Thursday, 29 December 2011

Why I Don't Read the News

There is a lot of negativity out there! I was just browsing through some of the news stories on Yahoo and was quickly reminded of why I do not make it a habit of reading the daily news. I mean really, 80% of the stories were about somebody getting killed, a marriage breaking up, there was even a story about how an act of kindness resulted in a teenage boy not being allowed to play the game he loves! I would repost these stories for the sake of academic integrity however, I just refuse to continue to spread such negativity. No wonder people have such a cynical view of the world these days!

So in light of the upcoming new year, I would humbly make the following resolution suggestion:

Do not read the news or your email first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Research shows that our brain continues to process what ever we feed it during the last half hour we are awake. What that means is, if you go to bed reading the news, chances are you have been reading something negative, which your brain will continue to process as you are sleeping. If you read the news as soon as you wake, you will then be starting your day with negative thoughts. As a result you are bookending your day with negativity, and really, there are enough things that can happen in a day that can throw you off your centre. 

Instead, choose to bookend your day with will be surprised at how fast your days go from stress filled to stress free! 

Be thankful. I am always surprised at how many times people disregard the positive things in their life, training themselves not to expect good things, and when they do happen, regarding these good things as merely flukes. The reality is you see what you look for. Have you ever noticed that when you are looking for a car, all of a sudden you begin to notice that exact make and model all over the place? Start acknowledging the little every day blessings for what they are....blessings! Start giving thanks for every little blessing you is then that you will begin to recognize the abundance you have in your life. 

Pray. Whatever your belief system is, learn how to ask for the things you need. I am always surprised at how many things have been given to me...through providence....just because I took a few minutes to speak humbly with God. I know a lot of people who don't ask because they think the answer will be no, but somtimes....the answer is yes! Take time to pray. There is an old adage that says: No God, no peace......but Know God, Know peace.

It is my sincere prayer, that in the coming year, all of you who read my blog will come to Know peace.

Who knows, maybe God will say yes.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Random words of wisdom

Today's post is really about nothing in particular, just random bits of wisdom I have picked up over the years.....

  • When changing a toilet, don't cheap out on the wax
  • Milk and lemon do not go together in tea
  • Always take time to measure, level and plumb
  • If you have a heavy foot...using cruise control will save you a TON of money
  • Make time to read
  • Make a five year plan
  • If 365 days later, your five year plan is still a five year plan, you are not getting anywhere
  • Revisit your five year plan at least once a month
  • It is ok to cry
  • It's ok if you don't
  • Figure out your "why"
  • Success is the constant pursuit of a worthy ideal
  • Be worthy
  • Learn how to change a flat tire
  • Learn how to swing a hammer
  • One inch is 2.54 centimeters
  • You are more capable than you think you are
  • If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run, then yours is the earth and all that's in it (from the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling)
  • If you want to touch the sky you better learn how to kneel (U2)
  • No God, no peace....Know God, know peace
  • Make time for your Daughters
  • Sometimes you have to take the road less travelled
  • It is good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out
  • Poo stinks. But if you kick it, it will reek to high heaven
  • Be good at politics, but don't play it.
  • Ask yourself, will it matter in five minutes, five days five years?
  • Always keep your knives sharp
  • Be prepared
  • Mind your manners
  • Read the Art of War
  • Don't just study for the sake of studying, make sure the knowledge you gain is for the benefit of others, otherwise it is useless knowledge
  • Teach your sons how to sew a button
  • Learn how to make: one awesome dish and one signature dessert.
  • Learn how to play a musical instrument
  • Learn first aid
  • Step outside your comfort zone, but not your convictions
  • Demonstrate integrity
  • Be on time. Being late is a sign of sends a message to the other person that you think their time is not important.
  • It is just as important to end on time as it is to begin on time
  • Pay attention to the little details
  • Don't get caught in analysis paralysis
  • Dare to live to a higher standard

TiPSI Dad 



Monday, 12 December 2011

A Typical Atypical day

5:30 - Wake up, stumble out of bed
5:45 - Impale foot on some sort of spiky toy left out by one of the kids.
5:45 and 3 seconds - Stifle yell while balancing on non throbbing foot
6:00 - Make coffee which I no longer really need due to the red welt on the bottom of my foot
6:15 - Listen to daily scripture readings while preparing breakfast
7:00 - Wake kids
7:30 - Wake kids again
8:00 - Feed kids breakfast
8:15 - Clean up the cereal Raphael has chosen to wear on his head.
8:30 - Morning chores
9:00 - School starts
9:15 - Explain to the kids (again) that studying latin is a good foundation for learning other languages
9:30 - Tell the kids that it is NOT time to play the Wii...and that no Wii bowling will not count as Phys. Ed.
10:00 - Find the meatball that rolled off the plate last week
11:00 - Stop Nathan from gouging Raphael's eyes out with some ninja like maneuver he learned watching Power Rangers with his older brothers.
12:00 - Start lunch
12:05 - Stop fight over who gets to use the "wheelie" chair
1:00 - Resort to arbitration as to who gets to wash and who gets to dry.
2:00 - Hit the wall. Tell kids to watch a movie...something educational.....they end up watching zaboombafoo. Leave bigger kids in charge.
2:01 - Take a nap while they are watching zaboombafoo.
2:40 - Bigger kids send almost two year old to wake you "patting" you on the face....
2:41 - