Comings and Goings Oh My

Ahh did you give up on me, my peeps?

My brain is spinning! I have so much to share with you guys.  Blog Elevated was absolutely fabulous and we are already planning Blog Elevated 2015!  Our hashtag trended nationally on Twitter. Yes, I’m bragging but I feel like I can brag to you because you probably know what a big deal that is! My mom, not so much.  My kids also were quite unimpressed with the whole trending thing.

But I miss you guys. I miss blogging.  I find myself writing blog posts in my head (but only at night, and only after 2 am. Am I the only one?)

We have BIG changes coming up around here -both virtually, because I’m going to rebrand and change the name of the site (fair warning!)  Turns out there is a MilehiGHmama out there and she has had her site about a year longer than I have had mine. If you’re in Denver, take a look, it’s all about things to do up there and travel.  She has no idea I exist, by the way.

But we can’t both be Milehimama and since I’ve settled here in Texas for the last six years, and she had it first, it’s only fair.

So eventually I will have a new home on the web.  Don’t worry I will keep you all in the loop and take my posts with me!

And another project in the works? An actual new home!  We have started the process to buy our first house.  Yes we have been married 17 years and have 10 kids, and we’ve always rented.  Tom’s work took him to new towns all the time when we were first married- we moved 18 times in 12 years, seriously.  But we’ve been here for 6, and I like Texas.  There aren’t any mountains but I never have to scrape the snow off my car, either.

Expect to see lots of posts about looking for a house… and maybe a few “what not to do when showing your house”. (First tip: Take the nekkid ladies off the walls. You want people to look at the house, not avert their eyes.)

What are your best home buying tips for a newbie?

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I Only WISH I Got Paid for This

allie not a daycare

We are card carrying members of the Big White Van club.  A few years ago we bought the VanBeast, a giant steel 15 passenger Ford van that drives like a tank and carries all our people and all our stuff.  We bought it from a Montessori school, and it doesn’t have carpet.  It has a school bus floor so, y’all. I can HOSE OUT THE VAN.

Swoon.

The Montessori school didn’t paint the van before giving it to us, so our VanBeast says “Clubhouse” in blue letters on the side and “School Bus” across the back.  That’s kind of fitting, since we homeschool.  Repainting the VanBeast is low (very low) on our spending priority list, so even a few years later it still says School Bus.

We’re hard to miss.  We never lose our car in the parking lot.  I don’t drive downtown because I can’t park in any of the garages, and getting a valet is awesome. Just awesome. /sarcasm font

We also irritate the HOA.  They’ve sent demand letters that we remove our “commercial vehicle” from the premises. We responded with a copy of our registration showing it’s a private vehicle and photos of ALL the other actual commercial vehicles in the neighborhood.  If the Safelite Auto Glass van and the DJ trailer are OK, then our van is too.

It goes back and forth every once in a while. Our HOA will go for months without saying a peep to anyone and about twice a year have a flurry of activity citing people for white curtains and couches in their garage.  Then they go back to ignoring people parking on the lawn.

But they really hate our van.

Recently, someone in the neighborhood reported us to the Department of Family Protective Services for running an unlicensed daycare.

It’s pretty obvious someone that doesn’t know us well. Day cares are organized.  Day care workers dress professionally and don’t stagger around until their coffee kicks in.  Day cares don’t play the fun games like “Tackle the Laundry Mountain” or “Finish Your Math Before Your Father Gets Home OR ELSE.”

At the end of the day, day care providers send kids home and collect money.  This is pretty much the opposite of my life, where I pay lots of money to bookstores to keep the kids at home. All. The. Time.

It was someone who knows our address, but not our correct name.  I immediately replied to the official form letter by phone explaining that we have 10 kids and told the caseworker that all future correspondence should be in writing.

I don’t think it was a neighbor- we’ve been her 6 years and know all the neighbors.  The weird guy who kept filming the kids playing moved a year ago and it’s been smooth sailing since then.

Hmmm. WHO could it be that reported us?

Today, DFPS she showed up on my doorstep.  I mentioned I left her a voice mail; she told me she’d been gone for a while and hadn’t checked it.  For two weeks!

I told her we had 10 kids.  I gave her their names and birth dates (fill out form, sign.)  I declined to let her “inspect the premises” (fill out form, initial, and sign.)  I asked if she wanted to see our registration and title, showing we bought the van from a preschool but it’s registered as a personal vehicle.  She said no but went next door to talk to the neighbors.  I’m sure she had a form for them, too.

Juli take over the world

Should I mention that last week we had a birthday and a certain birthday boy got Nerf swords?  And it rained today, so the kids had to play inside?  Guess what they played, loudly, the entire time I stood on the porch talking to this woman.

She probably realizes we don’t have a day care, but instead that we are running a Lord of the Flies Training Camp now.  Hopefully she’s not in charge of licensing those, so we won’t have to see her again.

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Red, White and Blue Jicama Slaw

Red White and Blue Slaw with honey lime vinaigrette and  jicama, apple, and blueberries.  No cook summer salad comes together in 10 minutes or less!

Mr. X is a picky eater, but he adores jicama.  We were having pork chops, and I like to serve apples with that.  Since it’s so hot out I came up with this fun slaw!

It’s crisp, cool, and colorful and goes together in a snap.  It’s just four ingredients plus dressing, although adding strawberries and cilantro would be a great way to jazz it up even more!red white blue jicama slaw with apples blueberries honey lime vinaigrette

Red, White and Blue Jicama Slaw
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Fresh and easy jicama slaw is a colorful, fun no-cook side dish for summer. It comes together fast and is dairy-free, gluten-free, and paleo.
Ingredients
Slaw
  • 1 large jicama, about 1½ lbs.
  • 3 red apples (Not Red Delicious- Jazz, Gala, Rome, or Pink Lady are good.)
  • ½ pint blueberries
  • ½ red onion, diced
Honey Lime Vinaigrette:
  • Juice from 2 medium limes
  • 3 T. honey
  • ½ c. oil (canola or light olive oil)
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. powdered ginger (optional)
  • ½ tsp. chili powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Peel the jicama and wash the apples and blueberries.
  2. Julienne the jicama and apple including peel. Discard the apple cores and stems. Place jicama, apple, blueberries, and onion in a large bowl. Toss with honey lime vinaigrette, serve cold.
Honey Lime Vinaigrette:
  1. Place ingredients in glass jar with lid, food processor, or blender and shake well or process until well blended.
  2. Note: Make this salad Whole30 compliant by using balsamic vinaigrette or skipping the honey.

 

I used a mandolin to quickly cut up the apple and jicama into uniform pieces but a knife will work just as well.  Try to keep the apple peel intact on the long pieces for a beautiful red, white, and blue presentation. Helpful hint: toss the apple into some water with a little lemon juice to keep it from turning brown while you work.

The dressing is so easy and goes well with any fruity salad.  It would be wonderful with mixed berries, and it’s amazing on salads and chicken, too.   For the jicama slaw, I added ginger and chili powder (just a touch).  I make my dressings in a mason jar using my immersion blender, but you can just put the top on the jar and shake it up to mix.

So simple. So delicious.

Easy honey lime vinaigrette for fruit salads

I love side dishes that require no cooking and it’s fun to take something a little different to a barbecue, isn’t it?  This is mayonnaise and dairy free so it’s okay if it sits on the picnic table while everyone eats.

This is paleo and gluten free, and you can make it Whole30 compliant by making a simple lime vinaigrette without the honey, or use a balsamic vinaigrette.

Linking up:
Pennywise Platter 

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I AM Minding My Business

Yesterday, I was driving down the street in the Van Beast, rocking my mom jeans, on the way to pick up the kids from swimming. I noticed a woman walking up the sidewalk.

Then a car pulled along side her and a man got out. He grabbed her and tried to force her into the car.

What the what? It was broad daylight. In my neighborhood.  I slammed on my brakes and rolled down my window.

“Are you okay?” I asked her. What a ludicrous question. She was obviously not okay, there was a man grabbing her.

She assured me she was fine.  The man got angry and told me to mind my own business.

The minute he put his hands on the woman it became my business. I AM minding mine.

Do not come into my neighborhood, my streets, where my children play and think I’m going to go along to get along and that I will just look the other way.

He came towards me, so I opened the door and got out. Then hopped right back in because I hadn’t even shut off the engine or put the car in park!  It happened fast and I wasn’t thinking.

I kept on not thinking and got back out of the car to confront him.  He was dressed as though he worked in an office, but started taking off his clothes.  He removed his tie, then unbuttoned his dress shirt.  {I guess he was getting ready for a fight?  With a mid-thirties mom blogger in a school bus. Tough guy for sure.}

He told me again to mind my own business and randomly told me he owned his own home.  {All righty then, Ragey Dude.  Good for you. Go mow your lawn and leave this woman alone.}

The woman got between us and started placating, talking him down.  They seemed to know each other.  I asked her again if she was OK, I told her I could give her a ride anywhere she needed to go, asked her if there was anything I could do to help her.

