Ani and Valium (Wisdom Teeth)

Just over a week ago, Ani got her bottom two wisdom teeth removed. Because of her chronic health issues, the oral surgeon didn’t feel comfortable knocking her out for it, so instead, she did conscious sedation using Valium. The night before, she had to take one and things got kind of amusing. (Note: Ani remembers none of this. Also, she’s healed up very nicely and this weekend was much better than last weekend.)

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Our Christmas

We had an excellent Christmas. Everyone was very happy with their gifts and the little guys are old enough now to pick out presents to give other people so they were pretty excited about that. As an added bonus, my parents finally arrived a few days before Christmas and are working on getting all their stuff unpacked making us a multi-generational household once again.

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Jamie and I also did pretty much all our Christmas shopping that day. Adrian was a little puzzled by all the wrapped packages under the tree. This is the first year we’ve done that (since all the kids have figured out Santa isn’t real and everyone is old enough not to open anything before Christmas).
Our Christmas

I got 24 little Christmas books and wrapped them all up with a piece of an Advent Nativity my mom made me years ago. Each evening from December 1st to 24th, the boys unwrapped a book for me to read to them and put the Nativity piece up to finish the picture. The boys also insisted that I make a countdown chain for them to rip off one piece each day. They love countdown chains.
Our Christmas

The kids left their shoes out and got candy and little presents for St. Nicholas Day.
Our Christmas

We got a huge surprise when it actually snowed. Considering we live in south Texas, this was definitely something unusual.
Our Christmas

We went to Main Street Bethlehem in Burnet and the Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls. Both were very amazing displays.
Our Christmas

We did our annual Random Acts of Christmas Kindness December 1st through 24th.
Our Christmas

My parents couldn’t find their stockings before Christmas (we found them a couple days later), so we got ones from Target for them on Christmas Eve (not much of a selection, but 70% off).
Our Christmas

Christmas morning our stockings were full and there were presents for the animals, too. Lola’s pile was a bit bigger than all the others.
Our Christmas

Everyone was quite happy with what they were given.
Our Christmas

But then there was the totally awesome present. Cameron decided to get a Nintendo Switch for him and his siblings to share. Ani got a couple games to play on it. The little guys were so surprised and so excited.

It really made a wonderful Christmas absolutely unforgettable. Even though Christmas is all put away now (did that on Saturday), wonderful memories were made. Merry Christmas a little late (or really, really early – your choice).
Our Christmas

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

We’ve done another 8 days of #24RACKs (for the first 8 days, go here).

On Saturday the 9th, we took cat and dog treats and toys to the Animal Defense League. Lola helped us deliver them because that’s where we adopted her four years ago.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Sunday the 10th, we held the door for other people.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Monday the 11th, we brought up our neighbors’ trash cans and left candy canes for them.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Tuesday the 12th, we gave a lottery ticket to a stranger.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Wednesday the 13th, we picked up litter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Thursday the 14th, we took cookies to our pharmacist.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Friday the 15th, we fed the birds.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Saturday the 16th, we took socks to the homeless shelter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

We Tried Home Chef

For our fourth meal kit service, we tried Home Chef. We got three two-serving meals and like when we tried Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket, we made them for lunch so there was plenty for those of us at home during the day.

Pros:
1.) Each meal was packaged in a plastic bag (plus meat separately) making it easy to pull everything out at once for cooking (I really liked the look of the bags since I could see what was in them without breaking the seal).
2.) Good size portions so everyone had plenty.
3.) Very convenient.
4.) The instructions were easy to follow.
5.) Allergens are clearly marked so it was easy to find the gluten free meals we could choose from.
6.) While we didn’t choose to get them, you can select smoothies, quick lunches, and seasonal fruit for a small extra cost which is pretty cool.
7.) Came with a nice binder to hold the recipes.
8.) The vegetables were extremely fresh. In fact, we didn’t make the salad for 6 days after the box arrived and the produce was still in very good shape.

Cons:
1.) The meals are expensive compared to getting the ingredients on your own.
2.) The chicken needed to have the gross bits trimmed off (I am really picky about the grossness left on chicken after it is cut up).


The box arrived about 6pm the day they said it would (expected delivery between 8am and 8pm). It was raining that day and the outside of the box was a little bit soggy. Inside everything was perfectly dry. The top of the box contained ice packs and meal bags and large produce. The meat was double wrapped in the bottom between more ice packs. The whole inside was wrapped in some sort of insulating material to, along with the ice packs, keep everything the right temperature during shipping.


