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Monday, July 17, 2017

Weekly Meal Prep for the Large Family

Nine people.

Three meals a day.

Seven days a week.

189 individual meals a week.   Plus snacks.

Those numbers can be daunting to even the most experienced kitchen hand.  But they don't have to be.

Preparing meals for the large family begins with a plan.  It doesn't have to be on a fancy spreadsheet.  It doesn't have to be well balanced (kids don't care).  It just has to be written down.  Currently, I'm using this great little notebook (affiliate link) I won at a bridal shower.  I write LUNCH on the top of one page and SUPPER on the top of a second page.  I write the days of the week with a few lines in between and then just start filling it in.  Once all the days have meals, I tear out the sheets and clip them to the side of a magazine holder on my kitchen counter.

So let's go through this step by step.  Find a notebook or dry erase board or chalk board or blank calendar.....whatever it is you desire to write up your meal plan.

Label the pages.

Start adding meal ideas.  My best tips are to look at your calendar and pick meals that will work with your schedule for that day and have a mix of everyone's favorites.  I like to try new recipes, but I spread them out between family favorites, usually. 😉

Keep this part simple.  For lunch I might plan hot dogs and applesauce.  Then on the day of I'll throw in any other leftovers if I have them.  And if I don't have any extras to add, it's really no big deal because I have a basic plan and there's nothin' wrong with a basic lunch.  Same goes for supper.  If I'm planning Taco Tuesday, I'll write tacos and rice, then when I'm making supper I'll look around for some canned fruit or cottage cheese to add to it.  And again, if I don't have anything extra to add, no biggie, tacos and rice is plenty.
Sometimes I mix up the meals because a day turns out differently than expected.  In that case, I just cross off the meals I use so I always know what's still available.

Of course, now you make a shopping list and shop.

The fun part is having a cooking day.  I really like cooking everything for the entire week on one day.  I also prep veggies, cheese, muffins and desserts, and fruits.  It simply makes the rest of the week go so much smoother having all the meals prepped.  This summer it's been Monday.  The four teens all work and I'm left with just the three youngest and they can usually keep themselves busy playing/destroying the house for quite a while.  I shared a little of my last cooking day here.  I had another cooking day today.

I focused on ground venison recipes:  2 pounds taco meat, 2 pounds tater tot casserole, 4 pounds BBQ.  I also shredded cheese, chopped veggies for tacos and made 2 dozen cranberry blueberry muffins and cranberry cake.  I planned, but didn't get to, boiling and mashing 5 pounds potatoes and making Cole slaw.  Tomorrow's another day with one dental appointment and BMX practice with a lot of hours in between so hopefully I'll get to it then.

Make the most of your cooking day.

Thaw meat the day before.

Start with a clean kitchen.  Didn't happen today.  Yesterday the pump (we think) went out on our dishwasher.  I ran the same load with the same dishwasher pod three times.  I was in denial.  Then this morning I unloaded it all and washed it by hand; after an hour of kitchen cleanup I was ready to start cooking.

Put on comfy clothes and shoes.  Maybe I'm showing my age, but supportive shoes go a long way to a productive day.

Wear an apron.  I find that whenever I put on an apron I just feel more like getting it done.  Since I wipe my hands on my apron and even wipe up little spills with it, I don't have to waste time rinsing and wringing out washcloths.

Listen to a good podcast.  Homeschool Snapshots  The Homeschool Solutions Show

Think about all the fun you'll have with your family because your meals are ready to go.



Happy Summer!  I hope and pray you are all having a great summer and finding ways to renew and relax.  🌞




Monday, July 10, 2017

Why I Started Ordering Household Supplies From Walmart


The mention of Walmart brings one of two reactions:

1.  Ugh.  It's so huge; it takes me forever to get through the store.

2.  Love it.  Love the prices.  Love that I can get everything (almost) in one place.

I side more with the second reaction, unless of course I'm toting along three youngsters.  Then I'm more like ugh!

I've seen a lot of hype online about ordering household supplies from Walmart.  Amazon vs. Walmart price wars has also been a headliner in the news.  So I knew I had to check it out.  I've been an Amazon Prime member for years.  I've used the Subscribe & Save feature, the 2-day free Prime Shipping option, and Amazon Pantry.

Even though I was already familiar with the Amazon way, I really wanted to check out Walmart.com because I buy most of our household supplies and a few specific grocery items at Walmart every month.  I typically head into town for one giant grocery shopping trip to Aldi and then drive South to the Walmart.  

It's not such a bad gig if I'm alone or with only teens, but with the younger ones it pretty much adds up to misery.  They want to sit in the cart, but there's no room.  They don't want to sit in the cart, but they're getting into the way of other shoppers.  They have to go potty.  They're thirsty.  They want ice cream and cookies and fruit loops and a papaya and yogurt tubes and, and, and.....

Two or three hours of shopping just isn't their thing.

Enter Walmart.com 2-day free shipping.

I've been placing orders since May, I think.  And I have it down pat now.

Here's how I use Walmart.com to order our household needs for a family of nine.

Most importantly is I have an account that I stay logged into.  Then instead of writing down items we're running low on, I just go straight to Walmart.com, shop for the item I need, place it in my cart, and then go about my day like nothing happened.  Adding to my cart instead of writing on a list has revolutionized my shopping.  I'm always watching for things that we're getting low on instead of waiting until we're out and running to the store.  I've only had to make one stop at Walmart and that was to get a few meat items and some jeans.  But, guess what?  Now that I know what size, style, and brand works for Nick, I can just order him another pair of jeans.

Right now my cart looks like this:


When I have enough for free shipping, I hit the purchase now button and in a couple of days my items arrive at my front door.

I use scrip to support our church and this still works perfectly.  I purchase our monthly Walmart budget amount in scrip cards and then use them to pay for my online order.  It's so simple!

So that's how I've been ordering household supplies from Walmart.  Here's a look at my latest shipment.

This last order was divided into a number of boxes.  I do understand separating food from cleaning supplies, but this seemed a little over the top.


Box #1 - pretty full


Box #2 - huge box, not much in it, a couple boxes were squashed (didn't have any effect on the contents)


Box #3 - not too full


Box #4 - another big box for not a lot of stuff


Box #5 and #6 - Really?


Here's a look at what was actually in all those boxes.


A few squashed boxes, but nothing that hurt the product inside.


I buy most groceries at Aldi, but there's always a few things I can't get there like:  coffee, Knorr seasoning, corn starch, bulk black peppercorns, self-rising flour (I'm reading the Rachel Yoder books to Peter and Maria, Rachel makes a birthday cake for her brother and the recipe is included in the book.  They want to bake the cake so I bought self-rising flour)



Joseph and Maria packed it all back up and got it into 2 medium sized boxes.  I'm sure Walmart has their reasons for separating it out into so many boxes and I still got free 2-day shipping.  Ordering this way has been such a time saver.  The closest Walmart is 30 minutes from home making home delivery quite a treat.

Shopping this way has also saved us money.  The typical quick trip to Walmart for a few things can easily turn into a long, pricey excursion with endcap specials and unnecessary extras.

Have you made the jump to online ordering?  Yes?  No?  Why or why not?  Share your experiences with me and all my other readers.  We'd all love to hear about them.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Weekly Wrap-Up :: Too Cold for My Liking

Wow.  That was a cold week for June.  I am seriously ready for some hot and sticky summer weather.

And now for a quick review of the week.

I wrote up a quick meal plan for the week.


And then Maria and I cooked just about all day Monday.  I find once a week cooking works better for me than once a month cooking.  Making 3-5 of the same dish and then having to eat those up within 6 weeks bores me.  I prefer to have one big cooking day a week so everything is ready to go.  It works especially well for busy weeks when I know I'll be away from home quite a bit.

Maria kept busy unwrapping cheese.  She helped me shred 4 pounds of cheese.

Here's a quick look at some of the food prep - 7.5 pounds of ground venison

Peter's been the resident photographer.  This picture proves how cold it was.  I'm actually wearing a fleece jacket IN JUNE.