She turned me down.

I drove away.

I went around the corner and called the cops.  They can come deal with the craziness.

I don’t think my husband appreciated the part where I got out of the car when I told him the story.  He was scared for me.

I guess it was a little scary.  I could have gotten hurt, though I wasn’t really thinking about that at the time.  Mothering all these children all day, including the teens, gives me the confidence of a drill sergeant.

This is what we are called to do. Love one another.  If it were my daughter, my sister would I have stopped?  Absolutely.  Do I stop for a stranger? Yes. Even when people are bigger than I am, or madder than I am.

Love one another.

We cannot stand by and allow evil to flourish. We have to stand in the gap for each other.

A few days ago my husband told me about a news story, where a woman was beaten in public while her toddler tried to help her. People stood around and watched, filming with their cameras. No one helped the woman or her child.  I was appalled. No one helped her? How could that be?

I am not a bystander and I hope I never will be.

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Transformers Age of Extinction {Mom Movie Review}

Transformers 4 Age of Extinction Mom Movie ReviewWe went to see Transformers: Age of Extinction this weekend.

We see the late show, which started at 11:20 pm.  We go out after the littles are in bed and leave my olders to watch them.  The movie is 2 hours and 45 minutes long.  Add on the previews and we didn’t leave the theater until 2:30 am.   I gotta stop doing that, I’m way too old for that stuff.

Back to the movie review. It was so much better than the last Transformers*, but that’s not exactly a high bar, is it?

{Spoiler Alert! But since this is a movie review, you’re expecting that, right?}

It’s a Michael Bay film and like all his films, the explosions just keep coming, and coming, and coming.  It almost felt like he was just checking things off his list- car chase, check.  Car chase in reverse, check. Destroy landmark, check. Raining destruction, check. Oh, here’s a twist.  Let’s have boats! Fall from the sky! Check and check.

Plot synopsis: Greedy corporate billionaire and greedy corrupt CIA official collude to melt down the old Transformers and make new ones that are programmed by people. They will make billions of dollars.  Their plan goes awry and the VERY FATE OF THE WORLD depends on Mark Wahlberg, plus his daughter in tight jeans and the cute guy with dimples.  Also there are Transformers and cities are destroyed.  And for some reason, the President’s Chief of Staff is Ned Flanders.

The movie is about 45 minutes too long- and those 45 minutes are scene after scene of explosions, implosions, falling buildings, and destruction.  It got so tedious my mind had time to wander which is not a good thing when you plot is full of holes.

Plot holes such as, if Optimus Prime can fly into outer space at any time he wishes, then what was that nonsense of the humans having a car chase to get the Seed out of the city?  Optimus should have just grabbed it and flew out to the moon or Mars or wherever. Problem solved.  Or how Kelsey Grammar (sorry, no idea what his character was actually named. Tuned it out.) manages to figure out the exact spot Cade (Mark Wahlberg) will be standing in after the dust clears and half of Hong Kong is in ruins, for a cringe worthy confrontation.

Then let’s get to the girl problem.  This version has girls, of course.  The main girl (Tessa, played by Nicola Peltz) wears short shorts, tight jeans, and tank tops.  She’s tan, her pink lipstick never fades or smudges, and her blonde hair flutters attractively in the blasts from all the explosions.  Actually all of the women in the movie are sexy blondes, with a few sexy brunettes thrown in, except for the sexy Asian one who is a master at martial arts and kicks butt while wearing stilettos without a hair falling out of place or smearing her ruby lipstick.  Tessa cries out for Daddy to help her and thanks her boyfriend for saving her a lot, even after she kills aliens and escapes from robots on her own in the intergalactic spaceship.  Yep, it was the boyfriend who showed up later who saved her. Yep. {eyeroll}

The movie does lack sex scenes, thankfully. No one wants to see alien tongues being shoved down people’s throats, you hear that Transformers 2?  No drug jokes or pot themes.  It’s almost wholesome (almost).  I could have done without the car full of 17 year old girls joking about getting wasted to celebrate graduation, and there was some innuendo in one of the driving scenes.  There’s language and lots of violence.