The box included a nice three-ring binder to hold the recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, and definitely unexpected. Inside the binder was a few pages of general cooking information (this would be excellent for someone wanting to learn to cook) and instructions on how to recycle the packing materials.


Three meals plus the recipe binder equals a lot of stuff in that box! I really like the plastic containers rather than paper bags since I could see everything in them before time to make the meals.

The first meal we made was Korean Pork Medallions with Siracha and Slaw. Adrian helped me. He put some YouTube parody songs on his computer for us to cook to. They sent seasoned rice vinegar, green onions, garlic cloves, red fresno chile, pork tenderloin, tamari soy sauce (labeled gluten free), light brown sugar, siracha, chopped ginger, toasted sesame oil, and slaw mix.

This was an easy meal to make. I sliced the green onions and chile and minced the garlic.

I sliced the pork and Adrian helped me make the marinade. While the pork marinated, Adrian helped me mix together the slaw. Both the marinade and slaw dressing were easy enough that Adrian could mix them.

This meal was so incredibly good. The flavors were amazing, the pork was tender. We dished up the pork medallions with the slaw on the side garnished with chile pepper rings and green onions. It was spicy, but not overly so. We’ll definitely make this again!

The second meal we made was Coconut Jasmine Rice Bowl with Fried Plantains and Corn Pico de Gallo. Adrian helped me again. This time we put Christmas music on the Echo (don’t judge). Included in the kit was coconut milk, a shallot, a jalapeno pepper, jasmine rice, a plantain, black beans, a lime, a roma tomato, cilantro, and corn. Cameron’s had me save all the little containers holding ingredients. He loves little containers (he gets that from me).

Adrian made the coconut rice by combining the rice, water, and coconut milk. It turned out so good.

I cut up the vegetables. Since this was a vegetarian meal, there was a lot to chop up.

Adrian did the stirring while things cooked and I put together the corn pico de gallo.

This meal was so amazing! The taste of the rice was incredible and the corn pico was quite nice. The fried plantains were quite nice. Cameron really, really liked them.

Our third meal from Home Chef was Blackened Chicken Caesar Salad with Cripy Shallots. The box included grated parmesan, a shallot, two peeled garlic cloves, two romaine hearts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, two boneless skinless chicken breasts, blackening seasoning, white rice flour, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar. Fritz helped me make this meal. We listened to music by Taylor Swift on the Echo while we cooked.

Fritz prepared the blackened chicken while I chopped the vegetables.

I wasn’t expecting such an amazing meal out of something sounding so basic as a salad. The shallot rings were tossed with rice flour and then fried until they were golden brown and crispy. This added a nice bit of flavor and crunch. It also made me very happy because gluten free meals are often labeled gluten free after the fact. Basically, they happen to have no gluten in their ingredients so they can marked gluten free. Usually a chicken caesar salad has croutons in it, but they were replaced with the crispy shallots. It made the meal a little bit more special because it’s gluten free-ness seemed more intentional.

This meal was so good. The dressing was super simple and easy, but also very tasty. The blackening seasoning was delicious (though cooking it did set off the smoke detector which caused Lola to demand that we allow her to herd us outside to safety).

So now we have tried four meal kit delivery services. Home Chef has taken over as number one. It was better than Blue Apron. I could totally see using Home Chef on occasion again.

Rankings, so far:
1. Home Chef
2. Blue Apron
3. Hello Fresh
4. Sun Basket

March Science Experiments

We drew food webs for our backyard (including our dog and lizards… she really eats lizards).
March Science Experiments

We looked at a torn blade of grass under the microscope.
March Science Experiments

We looked at rhizobacteria under the microscope.
March Science Experiments

We made a terrarium in an empty pickle jar.
March Science Experiments

We picked two identical leaves off one tree. We put 1/2 cup of distilled water in one jar and 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar in another jar and added a leaf to each jar. We let them sit overnight. The next day, the leaf that had been in the water was bright green and still looked healthy while the leaf that had been in the vinegar was very dark green and a bit shriveled.
March Science Experiments

We planted four radish seedlings and watered one with pure water, one with pure vinegar, one with 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar, and one with 4 parts vinegar and 1 part water. The one with pure water kept growing, the one with pure vinegar died within a few hours. The one with mostly water tried to keep growing, but wasn’t healthy, and the one with mostly vinegar grew for a couple days and then died.
March Science Experiments

My Cleaning Plan

The other day I was talking to my best friend on the phone and mentioned that the room I was in was echoing because I had taken all the furniture out of it. She asked why and I explained that I do that every month so I can sweep and mop under everything. She said I have it way more together than she does. This is not true, however. She’s a single working mom and still somehow manages to feed her kids and get them to school on time and everything. I, however, am slightly neurotic and inherited a love of marking things off lists from my mother and so I have, over time, developed a cleaning plan that works really well for me.