5 pounds of diced chicken

Homemade teriyaki sauce

Teriyaki Chicken from Crunchy Creamy Sweet.  I make the recipe X5 for my family

Meatballs inspired by Pioneer Woman.  Of course, I couldn't leave her recipe alone.  I had to add my own touch to it.  I had a pound of seasoned pork sausage that I added to the 2 pounds of ground venison because that just wouldn't be enough.

Cranberry Poppy Seed Scones inspired by another online recipe that I made my own by using CRANBERRIES and no lemon.
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Sam's still on BMX hiatus.  He might be back to racing late this week.  He's healed from the concussion, but still having some back pain.  We'll see what the chiropractor says tomorrow.

Peter got a chance to race for the first time.  He took 2nd place and now refers to himself as a "pro-racer".


More photography by Peter, but I thought it captured our BMX evening well.

Look at that smile.  He's hooked.
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I've managed to keep myself out of Walmart for over a month now by using their home delivery service.  Shopping with these cuties isn't much fun.  I've never had a root canal, but that's what I would equate it to.



Throw in a few hours of weeding, washing load after load of clothes, a few skinned knees and a couple of bike rides and that about wraps up our cold summer week.

Linking up with
Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for the weekly wrap-up


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Doctor Appointments with Down Syndrome

Every summer our visits to the doctor increase.  It seems more likely they would in winter, but for us summer is when I schedule well-child check-ups and any extra appointments like yearly eye exams for my glasses-wearing children.

Recently, at a two for one visit, Joseph and Maria had their well-child check-ups.  I was just being me, when their doctor referred to me as a Gentle Steamroller.  I'll get to that in a bit.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, Joseph needs extra doctor appointments specifically related to issues known to become problematic for people with Down syndrome.  Thyroid checks, neck x-rays, hearing and eye exams, sleep studies, cardiac check-ups - these are all medical issues that need to be addressed.

This handy guide from NDSS lists the recommended health care needs of children with Down syndrome by age.  I refer to this each summer when Joseph visits his primary care doctor for a well-child check-up.

Checking my list is the easy part.

Children with Down syndrome often do not like to be touched or poked upon in any way, shape, or form when it comes to doctors.  Children with Down syndrome also have increased hypotonia (low muscle tone) and for some reason this hypotonia allows them to get their bodies into contortions of epic proportion.  These said contortions make it nearly impossible for a one-poke blood draw.  Measuring blood pressure?  Again, nearly impossible.  Joseph can twist his arm within the ballooned cuff, making the medical assistant work for every dollar she makes.  And eye exams?  Better eat my Wheaties that morning.

I've endured my share of doctor appointments over the years.  Eye appointments, hearing exams, echo cardiograms, weight checks, x-rays, vaccines, blood draws, ear checks, oh the ear checks of toddler days.

I've developed my mom at the doctor style, relived my cheerleader days, and learned a few tricks along the way.  In case you find yourself needing to take a child with Down syndrome to the doctor, I'll share with you what I've learned to date.  I'm sure these tips can be used for any child, I just happen to have learned them by being Joseph's mom.


What I Know About Taking a Child with Down Syndrome to the Doctor


#1 - Joseph is closing in on 9 years old in August and doctor appts. have gotten MUCH MUCH better.  Not great, but better.  It's been a long and bumpy road getting to this point, which is still NOT great.  As Joseph matures so does his behavior and understanding of what's happening at the doctor.

Here's a year by year account of blood draws.  It's not for the squeamish.

Birth - 1 year (2 phlebotomists and me)
Blood draws were miserable.  His hypotonia, tiny, rolling veins, and weakness was almost unbearable.  Three to four pokes was the norm before getting a "good vein".  He was so tiny and easily held still, but his weak cry brought tears to my eyes every time.  I  knew it must be hurting, but he hardly had the energy to let us know.

1-3 years (2 phlebotomists and me)
His heart nice and strong now, he was strong and loud.  He could wiggle out of every hold.  The phlebotomist would always have an assistant holding his elbow.  The needle would go in, he'd wiggle his shoulder and the vein would be gone.  Every time we went in for a blood draw the phlebotomists were amazed.  A couple of the girls actually had nicknames for him like Houdini and Mr. Magic because he could get his elbow out of any hold.

