starting to get a little too ripe, don’t think you have to eat them all or throw them away!  By freezing them at that point, you’ll be able to get lots of use out of them at your convenience.

There are several different ways to freeze them, and the way that works best for you will depend partially on what you want to do with them when you take them out of the freezer.  My preference is to 1) peel them, and freeze them whole in large ziploc bags to prevent freezer burn.  Some people like to 2) peel them, and then slice them before freezing – it probably does make it easier to defrost and use a smaller amount.

Another choice is to 3) peel the bananas and mash them.  Package them in small amounts in plastic bags or freezer containers, putting the amount you would use for a recipe into one bag (eg 1 cup).  This is perfect for having prepped bananas for banana bread or cake.  You can add a tiny bit of lemon juice if you’re concerned about them discoloring. 

The last choice is to 4) freeze them in the peel.  I don’t like this option, but some people do.  One thing that has been said as a benefit of this is that the peel protects them from freezer burn (though my peeled bananas in bags do fine); it also elimates any prep time.  The reason I don’t like it is: a) the peels get brown and look unappetizing, b) it takes up more room in the freezer, and c) it’s lots easier to peel fresh bananas than frozen.

 But if you do want to freeze your bananas unpeeled, here are some tips for using them: 

Score the peel lengthways with knife and gently open.  It can take up to 2 hours for them to defrost, and will be very mushy when thawed.  If you don’t want to peel the banana, you can cut off the top and squeeze out the banana mush.  It may sound unappetizing but it works. 

I’ll try to write another post on some ideas of how to use all of these frozen bananas!