I took the ideas I use from FlyLady, Side-Tracked Home Executives, and some other random cleaning gurus. For a long time I wrote my to do’s out on paper (and even tried the SHE index card system – which did not work for me at all). Now I use some apps on my phone. I use the calendar that came with my iPhone for scheduling, Wunderlist for my to do list, and MealBoard for menu planning, grocery list, and pantry inventory.

I have things I do every day, every week, and recurring on some other schedule. They are all entered into Wunderlist so they show up each day for me automatically. Some things are somewhat silly to be listed as a to do, but, as I said, I really like checking things off my list so I leave them. As things come up (like if a kid is doing a multi-day thing for Scouts), I’ll add it to my to do list temporarily. If I come up with something extra to do (for example, reviewing a book I have finished), I add it as needed. Below are my regularly scheduled chores.

Daily:
*Pray (I’m great with bedtime prayers, not so much with morning so this reminds me)
*Upstairs Toilet (either wipe it down with a Clorox wipe or use the brush inside the bowl)
*Downstairs Toilet
*Vitamins (I put them out on a shelf so people can pick theirs up and take them any time)
*Read Scriptures (currently reading the Doctrine and Covenants and using a verse by verse book to help with studying)
*Add to Letter (I write to my aunt every Wednesday, but if I write it all at once I forget a lot of things so I add things daily)
*Journal
*Spot Clean Cage (guinea pigs – pick up their poop)
*Family Scriptures
*Picture of the Day (I’ve taken a picture each day since 2011, plus in 2009)
*P365 Page (add the picture of the day to a digital scrapbook page)
*Dishes
*Finances (yes, I update our finances every day – I actually enjoy it)
*Indexing (I do one batch a day)
*PokeWalk (with Fritz)
*Wash Critter Kitchen (sugar gliders are horribly messy when they eat so we have a plastic container with their food dish in their cage)
*Critter Food 1/2/3 (we always have three mixes of food cubes for the gliders in the freezer and each morning I take one out, put it in a dish, and stick it in the refrigerator so it’s thawed by evening when they get fed)
*Brush Lola (she is such a shedder!)
*Notebook (I check the next day’s meals and schedule and add them to the to do list, noting if I will need to take any meat out to thaw or make bread or whatever in the morning)
*Pinterest (I’m always looking for gluten and dairy free recipes)

Sundays
*Cut chicken (I have chicken issues so I get all the gross stuff cut off at one time and freeze single breasts in ziploc baggies so they are ready to be used as needed; I cut the chicken on Sundays because I grocery shop Friday and Monday is trash day and if the nasty bits sit in the garage in the Texas heat longer than a day it is really gross)
*Sacrament (because of the Celiac we have to bring crackers for taking the Sacrament at church)
*Write to Steven (he’s a friend of Ani’s serving a mission right now)
*FHE (because of the big kids’ work schedule and Jamie taking taekwondo on Monday evenings, we do Family Home Evening on Sundays)
*Church
*Skype Jamie’s Mum

Mondays
*Sweep Living Room
*Trash (Cam) (taking out the trash is Cameron’s assigned job)
*Cans (once they pick the trash up, we have to bring the cans back in)

Tuesdays
*Counters
*Sweep Kitchen
*Taekwondo (I only add taekwondo to the list when I’ll be going there – otherwise it would be on there almost daily)

Wednesdays
*Bathe Lola (Cam) (another of his assigned jobs)
*Refrigerator (clean out the leftovers we didn’t eat)
*Sweep Stairs
*Print Letter to Aunt Betty
*Take Cameron to Work (he works Wednesdays, but Ani doesn’t)

Thursdays
*Catalog Food (I go through our cabinets and make sure my food inventory in MealBoard is correct)
*Menus (I plan a week at a time and grocery shop on Friday morning)
*Trash (Cam)
*Cans
*Taekwondo
*Mail Aunt Betty Letter
*Sweep Dining Room

