A Peek at My Latest Projects

I didn’t mean to take a long blog break at the end of our spring term, but life has been pretty full for the past couple of months.  We had a high school graduation, Confirmation for the middle four boys, a two week driving school, Scout camp, weekly vision therapy for Chipmunk, a summer cold, and Andy was out of town for the better part of three weeks.  In the middle of that, the teenagers finished up their classes and I just sort of declared the younger boys done with their work one day.

But I’ve also been working on some projects — big and little — and I thought I might give you a peek.

So, the biggest project…

We’re expecting #9 in early February!

I’m still in that early pregnancy fog and probably (hopefully!) will be for another few weeks.  What that means for me is almost 24/7 nausea but no throwing up, so I’m just usually doing most of the things I normally do except at about 60% (or less) of my usual energy levels.  I’m also hungry all the time, but being gluten-free and corn-free and dairy-lite, there never seems to be anything to eat that I don’t have to make (to serve 10 people).  This also could have to do with having seven boys in the house.  Anyway, the other day you might have found me sitting on my bedroom floor with a two year old running circles around me, close to tears because all I want is a Reuben, God, would that be so awful??  But at this point I know the drill.

The Kitchen Saga Continues

The kitchen is in progress, too, but in a much scaled-down fashion.  We had already ditched our first contractor because the number he quoted us was almost as much as all four years of Gareth’s college tuition.  Then we were hit with some big expenses that wiped out the money we were going to use to replace the cabinets using Home Depot. (Ikea was really our first choice, but we don’t have an Ikea anywhere close to us and weren’t sure we could find anyone to hang the cabinets. Technically we could have done it ourselves, but with everything going on, time is a huge factor.)

So onto Plan B… or C… or possibly D.  We’re repainting the cabinets and replacing all the hardware.  We’re also going to replace the countertops, hopefully with Corian and a seamless sink.  The flooring in the entire house needs replaced, so we’ll just start in the kitchen, taking up the cheap laminate and replacing it with Pergo.  (Which we tested with hammers to simulate boy traffic.)  My cooktop and oven are over thirty years old and replacing them is going to take some extra work to make sure that the wiring comes up to code.  The refrigerator will stay because we can’t afford to replace it right now, but it’s already been repaired once and the other day, my two year old took a rock to the doors.

From my Instagram feed…

painting the cabinets

The cabinets, however, do look better in their navy blue paint.  We’re still using the kitchen, and I must say that the blue hides drips and dirty fingertips about 1000x better than the white did.

painting cabinets 2


Continuing with the Food Theme

I’ve been trying to streamline our meal routines (for obvious reasons).  I’ve tried out a number of meal planning services in the hopes I could let somebody else tell me (or my daughter) what to make for dinner every night, but as a family, we present too many weird variables, and the meals are usually also either too involved or too expensive to do on a large-family scale.  (The “frugal” meal plans usually don’t include a gluten-free option and are filled with sandwiches and tacos, making them hard for me to adapt.)

So one thing led to another and I discovered this blog post and video about large family meal planning.  And I watched her videos about once a month grocery shopping, too. (She has seven kids and videos her trip to Costco, as well as the process of putting all that stuff away.)  And I read about once a month master grocery lists.  And I realized two things:

1. I am making dinnertime too hard.

2. I have read all this stuff before and you would have thought it would sink in by now.

Long story short: I started working on a master grocery list, which will serve as a pantry inventory.  From there I’ll make master lists for each store we go to or each coop we order from.  I’m also working on a list of dinners everyone will eat, but I have to be in the mood for that (i.e., I have to be able to stomach it).  My goal is to stock up for a month’s time on food that will allow us to make our favorite dinners, even if Mom has failed to make a meal plan yet again.  And hopefully this will help us to get back on track, because right now our budget is too high and my kids will tell you there’s never any food in the house.

grocery master list 2

I’m still fooling around with it, because I think I’ve made it too comprehensive in spots.

Enough with the food.  Do you think about anything else?

Well, before the first trimester fogginess set in, I was thinking mostly about writing.  I pulled out one of my old novels and wrote about 20,000 words on it… which was a nice feeling, considering how little fiction I’ve written in the past ten years.    I’ve started using Scrivener, and I really like it.  I can write scene-by-scene, which means I don’t have to scroll through long sections of text to get to where I need to begin for the day.  And everything is organized by project with pre-set folders for research, so I can keep everything right there and visible.  Then when I want to print, all the text is automatically formatted in manuscript format.


(It’s a sort of urban fantasy novel set in the Cold War 80’s. Fun to write.  But rough.)

I’m using Scrivener for fiction writing, but there are also preset templates for all kinds of writing, including nonfiction, poetry, screenplays, and term papers, which makes it pretty versatile for me and the kids.  I’m thinking about getting Gareth a copy to take to school.  (I’m not an affiliate, by the way, just like the product!)

But isn’t it planning season?

I’m slowly working on getting school together for next year.  Most of our books and materials are in, and now I have to sit down and put together some plans for an American History and Government/Early Modern Literature/Religion course for Katydid, which will (hopefully) go up on a blog I’m making for her.  George will be in the 7th grade this year, and I’m thinking about doing the same thing for him with options from AO Year 7 and this Young Men’s Unit which we threw around on the 4Real boards many years ago.  I printed out a copy of the thread and have kept it in one of my planning document boxes all these years. AO Year 7 is actually my favorite AO Year, but George didn’t want to focus on the history of the Middle Ages. So — as with his older brother and sister before him — we’re just using bits and pieces of it.

The boys are all in full summer unschooling mode right now, so I’m not worried about making a slow start on their account. They have recently attempted to dig a pond in the backyard and researched how to stock it with fish; dragged out all the books and CDS we own about classical music in order to learn about the different instruments of the orchestra; are playing a space game with Legos that involves a lot of research as well as watching NASA satellite launches online; and today George was watching a Youtube video about building HAM radios.  (This was a welcome break from his current Bigfoot obsession.  But you didn’t hear that from me.)

And the two year old is suddenly spending hours coloring…

JM coloring

Sometimes even on the paper!

JM coloring on his face

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  1. Congratulations! As for food, I made up four weekly meal plans and typed up the grocery list below them, so I can just print them out, cross off what we already have, and take the remainder to the grocery store. I usually shop once a month at Sam’s and Aldi’s, buy bulk meat from the local farmer twice a year, and then supplement with trips to the grocery store.

  2. Congratulations–fantastic news! Your first trimester is a lot like mine: all-day nausea and exhaustion, but no throwing up. I’ll be praying for you as you work through it and come out on the other side soon!

    I had to laugh because your unschooling summer sounds so much like ours! Sometimes I am just shocked by how much they cram into their “free” summer days. Right now two are playing chess while also making up songs, one is reading, one is drawing the various historical American flags… They are always busy. :)
    Celeste recently posted…Inside Our Form I BinderMy Profile

    • Thank you, Celeste, for the well wishes and prayers! They’re definitely appreciated. :-)

      You know, I used to either feel guilty for taking a long summer break or I felt guilty for making the kids stop what they were doing during our breaks to start school. Or I didn’t let them break long enough to get past the stage where they were sort of fractious as they adjusted to a different routine. But I think I’ve gotten to the point now where I enjoy summer for what it is. By the time fall rolls around, we’re usually ready to start some more formal work. It seems to be a pretty natural cycle.
      Angela recently posted…A Peek at My Latest ProjectsMy Profile

  3. CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!! So very excited:) Though sounds dear friend that you are a bit too miserable at present to be TOO excited;) {{}}

    Congrats on G’s graduation! Oh the years to get to this point!
    and Congrats on all 4 boys making their Confirmation!! Can you remind me how old your youngest one to make Confirmation is? I’m considering my 7yr old making his, but haven’t decided.

    Great to hear an update on the kitchen, and some sensible choices there. and you got your indestructible floor.

    Will check out the food links, would it help btw if I emailed you my gf (mostly) menu and shopping & pantry lists.

    Loved the snippet of your story!

    Brushing up plans for my 11th grader at present. and lots of natural learning happening here too, love it:)

    • Thanks, Erin! :-) I’m always surprised at how the first trimester seems to take forever and then time speeds up so much after that. But – taking it day by day :-).

      My youngest for Confirmation was 7. He’ll hopefully be making his First Communion in the fall or winter. Usual age in our diocese is 13, but the bishop is trying to restore the order of the sacraments. Very slowly.

      I would love to see your menu and lists! I always think of how you do things when I get off-track :-). You can send them to amgboord at gmail dot com.
      Angela recently posted…A Peek at My Latest ProjectsMy Profile

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