All of the Autobots are straight up stereotypes, just like the other movies. For example, the Asian Autobot looks like a Samurai warrior and spouts random Eastern philosophy quotes, and has a heavy Japanese accent.  John Goodman’s Hound is the exactly what you’d expect a cigar chomping fat old drill sergeant to be. There is no nuance.

They are cartoon character cutouts, but then again who goes to a movie like Transformers looking for character development? (See above note: it’s a Michael Bay movie. It’s not like he has a broad range.

And then! DINOBOTS! Finally.  They should have trimmed half an hour from the tedious battle scenes and added 10 more minutes explaining the backstory of the Dinobots.  Pretty much they appear, Optimus punches one in the face, then they are all teammates working to kill the Stingers.  They were by far the coolest part of the film and I wish we had seen more of them.  If I remember from the cartoon when I was a kid, the Dinobots had names and personalities; in this movie they’re basically just animal-like Transformers.

The “Age of Extinction” story line is thin and poorly developed, aside from having giant fire breathing prehistoric Transformers. (HECK YEAH! MORE PLEASE!) The movie opens with dinosaurs, there’s a bit about how greedy folk will cause the extinction of the human race because blah blah Seed blah blah Megatron is alive blah blah blah.  Whatever. I guess they had to call it something.  Other theme that never quite makes it off the ground: Humans make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are the best thing ever.  Also, Daddies protect their daughters (nice); then Dads hand off his daughter to the boyfriend he just met the day before to “protect her always” (what? Boo.)

Still it was entertaining, and it’s exactly what you would expect it to be.  It’s mindless entertainment, won’t be winning any awards.  Stanley Tucci is enjoyable, and the 3D effects are well done.

Have you seen it? What did I miss?

Blogging with Integrity: There’s an Amazon affiliate link in this post, marked with a *. If your boys are crazy for Transformers toys take a peek and thanks for supporting this site!

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Make the Best Instant Oatmeal Packets

DIY instant oatmeal packets
My kids love those Quaker instant oatmeal packets, but they are pricey!  My oldest kids are teens and one packet isn’t enough for them.  I worry sometimes about the extra additives and the preservatives, too.

Still, it’s SO convenient to just add hot water and have a healthy breakfast instantly ready to go!  

Instant frugal healthy breakfast is easy. I make my own!  This way I don’t have to cook first thing in the morning, there are no pots to wash, and I can control how much sugar my kids are getting through the day. It’s a total mommy win!

Making your own instant oats is simple.  You’ll need oats and blender, and you can add in extras like sugar and cinnamon.

best instant oatmeal packets how to make

Gluten free oatmeal packets are easy to do when you DIY your own oatmeal packets.  Just buy gluten free oats and you’re good to go! I get mine at Trader Joe’s.

You can use an immersion blender, counter top blender, or even a food processor.  You just need to chop the oats up a bit so they are oat pieces and a little bit of powder.  Keep an eye on it, you just need a few pulses to get things broken up. You don’t want to pulverize all the oats because then you’ll just have mush!

I use an immersion blender and blend it up directly in the canister, it keeps things contained.  Try to use a tall container, not a wide shallow bowl because the oats will fly around a bit.

how to make instant oatmeal packets with a blender

I also add sugar directly to the mix so it’s really “grab and go”.  Putting out the sugar bowl with toddlers and preschoolers is a disaster!  I usually add about 1 c. of sugar for 12 cups of oats.

Make instant oatmeal packets by measuring out 1/3 c. oat mix into snack size sandwich baggies.  To prepare, add 2/3 c. hot water.

We eat a lot of oatmeal so ours is kept in a big jar.  You need to add twice as much hot water as oats.  So, 1/2 c. oats should have 1 c. hot water added to it.

use blender to make instant oatmeal packets

I keep several add-ins on hand so each kid can customize their own bowl.  Cinnamon, raisins, craisins, flaked coconut, pumpkin seeds… the sky is the limit!  This is also helpful because some of my kids don’t like cinnamon, others hate raisins, and others love adding in seeds.  I’m not locked into any one flavor.

If you notice on my Printable Under $100 Menu Plans, which has a complete meal plan for a family for a week under $100, oatmeal for breakfast is a staple.  It’s cheap, healthy, and filling.  And now it’s SO EASY!

make instant oatmeal packets frugal DIY

Know someone who likes to save money?  Share this post with them!

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Miss A is FIVE!

A is five years old!