Fridays
*Guinea Pig Cage (I put the girls in their pen on the floor and wash their bedding and clean the coroplast)
*Plan FHE
*Prepare for Sunday School
*Sweep Craft Room

Saturdays
*Prepare for Relief Society (if Sunday will be from the Gordon B. Hinckley manual or Teachings for Our Times)
*Pills (refill the pill containers to make it easy to put them out each morning)

Every 4 Weeks
*Mop in addition to sweep (when I do that I remove all furniture possible from the room; when I do the counters that week I remove everything as well; when I do the dining room I also wash the table)
*Wash Sheets, Dry Sheets, Make Beds

Every 24 Weeks
*Wash and Dry Mattress Pads (when I do the sheets)

First of the Month
*Cabinets (wash their doors and also the center island)
*Change Welcome Sign (my sister gave me a felt sign years ago and each month has a different little picture to go on it)
*Lego Calendar (I have a perpetual Lego calendar that I happily rearrange every month)
*Clean Dishwasher
*Clean Disposal
*Clean Washing Machine (I get little tablets for cleaning those three things each month)
*Lola’s Heartworm Medicine

If I don’t get around to something that is not a daily recurring chore, I just let it go to the next day. For example, I really hate washing the cabinets every month. It’s probably my least favorite chore (well, other than sweeping and mopping the stairs – I HATE that one). I finally got that one done on the 4th even though it was originally assigned on the 1st. Wunderlist puts overdue tasks at the top of my daily list in red so it annoys me until I do it. I never let things go way too long, mainly because I absolutely love ending a day with the entire “Today” list empty. That’s another thing my best friend recently noted about me. I feel the most productive when I’ve got a clean house and have marked things off my to do list. (But I’ll be honest… some days I don’t do much other than school, walk, and read because sometimes you just need a day off.)

Currently, I have an added recurring daily chore of plan school. As long as I do a little each day I get the next year’s plan done before the end of the current school year.

I check our laundry basket daily to see if laundry needs to be done. Usually that happens twice a week (and I add Wash Clothes, Dry Clothes, Fold Clothes, and Put Away Clothes to the list those days because marking off four things is way more awesome than just one). Towels get washed as needed, usually every week and a half or so. Ani and Cameron do their own laundry.

Dishes get washed a minimum of once a day, generally at night (so they get put away, generally by Fritz and Adrian, in the morning). Often the dishwasher needs to be run twice or even three times during the day and that gets done as needed.

I walk 10,000 steps at a minimum each day. Regular movement around the house is about 3500 steps. The PokeWalk adds a couple thousand. Taekwondo days also add a couple thousand. I have a path I walk around the main floor of our house. It’s an open floor plan so I make a convoluted circle of just over 100 steps over and over. It would be boring to just walk around and around like that so I read while I walk. It is one reason why I read so much. I read while I exercise. I also do a little picking up as I walk. Each time around I grab something in a place that doesn’t belong and as I make the circle I put it where it goes (or on the stairs if it belongs upstairs). That kills two (really three) birds with one stone.

I don’t put school on the to do list, but of course that gets done every morning. We try our best not to run into the afternoon, but on taekwondo days sometimes that is unavoidable.

My kids are big enough that on occasion I assign a random chore to one of them. Fritz is getting really good at sweeping the craft room (it’s the easiest to sweep since it’s small and pretty much empty). I am more likely to assign stuff to them when I’ve been busy doing other stuff and running out of time in the day.

Deeper cleaning projects I do as the urge strikes. Like right now I really want to clean the shelves in the craft room (again), but I haven’t quite gotten around to it. A while back I decided to use a toothbrush to clean the dirt-catching crevices in the cabinet doors. I did one door per day. When I get the urge to do a deep cleaning project, I add it to my daily to do list temporarily. I almost never do any major cleaning on the weekends (unless I feel like it). Weekends are for relaxation and church for me.

It really doesn’t take long to complete all the things I’ve assigned myself. Some of them literally take seconds, but need to be done every day to keep our house running smoothly. I am much more calm and am a much better wife and mother when my house is straight. I hate clutter. Because of that, it is imperative for me to have a “company-ready” house and my cleaning plan helps make that happen.

