Thursday, February 28, 2013


We've noticed over the years that there are some consistent patterns related to family behavior that are tied to family size.

For example, parents of 3 kids suddenly seem to develop this unflappableness--they respond calmly to just about everything in a way that parents of one or two often don't (not always--I know some very unflappable parents of two). I don't know why that is--maybe because you've seen it all already? Maybe because you're too tired to care anymore?  They also hover a little less than many parents of one or two. You can't keep your eyes on 3 people all the time, so you have to learn to trust them. And to run when the house gets quiet.

Other parents say three is when you can't hold everyone's hand anymore when you're crossing the parking lot, and it's true. And it's true outside of the parking lot, too. You just can't hold that many hands in any realm, so the kids have to learn to not need it, and so do the parents.

One thing I've noticed consistently is that parents who haven't crossed the thresholds can't comprehend them. For example, parents of three kids really don't believe me when I say "Four is different. It's a threshold where everything changes, just like having one kids was a threshold where everything changed." They insist that nothing will be different between three and four kids--they're already experienced  mommies, and they have their systems in place to deal with the chaos of having a lot of little needy bodies running around. Usually, I just shrug and say, "If you ever have four, you'll see what I'm talking about."

4 kids is one of the major thresholds, and the one people least comprehend until they experience it. In fact, when I try to explain it to parents with fewer than 4 kids, they insist I'm wrong. But when I try to explain it to parents of 4 or more, they just nod. Four is when you stop doing playdates, stop volunteering for stuff, stop offering to bring, well, anything to anything. It's where you suddenly find you actually can't keep up with the housework quite as well as you'd like. You stop caring if anyone is wearing matching clothes, or even if they're fully dressed when you're at home. It's the place where you stop fighting with the kid who hates underwear or socks and tell them as long as they're modest and safe, you don't care what's on underneath (or not on, as the case may be). Life is more home-focused, and you just don't go out as often. And when you do go out, you try to do it when someone else can watch at least some of the kids--shopping after daddy's home from work, for example, or doing library trips in shifts (big kids and little kids at different times with different parents). Four is where most adult projects go by the wayside, and you start saying, "Some day I'll paint that room" instead of just doing it.  My mom said four kids it the spot she stopped making her own clothes. Parents of four are more likely to do crazy things like let their kids ride bikes in the house--and look at you blankly when you protest because, well, what's wrong with riding bikes in the house?

With 7 kids, I feel like we've crossed another threshold, just like we did at 4. For one thing, I get horrified stares when I answer the question, "How many kids do you have?" I used to get admiring looks, now people are aghast and quite literally dumbfounded. It's not like I said I have 20 children, but you'd think I did by their reactions. It's almost as if I should be ashamed of myself. Really strange. So we crossed the "acceptability" threshold. That might have happened when we had 6, and I just didn't care because we are so nonconformist anyway because of the sleep disorder. But seven is definitely something a lot of people haven't heard in years--even if they grew up in a big family. With 7, we now have twice the number of kids people in our generation mean when they say, "I always wanted a big family." So we're a circus sideshow.

We're also in a world where buying things has become a problem. People don't sell 7+ packs of things (even   party favors come in packs of 4 or 6). It's hard to find a vehicle that holds more than 8 people--even 8 was hard to find, but more than that and you're in the world of daycares and churches. Frequently, even the cashiers ask, "What are you going to do with 30 lbs of strawberries?" them?  or "30 lbs of strawberries? You must be putting on an event. Is it a party?"  "Well, I guess you could call it that. I call it snack time." We also get a lot of, "Gosh, six gallons of milk?" I usually say, "It's all the fridge will fit," before I realize they mean "Whoa--a lot!" when I'm thinking, "Gosh, I wish I could fit more..." (Once I met a lady in the store (another customer) who said, "Six gallons of milk?" and I said, "I have six kids" (and I was very obviously pregnant with a seventh). She said, "I used to buy fifteen at a time. I had 8 kids."  Instant bond! She "got" everything I was doing.).  So we end up having to buy two boxes of everything and then trying to figure out what to do with the five extras....suddenly I find myself giving my big kids math challenges: "What multiple of 7 is also a multiple of 6? Is there one smaller than 42?" Or "What multiple of 7 is also a multiple of 3? Any less than 21? I don't really want to buy 21 donuts....What about multiples of 9--maybe me and Daddy can each have one." Of course, someone invariably says, 'But Mom, Jack is too little" before I remember that detail.

For another, I've moved into a world where efficiency is king. Anything that can be done must be done in the simplest way possible with least energy expended. (Cold cereal instead of scrambled eggs for breakfast, for example, because it takes fewer steps and requires less adult supervision). Anything that doesn't have to be done goes away or stays undone. We no longer fold the kids' clothes--they either do it themselves, or they get to deal with wrinkled clothes (we do sort them now, though, because that effort is actually easier than the consequences of not sorting them--and I know all too well, from experience). Baths are not a daily events for everyone in the family. Diapers mostly get changed when they are about to leak or are smelly. Dinner gets served in the pot it was cooked in (you mean I am supposed to transfer it to a nicer dish just for the looks of it? For real? And wash all those extra dishes?).  Every recipe gets doubled, at minimum, but if a recipe requires more than about 5 steps, it gets thrown out completely.

It's just a different world when you're running a herd!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Addendum 2

Just to be clear: I have nothing against clean houses or the people who like to live in them. I like to live in clean houses, too.

I have something against the idea that nobody can feel the Spirit in a mess. That's all I'm opposed to. You are welcome to keep your house as clean as you like. I'm working on making mine more organized so it's easier to keep clean, too.

To each his own.

But, if you read carefully, you will see I've said nothing lately about the value of clean houses, the experience of living in a clean house, the importance of cleanliness, the joy of empty floors and sinks, or how nice it is to be able to eat off the floor without worries. In fact, it's true that a clean environment is pleasant. There IS value in a clean house. It's important to be good stewards of the blessings we've been given--including our houses.

I am not trying to force everyone to live in a mess. Or even to accept that I have one. Or to feel bad about their own clean house.

It's like when people find out I have a bunch of kids and they feel compelled to apologize for having just a few. I really don't care how many kids you have. I really don't care how clean your toilets are. Keep them however you like.

That's fine with me.

Some day I'll probably write a blog post about how much I love living in a clean environment, and how pleasant it is. Or about that time the Spirit told me to organize my house better. (Because it's happened. More than once.)

I don't hate cleanliness. And I don't hate you for being clean. And I don't think you're doing it wrong if you vacuum your floor or wash your windows, or even if you have a showcase kind of house, like they have pictures of in magazines. Some of the best people I know live in gorgeous, clean houses. And some live in places that look like a hurricane hit.

Like I said, To each his own.

This isn't about houses anyway. I hope that was clear.

Now I'll go back to posting ice cream recipes and poorly-written headlines.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A note to people who get my blog in their email

Sometimes blogger emails you old drafts of what I wrote. Usually I just correct spelling errors.

In the case of the D&C 88 post, I added some things that I think are pertinent and important. So if you read that post via email and you care about the topic, you should read the new version here:


My very wise sister pointed out that each of us has a level of tolerance (of many things: messes, how people treat us, etc) beyond which we cannot feel the Spirit. For some (who I would consider handicapped, but they consider me handicapped, so we're even), having ONE single thing out of place is so upsetting to their souls that they truly can't feel the Spirit until it's fixed. Some can tolerate tons of contention and confrontation, and some of us (me!) can't handle any without losing the Spirit.  Some people have a high chaos tolerance, some have a high being-bossed-around tolerance, some have a high mess tolerance, some have a high noise tolerance, some have a high watching-violence-on-TV tolerance, some have a high ignoring-swearing tolerance. And some DON'T.

The glory of it all is that God has set us guidelines and then lets us self-regulate, with the expectation (and hope) that we will quickly learn to identify what causes us to lose the Spirit and then modify our environments as much as possible to keep the Spirit.

What bothers me is not that we're all different and some people have a low mess tolerance. (I do feel sorry for those people, though. But they feel sorry for me even though I don't.)

What bothers me is that someone else was imposing their standards on my children in church, teaching my kids that their home cannot possibly have the Spirit in it and their mom can't possibly have the Spirit because my chaos, mess, and noise tolerance are higher than hers (of necessity, thanks to many factors including fibro and Benji).

But my sister's point is valid. Now I know that many people in my ward can't feel the Spirit in my house, due to their makeup (not due to my house. It is MY house, after all). I just wish they would understand that it is THEIR issue, not my floor, that's the problem. And it's certainly not a matter of gospel doctrine.  Just like it's my issue that even a hint of violence or a suggestion that someone might disapprove of me or be angry at me throws me into fits.

We all have our handicaps that make it so we stop paying attention to the Spirit because of external things--messes, other people, noise, whatever.  And we are all responsible to do what we need to, short of trying to control other people, to keep the Spirit in our hearts. Sometimes that means cleaning up. Sometimes it means getting enough charity in our hearts to let other people not clean up. Or to let them clean up. Whichever you need.

D&C 88:119

Why is it that when the brethren in any given ward talk about the "house of order" verse, they talk about all of it (faith, learning, glory, etc), and they talk about "order" in terms of priesthood and priorities, and when the sisters in any given ward talk about the "house of order" verse, they talk only about those three words, and they talk about "order" in terms of toilets and window washing and which pictures to hang on the walls?

It's as if the sisters think the verse says, “Organize your toys; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of clean floors, a house of God.”

It seems like we have a disconnect here.

Especially since D&C 88 is a grand, sweeping view of the the temple and the things we learn there, and it's supposed to be a message of peace for us, and the "house of order" verse has nothing to do with organizing shoe closets. It's about building a house of God--literally. About building a temple and what a temple is supposed to be for. And, if we apply that to ourselves, building our souls into temples (not our living rooms).

I find it fascinating that the word order came from the Latin for ecclesiastical order, which also spawned the word "ordination" (as in the priesthood), and it's closely related to the word in Latin that meant lay the warp in weaving. The warp is the foundation of the weaving. It's the part everything else wraps around. Laying the warp properly would determine how the weaving came out--beautiful and strong or haphazard, disorderly, and weak. If we have a house of order, looking at it in a weaving sense, we have a house where the foundation, the important things, the part everything else wraps around, are done right. If you want to wrap your life around your daily housekeeping routine, you're welcome to. I'd rather wrap the weaving of my life around God and His teachings and commandments.

I was reading about what "order" means, and I discovered that Merriam-Webster does say "order" means "a regular or harmonious arrangement," but it also means "the state of peace, freedom from confused or unruly behavior, and respect for law or proper authority." The expanded meaning seems more in keeping with the meaning in the rest of the verse and its definition of what a temple is (both building-wise and soul-wise).

Why have we women taken a verse defining what a temple is and twisted it to make everyone but the most sequential, handicapped-by-their-ability-to-not-see-past-messes people feel guilty for not scrubbing the bathtub more often? We miss the glory of the whole by focusing on a narrow, misguided interpretation of the part.

A question of degree

After hearing about the lessons taught in Primary this week, I have a few questions.

At what point does the Spirit become offended and leave the house?

Is it when there is just one sock on the floor? One toy? One hundred?

 If nobody can feel the Spirit in a messy house, I need to know where the line is.

Does the Spirit sit around and edify and teach us up until the 99th toy, but once that hundredth thing hits the floor, He's out of here? Or is it the 14th thing that's okay, but fifteen crosses the line?

Does the Spirit take into account how many people are in the house? Is there a per-person mess quota, or are 10 dishes in the sink too many regardless of how long it took them to get there?

Does the toilet have to be bleached after every use, or is cleaned once a day okay? Or once a week? Or does it matter the age of the people using it and how capable they are of cleaning it themselves?

Does the size of the house matter? Is it the mess density that drives the Spirit away, or the number of items?

Do we have to pass a white-glove test, or is a little dust on the door frames okay?

What about laundry? Does it have to be folded in the drawers? Socks paired or unpaired?

Windows washed weekly or daily?

Do I have to vacuum every day?

Is leaving a diaper on the floor after you change the baby better or worse than leaving your pile of clean laundry on the floor for a couple of days before you fold it (or just rewash because some small person dumped the dirty laundry into the pile, too, so they could slide down it)?

Does the Spirit make allowances for kids (or adults) with disabilities? Or is the final result the only thing that matters, not how hard it is to get there?

Does someone have to re-do the work the kids did wrong, like when the toddler puts the silverware away and it all gets in the wrong slots in the drawer? Does the Spirit open the drawers and cupboards and closets, too, or just glance at the rooms? What about under the bed?

And what final result is it we're going for--does it just have to be clutter-free, or does it have to be really clean (even under the couch!), or does it have to be decorated nicely according to the most recent style with high-quality, expensive furniture and original artworks? Does food storage count as messy--because most people don't keep cans under their beds, but where else can you put them in a two-bedroom apartment with a family of five living in it? What if someone else made the mess and it caused a stain and then you moved into the apartment? Does the Spirit refuse to join you in the new place because of the stained carpet or wallpaper? What if it's not stained, but it's just plain ugly? What then? Does the Spirit get offended by ugly? Or just messy?

Do people who don't know any better and then meet the missionaries have to have their discussions outside because the Spirit can't testify of the truth to them inside their messy houses?

Do we get a "pass" when we're sick, get cancer, have a spouse in the military, or just had a baby? How long does that pass last before things have to be clean again?

What about homeschoolers, who never get a break to clean the house when someone isn't behind them uncleaning? Do parents of gifted kids get a break? Because gifted kids are known for being messier...or are you penalized for being smart and random and creative because God prefers dumb sequentials who send their kids to public school?

What about single moms who are just barely hanging on, but they choose Family Home Evening over making the beds? Is it a waste of time because the Spirit was so offended by the sheets on the floor that He wouldn't come to family prayer that night?

What about spouses of artists? Artists have to leave their messes out while they are working. Or are there no righteous artists because the Spirit can't stand the mess?

And does that mean that it is more important to scrub the bathtub than read the scriptures, assuming you don't have time for both? Because what good is reading the scriptures if the Spirit is going to be offended and leave because there is soap scum in the tub?

Does the Spirit flee when a kid vomits on the floor? What about on his bed? What about on your bed? Does the Spirit distinguish between those? Or is vomit vile enough to drive the Spirit away regardless of where it lands or how often it shows up in one hour? Or does the Spirit only leave when you throw a couple of towels over the soiled sheet and go back to bed because there aren't any other clean sheets in the house and you know the kid is just going to puke again in ten minutes (or because the other kids in the other room started throwing up, too)?

Or does it have to be a really big disaster to drive the Spirit away, like when there's a potty training accident with the toddler while the newborn is nursing and the toddler manages to smear the mess all over the walls before anyone can get there because the preschooler was drawing on other walls with a permanent marker in the rental house and the kindergartner was making mud pies in the kitchen sink and clogged the pipes and flooded the wood floor while the big kids spilled red kool-aid on the white carpet in the living room trying to bring mommy a drink--all at the same time and an hour past bedtime when daddy is out of town on business? Does the Spirit flee then and leave the poor mommy to clean up on her own without the comfort and guidance of God's hand reassuring her--and the kids, after mommy loses it and yells and then has to apologize?

How many kids can a person have before the Spirit gets overwhelmed with the regular kid messes and leaves? I guess families with a lot of small children NEVER get to have the Spirit in their houses, if we're being honest. Except for that one hour after the Visiting Teachers came over because we had to crisis clean for four hours just so we could open the door.

I really need to know the answers here because I want to be worthy of having the Spirit, and apparently our floors are a really good indication of our worthiness. Apparently houses are such a good indicator of our righteousness that, when it comes down to the judgment day, Jesus is going to show God pictures of our toilets and floors, and I want to get it right. Is it okay to skip church as long as the house is spotless? That's the right order of things? Should I skip visiting teaching, personal scripture study, personal prayer, family prayer, fasting, family home evening, and Stake Conference to clean the living room? What good are doing those things if the Spirit can't be felt unless the house is clean, anyway?

And is it okay to swear at the kids to make them work and skip family prayer in order to get the books on the shelves in alphabetical order before bed? Or is dirt a bigger deal than clutter?

Or does the Spirit only get offended by regular, persistent messes? And, if that's the case, how long does a mess have to be there before the Spirit just throws up His hands and storms out because obviously you are not worthy of His help?

Or is it, perhaps, that you, personally, are so busy judging other people based on how their houses look that you lose the Spirit yourself?

Because last I heard, the Spirit dwells within us, not within our houses per se, and God is more concerned with the state of our hearts than the state of our hearths.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still just tolerating husbands, it seems...