Miss A 5 Birthday

Still tiny.  Still fierce and brave.

Oh my goodness this girl is bold.  And a little bossy. No idea where she gets that from.

Happy Birthday!

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Slenderman and Minecraft, Should You Worry?

Slenderman minecraft should parents worryThe big news this week was the Slender Man Story.  Specifically, the two 12 year old girls who were so taken with Slenderman that they plotted and carried out the attempted murder of their friend in order gain favor with Slender Man, who haunted them in their dreams.

The story is horrifying enough on its own.  Twelve year olds? Girls?  What’s this Slenderman thing?  I looked it up. It’s basically a recently created horror story involving a faceless being in a black suit who targets children to steal/eat/absorb them. He sometimes has tentacles and was invented on the internet in 2009.

Even more horrifying?

My kids know about Slender Man, and they heard about it through Minecraft.

My kids are crazy for Minecraft and it’s a game I don’t mind them playing.  It’s open ended, fosters imagination, planning, creativity, and cooperation.  All of their friends play, and my kids age 4 through 16 play.  There aren’t many games where a 4 year old girl can play with her teen brother!

Our homeschool friends are all happy Minecraft fans.  The neighborhood kids play it.  It’s an instant way for kids to connect with each other.  It seemed like harmless fun.

Was I wrong?  I asked the kids some questions and did some online research, and here is what I’ve found:

  • Slender and Slenderman are games which involve the Slenderman myth, but are independent from Minecraft.
  • There is a Slender Man mod (modification) for Minecraft, and players do play on Minecraft servers that include Slenderman.
  • You can only play the Slenderman mod on computers.  If you use a game console such as a PlayStation 4, you are “safe” from this mod.  The Slenderman for Minecraft is a free mod, and it’s easy to download so you need to know what your kids are doing on Minecraft if you want to avoid it.
  • You cannot mix consoles, so there’s no chance kids playing on a Playstation would be able to join a game with someone on a computer running the Slenderman for Minecraft Mod.
  • Minecraft allows players to create their own servers, which becomes a shared online world.  A server is created and then kids can play with their friends virtually.  There are many popular servers that are open for players to join with special mods or themes, such as Creative servers, Capture the Flag servers, even Hunger Games Minecraft servers.
  •  If you never access anyone else’s server, you are safe from the Slenderman mod even if you play on a computer.
  • Don’t confuse Enderman with Slenderman.  The Enderman is a character in Minecraft which appears as a blocky black creature with purple eyes.  Endermen can move blocks around and teleport. If you stare at them they will get mad and attack you.  The Slenderman is the character based off the horror myth, which will psychically drain your Minecraft character and also teleports like the Endermen.  Enderman is neutral, Slenderman is evil.

Minecraft available on Amazon*


By the way, you can have up to 4 people playing at a time on a Minecraft Playstation 3 Edition*, and you don’t need to connect to the internet to play together.  You only need one copy of the game.  In my opinion buying the console version is a better deal – computers need one copy per computer and then must set up a LAN or server to play together.

Should you be worried about Slenderman?  The girls in the story became obsessed with him after reading horror short stories on a website.

Yes, you should be concerned with the things your kids find on the internet.  There are scary and completely inappropriate sites out there that kids will find entertaining.

Should you worry about Minecraft? I don’t think so. It’s easy to keep Slenderman off your devices- simply don’t join a Slenderman server or download the mod.

My advice?  Talk to your kids.  Make sure they know things on the internet aren’t always real.  Help them learn to discern real from fake stories.  Know what they are doing and what sites they are visiting.  Keep it up- don’t think you can mention it once and be done.

Of course Slender Man isn’t actually real.  However,  Christians believe that the devil is real, and he can harass us. Those girls were disturbed.  They became involved in the horror myth and the Dark One siezed the opportunity.  He’s known as the Father of Lies and I absolutely believe he could use any story – but especially a horrifying one such as Slender Man- to influence people.  If he can appear as “an angel of light” he can appear as a faceless man in a suit.

Need something to lighten the mood after this?  Here’s the Philbaby standing and creeping along the couch at 6 months. He loves our little Minecraft toys* and will do anything- even walk- to get them!

 

 *affiliate link.  If you use my Amazon link, you help support this site- thank you!

Linking up!
A Glimpse Inside

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About Milehimama

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Desperately thrifty mom of 10, sharing my frugal tips, easy shortcuts, recipes, and thoughts on natural living and real food.

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