I’ve found that getting as much done as possible early is best for me. I am a morning person naturally. I have also found that if I do not get on the computer before a good number of my daily to do’s are done things also go better. It’s Newton’s Law about objects in motion staying in motion. As soon as I end up at rest (on the computer) I’m somehow stuck and have trouble getting moving again (the 250 step per hour reminder on my FitBit helps with that, though). Really, if things aren’t done by about 4, they probably aren’t getting done since I’m really tired by then.

The most important thing I have learned through tweaking and adjusting my plan is it will only work if it is customized to me. It’s why I had to take ideas from others, but still make it mine because me and my house are unique. So that is my advice to others who want to make a cleaning plan: Don’t just copy someone else. Make it your own. And, most importantly, make it something that you will do, is realistic for you, and meets your goals or you will not succeed.

Best Christmas Ever

We have five traditions surrounding Christmas. One is that the kids line up by age before coming into the room with the Christmas tree. This year Ani had to stand two steps above Cameron to be taller than him. (The others are watching Holiday in Handcuffs, Santa presents are not wrapped and they get nothing from Jamie and me, they get a book, a cross stitched ornament, and something else, and we always have pickles and olives with our holiday meals.)
Best Christmas Ever

Santa brought great presents for the kids. He also brought stuff for Lola (two toys, two bags of her favorite treats, and two cans of special meals), Filli and Kree (three bags of yogurt drops), and Hera and Demeter (wooden chewies, dried corn on the cob, and these crispy treats they love).
Best Christmas Ever

As I was setting out the gifts Christmas Eve night, Lola stole one of her toys. It’s got lots of ropes and ropes are her favorite. She was a bit miffed when I took it back from her. She got the idea that she wasn’t allowed to play with it and amazingly left it alone all night. When the kids went to their piles, she went to grab that toy. I laughed and told everyone to look at Lola. She must have thought I meant she couldn’t touch it because she ran away from it. She was so happy when we gave it to her.
Best Christmas Ever

I finished the kids’ ornaments on Christmas Eve. I always insist I will get them done early and I always don’t. This is the latest I’ve finished them, though.
Best Christmas Ever

Ani got a breadmaker and The Fever Code by James Dashner. She immediately sat down to read it and was quite surprised to discover it is signed by the author. We ordered it from Amazon and had no idea it was signed so that was a nice surprise.
Best Christmas Ever

Cameron got a Man Bag and an Audible book. He apparently really likes bags since last year he got a taekwondo bag for Christmas. He promptly put his new book on his phone. He’ll probably finish listening to it within a few days. He’s a voracious listener.
Best Christmas Ever

Fritz got a chess set and a book of Mysterious Benedict Society puzzles. He’s been playing the Fritz and Chesster games so now he can try out his Chess skills in real life.
Best Christmas Ever

Adrian got a science experiment kit and one of the worst case scenario for kids books. He hugged his science kit and then immediately sat down across the chess set from Fritz to play a game of Chess. They spent about 45 minutes playing right then and played another couple games later on (and did one of the science experiments from his kit).
Best Christmas Ever

I got some awesome gifts, too. Jamie gave me a Kindle Oasis. (I gave him part of a computer – the rest of his computer came from my parents and his mom.) My Kindle Keyboard served me well for almost 6 years, but it was time to upgrade. It wasn’t holding a charge very well anymore and the off/on slider button was sticking and becoming stubborn about turning the thing on. It was also just generally slowing down. I am amazed at the difference. It’s obviously so much smaller and lighter, but the font is also crisper and it responds so much faster. I love it. My parents gave me money and I chose to get an Instant Pot. I love that thing possibly more than my new Kindle and that’s saying something. It arrived about a week ago and I have used it at least once a day. Christmas dinner included three things cooked in it (ribs, potato salad, and corn on the cob). I also got purple slippers with the money from my parents. They won’t arrive until Friday. My mother-in-law also sent money and I chose to get a purse. The one I’ve been using is big and was wearing out. This one is small and fits my phone and new Kindle perfectly.
Best Christmas Ever

And then there was the gift that has made me laugh the most. It came from Cameron. He gave me Christmas in a Nutshell. It is a little baby Jesus inside a half walnut shell. It’s awesome. My son really gets me.
Best Christmas Ever

In addition to gifts and an amazing dinner, Christmas included apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast (made in the Instant Pot, of course), a bit of reading, and a PokeWalk with most of the family. Seriously the best Christmas ever.
Best Christmas Ever