I've watched, year in and year out, as women love to get together and say negative things about their husbands when the men aren't around. It's a cultural game some (many) women seem to enjoy playing. Because we all know husbands are really, deep in their souls, complete idiots, right? At least, that's what the women seem to think. That's the way they talk about their men--the adorable dolts who really can't do anything right but we let them try anyway.  (That's why God gave them the priesthood, right? To keep them from being totally useless drains on society?) Brag about kids, belittle husbands--that's what we do. (At least, some women do. I hope I don't. I hope you don't. It's not nice. Imagine if the men got together and talked about women that way!--and maybe they still do, but we all formally recognize that as not okay, even though it used to be equally culturally normal.)

This article, "Confessions of a Not-Natural Wife" got passed around social media recently. The author, Elizabeth Hill, had some really, really good pointers and tips about marriage--many of which boil down to "Be kind to your spouse." I totally agree with her tips and comments. And don't we all have days where marriage is a little perplexing? Or even a lot?

Her best quote, "Your spouse is not you. He will not talk, eat, fold, wash, think, parent or do anything the way you do," is something vitally important for women to understand. And for men to understand, actually. It is an absolutely necessary starting point--a place you go where you can begin to stop thinking of your spouse as an idiot and start seeing them as a person instead of as a failed shadow of you.

But the article still smacks of "he's an idiot." Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but it sounds to me like she's saying, "He's not you, so you have to tolerate what he does, even if it's obviously wrong, because peace and relationships are more important than how right you obviously are."

What I wish she had gone on to say was: "Maybe you, wife, should consider the idea that he might be RIGHT, not just 'not a disaster'. Maybe, just maybe, his way is actually better than yours. Or at least as good, if different."  Maybe, instead of gritting your teeth and stepping over the pile of socks that are in the "wrong place," you should consider that perhaps you put the hamper in the wrong place, and the socks are right where they should be. It might benefit everyone involved if you maybe gave him the benefit of the doubt, or even just a little curiosity, instead of merely tolerating him and his weirdness and lack of civility, er, I mean...difference from you. Maybe his way of making cookies actually works better than yours. Maybe his way of washing the clothes gets things just as clean and takes less work. Maybe the way he peels his grapefruit like an orange is really actually tasty, and less messy than your spoon. Maybe you should let it be his house, too, and try his way of running things for a change, instead of seeing it as your house that he is intruding in with his bad habits. You might like his way, if you give him a chance.

So, YES, you have to realize Spouse is Not You. That's vitally important. But perhaps it would be good to realize your spouse is not only "Not You" but, but also actually a person?

I think I can illustrate what I mean with an example from a different relationship. When a child is small, their parents are not people, but merely extensions of themselves. Psychologists say that for infants, they literally see Mom as "part of me who does things I need". As they grow, the literalness of that fades, but children still, for the most part, see their parents as an extension of me who does things for me that I can't do. At some point, usually when kids are older kids or teens and can start doing almost everything for themselves, their parents cease to be simply parts of me who do things I can't and start to be figures--the parents become "Not You". Their parents still aren't people, though, with ideas and thoughts and talents and weaknesses. Instead, the parents become roles--"Mom" or "Dad"--that can be very perplexing, and most certainly aren't me, or they'd stop doing such irritating things. And then, at some point (usually ten years later, when the child has their own kids), the child suddenly realizes that "Mom" and "Dad" are actually people. Real people. It's not enough for them to be "not me,"--they aren't really "real" until they also cease being a role or a figure and turn into a person, with all that entails. It's like they move from being a flat character to being a round character.

Perhaps we should let our spouses stop being a role defined primarily by it being "Not You" and turn into a person? It seems reasonable to not settle with "not you" and let them turn into Him or Her.

So, yeah, Ms. Hill is right--he's not you, and you are not him, and we do have to tolerate and adapt to each other. But I wish she had taken it one step further and suggested that perhaps we shouldn't just tolerate our spouses, but step out of our own surety that we're right and try it their way, give them a chance to be an equally effective adult human being, and maybe even cherish them in all their "weirdness"--because hopefully that's what they are doing for us.

Because you know you're weird, too.

Don't you?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Introducing Microwave Popcorn

We were given a couple of bags of microwave popcorn, so I told the little boys they could make some.

Dan opened the packet to read the instructions. "What's a popcorn button, Mom?" He asked. I explained that our microwave didn't have one, and then I read the instructions and told him what to do.

All four boys went into the kitchen and watched as Dan put the popcorn in the microwave and turned it on. I stayed in my rocking chair, nursing the baby.