3-5 years (2 phlebotomists and me)
Blood draws were rare in this time period.  I don't have much recollection of what it was like.

5 years - current (3 phlebotomists and me)
Joseph was having a lot of intestinal troubles during this time, i.e. severe constipation which eventually led us to see an endocrinologist.  He checked his TSH and found him to have hypothyroidism.  The blood draws quickly increased to every 2 months.  Joseph is VERY strong and will fight without abandon.  A particularly difficult blood draw was last summer.  We wrapped him in a sheet, one assistant took care of his legs, I had him on my lap with his head locked in under my chin and bear hugging him.  The other 2 phlebotomists were in charge of the actual blood draw.  He was not going to give up; we were all sweating terribly.  And then another angel nurse directed a fan right on us.  That tiny distraction was just enough that the poke "took" and within minutes we were outta there.

We've endured our share of blood draws similar to the one I just shared.  At the last blood draw we dropped back down to only 2 phlebotomists and me.  We are making progress.  Joseph is making progress.  Life is good.

Take heart, mama and daddy of a child with Down syndrome, doctor appointments will get easier.  Time and maturity do so much in the way of easing a child's anxiety.

#2 - Practice, practice, practice!  Play doctor at home.  Does that need much explanation?  In the toddler years shine a flashlight into your child's ears, have them say "aahh" after brushing their teeth, tap and activate their knee reflexes while getting them dressed.  Basically, do doctor and dentist stuff at home as often as possible.  New experiences cause freak outs.  Don't let the doctor's actions be new.  Give your child plenty of opportunities for practice at home.

Now that Joseph is older and can understand my explanations better, I talk about the doctor a lot at home.  A couple days before an appointment I start sharing all the things I can think of that the medical assistant and doctor will be doing to him.  For example before an endocrine appt. I'll tell Joe that he's going to step on the giant scale and his height will be measured up against the wall.  I remind him what it feels like to have his blood pressure taken.  Then we take turns squeezing each other's arm as hard as we can.  I show him how to feel my pulse; then I feel his.  I feel his thyroid gland and tell him how the doctor will feel his neck to see how big or small his thyroid gland is.  He'll have to let the doctor push on his tummy.  I talk A LOT about what will happen.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

#3 - Leave the fussy clothes on the hanger and opt for comfortable, easy on/off clothing.  This is so important.  And it makes total sense, right?  I like to schedule multiple appointments in one day.  That means lots of on and off of the clothing.  I have Joseph wear his most comfy, elastic waist shorts or pants with a favorite t-shirt or hoodie (depending on the season).  I keep my outfit simple, too.  If a wrestling match breaks out, I want to be ready.

#4 - Learn to be a Gentle Steamroller.  I've practiced every possible doctor office scenario, talked myself to sleep about what'll be going down at the doctor, and dressed Joe in comfy clothes.  Now we're there and he's decided that no way, no how is the doctor going to touch his thyroid gland.  My standby line has always been, (said in the sweetest Michelle Duggar voice)  "you need to cooperate or I'll force you".  That's what I said when Joe's pediatrician referred to me as a Gentle Steamroller.  A compliment, I think.  I guess it basically means I will not take "no" as an answer from my kids.

I've also taught Joe to say thank you to all the medical staff he encounters.  It's so sweet when he says thank you to the blood drawing phlebotomist as she places a band-aid in the crook of his arm.

I think having this mindset as the mom going into the doctor appointment reassures Joe that the exam is necessary and it's going to happen no matter what.  It's not optional; bad behavior will not get him a ticket to home.  My time is valuable and we'll get done what we came here to do.  Harsh?  No, just reality!

#5 - If you're gonna be a gentle steamroller then holding tightly is required.  In years past, before Joe accepted an ear exam, I had to hold him on my lap, one leg over his legs and one arm around his chest, the other forearm holding his head.  He wouldn't cooperate so I had to force him.  I've found that holding him as tight as I can to my chest is helpful.  Gradually I've been able to ease up on the tight holding.  Ear exams?  Now he asks for them.  Crazy, I know.

#6 - Encouraging words are vital.  On days when my emotions could easily get out of control, I find that pulling out my old cheerleader voice helps me get through the difficult exam.  Telling him how I expect him to act as if he's already acting that way sometimes gets results.  Does that make sense?  Talking him through it, talks me through it, too.  I say things to Joe like:

Wow!  Great job, Joseph.
You can do this.  You're strong.
You're such a good boy.  Look how still you can sit for Dr. _______
Awesome job!  You can let Dr. ________ touch your tummy.
Show the doctor how wide you can open your mouth.
Great!  You can tell Dad how much you weigh.

#7 - Pray without ceasing.  One thing I love about the Catholic faith is memorized prayer.  My favorite is the Memorare.  It is the perfect prayer in tough situations.  I often find myself not even thinking about prayer until the doctor visit isn't going so well.  And then the Memorare is the first prayer that pops to mind.

From Rosary Rendezvous
It never fails me.  NEVER.  EVER.

What would you add to this list?  What has helped ease the "pain" of doctor appointments for your child with Down syndrome?  I'd love to hear.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Kindergarten Curriculum Plans

Stray papers and well-used workbooks, hand drawn maps and piles of literature.  The school desks are in need of a serious going over.  Even though, I just received our first 2017-18 curriculum order from Teaching Textbooks.  That was all I needed to start thinking about posting our full homeschool curriculum plan for this coming school year.

Peter turned 5 in December and showed a number of reading readiness signs so we began with All About Reading Level 1 in January.  He's been watching his older siblings "do school" for years and is always asking to "do school".  That's how it is with homeschool, the kids' natural curiosity leads to learning and then all of a sudden we're "doing school".

Kindergarten is NOT a big deal in our homeschool.  There's no hoopla about the first day of school.  Buying glue sticks and markers doesn't mark any special day for us.  

Although the learning process is natural and Peter's been doing plenty of Kindergarten work already, he will officially be in Kindergarten this year.  Over the years I've found that assigning our children to a grade makes it much easier for them when people ask them about school.  

I never assigned grades to our oldest three children when they were in elementary school, but that made for many condescending glares by onlookers.  I remember one time in particular; we were at a grocery store mid-morning when the cashier asked, "Aren't you kids supposed to be in school?"  I quickly remarked, "We homeschool."  Looking at Emily, Nick, and Amber she said, "Oh, what grades are you kids in?"  They all gave her a blank stare, shifted back and forth and then looked at me.  I stuttered and stammered through an attempt to explain in 30 seconds or less why I felt grading was unnecessary and how a child's natural curiosity will always keep them moving forward on the learning curve.  Blah, blah, blah!  

I still agree with my old self and I'm rarely one to comply with the norm, but for my children's sake, I make a big deal about what grade they are in so we never have to experience that again.

That was a long intro for a simple run down of the plans I have for Peter this year.  First off, Joseph, Peter and Maria often do school together.  Or at least I attempt to have them all together.  Life gets crazy, kids get crazy and sometimes my perfectly scripted plans go awry.

Kindergarten Curriculum Plans {affiliate links included}

All About Reading Level 1 - Peter is currently on lesson 16.  The plan is to complete level 1 and continue with level 2.  We'll also use the Margaret Hillert sight word books.

Nancy Larson Homeschool Science - Level 1 - We'll keep working through this level, Peter and Joseph together, picking up where we left off last year.  I also supplement with the Dr. Seuss Learning Library books and appropriate free printables I find online.


Math IXL - Kindergarten and grade 1 skills

Reading Road Maps - read all  Kinder level books and discuss plot and type of conflict.

What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know - read through all chapters with Peter and supplement with suggested books and music CDs.

Historical DVDs and books will be added according to topics in What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know

Tell Me About the Catholic Faith - we used this two years ago, but then didn't touch it at all this last year.  I really like the free printables that Lacey from Catholic Icing has available.  We'll pick up where we left off with plans to complete the full book this year.

That will make for a full Kindergarten year.  Up next, I'll be detailing Joseph's 3rd grade plans.

Be sure to like Camp Homeschool on Facebook or Follow me at Instagram to stay in the loop with all things homeschool, Down syndrome, cranberries, and of course.....SUMMER!