30 Seconds went by. Then I heard Benji yell, "AAAHHHH!!!! Everybody run!" And Nathanael said, "It's going to explode!!" And Dan said, "I think I'd better turn it off....never mind, it went off."

"Did it stop popping?" I asked.

"No," Dan said.

"Turn it back on, quick," I said. He did. But the nervous sounds and shouting from Benji didn't stop.

So I stood up and went in there, where I found four boys standing far back from the microwave, their eyes wide.

"Mom," said Nathanael, "is that going to ruin the microwave?"

I looked into the microwave--everything looked normal--and then teased the meaning out of the clamor. The bag had expanded, and the boys had never seen that before. To them, it was a bomb. It was going to explode. Brown paper bags aren't supposed to expand all by themselves.....

They were pretty impressed when I poured popcorn out.

But then Nathanael came to me with a piece of popcorn in hand, still looking unduly nervous. "Mom, what's inside this popcorn? It's yellow...."

Butter, Nathanael. It's just butter flavor.

Then they relaxed and ate it.

I guess that's what I get for always making popcorn the old-fashioned way, and only seasoning it with salt!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Did I just read that?

"Female pythons can as many as 100 eggs at a time."

I guess snakes need food storage, too. Wonder where they store the jars? Isn't that the perpetual problem with food storage?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Drug tests for welfare recipients

I keep seeing this popping up on facebook, as a whole bunch of my friends jump on the bandwagon: Welfare recipients should be required to pass a drug test or lose their benefits.

The argument is always that wage earners have to pass a drug test to get money, so welfare recipients should, too.

Here is why I'm opposed to that:

1) It's humiliating enough to apply for help; adding more humiliation by making everyone take a drug test will keep people who need benefits from even applying. You say "not so," but I know people who refuse to apply for WIC benefits because the questions they ask are too "nosy"--drug tests are infinitely more so. And the evidence indicates that most people who are getting welfare are not on drugs, so you'd be punishing the masses (masses who are in crisis and need help already) for the problems of the few. Also, even poor people have a right to privacy and to the fourth amendment--the right to not be searched unless there is probable cause. Needing help does not mean people should have to sign away their rights.

2) While the parents are the ones who apply for benefits, the kids get the help, too. And for children of drug-addicted parents, knowing there is food coming in because of the food card is a big deal. I can't stomach punishing kids because of their parents' problems. While it's possible to commit fraud with food cards and other benefits, it's much harder than with money. If you take away the food cards, etc, from drug addicts, chances are good that their money will still be going to drugs; where are their kids going to get food at all? I know a girl whose drug-addicted mom let her starve most of her growing up years. A food card would have helped her. Kicking her mom off welfare wouldn't.

3) Even drug addicts need to eat. Do we deny food to people because they are making poor choices? I don't think so. It's not humane. Drug addicts are making bad choices, but they are people.

4) People on welfare are supervised. What better way for drug addicts to get help than to be in a system where they are supervised by people authorized to help them? Otherwise, who is watching them? Until they commit a crime, nobody.

5) If you pull out all support from drug addicts, they have no recourse but to turn to crime to get money for food and housing--and that money is more likely to go to drugs than to food and housing, after they get it. So all of society suffers if you have drug addicts turned loose with no help. It's not like taking away their welfare benefits is going to make them change for the better. What do people think they're going to accomplish by taking food away from a drug user? Is that somehow magically going to erase their addictions? Make them productive members of society? Make our cities safer for everyone? Get rid of illegal drugs? NO.

It's not that I want people who are on drugs to just live on drugs and off of society's largess (although I hardly call welfare "largess"). Just handing them food and housing doesn't motivate people to change for the better, either. Colorado proposed a law (I don't know that it passed, though) that made it so welfare applicants could be required to take a drug test, but only if the welfare office had reasonable cause--there had to be a reasonably justifiable suspicion that the person was on drugs before they could request a test.  I would be more in favor of that.

And then don't kick people with positive drug tests off of welfare; require them to do rehab instead, or put them into a program that is proven to help people get off drugs. Just sending them back out into the street is not a reasonable, humane solution.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ice Cream Experiments

I rediscovered my ice cream maker. And, since I had a bunch of ice cream buckets hanging around that we had saved (it's no use buying boxes of ice cream when you have 6 kids who eat it), I had plenty of space for experiments.

We've tried a lot of things. Peanut butter chocolate chip didn't work so well. Neither did malted milk chocolate chip. Mango was good but I should have used three times the amount of mango puree. Blackberry was too flimsy a flavor, and I tried to fix it by adding cream cheese but I added too much. So now it's sort of cheesecake flavored, but too strong.  Mixed berry was super yummy. Raspberry was to die for.

But our favorite so far is strawberry. I make Philadelphia Style ice cream--no eggs--because it's faster and easier. To flavor it with fruit, I buy bags of frozen fruit (I guess the're for smoothies? They all have smoothie recipes on the back).  One or even two bags of frozen fruit, pureed, is about right for 4 qts of ice cream.

The Strawberry Recipe that's the very best we happened on by accident--I forgot to add a few ingredients when I was mixing it up.

Here's what we use (my ice cream maker holds 4 quarts):

Strawberry Ice Cream
2 c heavy cream
2 c milk
4 c half and half (or to fill the ice cream bucket to the line)
2 c sugar
1 large container sweetened sliced strawberries, pureed. You could even use 2 if you wanted.

Mix all the ingredients and freeze according to your ice cream freezer instructions.  The ingredients I left out were 1/2 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp vanilla. What it gave us was a very strawberries-and-cream flavor instead of a strawberry "ice cream" flavor. It was super super yummy. You could skip the milk and add cream instead, I suppose. I haven't tried that.

To make raspberry ice cream (a Utah thing, and so SO good), replace the strawberries with one or two bags of frozen raspberries, pureed. Likewise for mixed berry--1-2 bags of frozen mixed berries, pureed.

Last night's experiments were highly successful, too. We made cherry at Anda's request and chocolate chocolate chip. I didn't have recipes for either of these, so I just made them up:

Cherry Ice Cream
2 c heavy cream
3 c half and half
milk to fill bucket
1 bag frozen dark sweet cherries
1 bag frozen cherries and berries (but use only the cherries and blueberries--pick out the strawberries and blackberries)
1 can apple-cherry juice concentrate
1 3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla

Puree the cherries, blueberries, and juice concentrate with enough milk or half-and-half that the blender doesn't protest. Stir together with the rest of the ingredients. Freeze according to the instructions.

That was yummy.  Then, without first cleaning the ice cream bucket or dasher of the cherry ice cream (which I had just dumped into a storebought ice cream bucket and put into the freezer), I made chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. I figured the hint of cherry in the chocolate chip ice cream would be yummy, if you noticed it at all. I was right--mostly unnoticeable.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
2 c heavy cream
5 c half and half (or to fill bucket)
1 c chocolate syrup (the kind you squirt on ice cream)
1/2 c Hershey's Special Dark chocolate syrup
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

In the blender, mix 2 1/2 c half and half with half of the chocolate syrup, the vanilla, and the sugar. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds at a time until they stir smooth). I did a cup at a time. Then, while the blender is going (on low) pour the melted chocolate into the half-and-half mixture. Pour this mixture into the ice cream can. Then mix the rest of the half-and-half and the cream with the rest of the chocolate syrups (don't mix it too long, or it gets too frothy). Add this to the ice cream can and stir well. Then freeze according to the instructions. I let this go for a long time and then pulled the plug on the ice cream maker when chocolate ice cream started gushing out the top of the can. It never did set up enough to turn the ice cream maker off by itself like it was supposed to. It came out the consistency of a milkshake. I poured it into a bucket and froze it.

Then today we decided to have some chocolate ice cream--and discovered that it never did get as hard and stiff as homemade ice cream usually does. After a whole night in the freezer, it was still just barely stiffer than soft-serve ice cream consistency. That's kind of fun. It came out super super yummy--slightly dark chocolate flavored, which I much prefer, and with tiny flecks of chocolate (you can make them bigger--like flakes of chocolate instead of flecks of chocolate--by pouring the melted chocolate chips into the cream or half and half while it's being mixed with the whip attachment on the mixer instead of in the blender). It has kind of a truffle consistency, if you can describe ice cream that way.

Next time we might mix chopped candy bars or Andes Mints Chips into the chocolate ice cream. Mmmmmm. Or maybe some raspberry puree....

Friday, February 01, 2013

Reasons we homeschool: research indicates better outcomes

The research that's been done on homeschooling points to better outcomes in every area (including socialization) than public schooling.

General research review:

On socialization in particular: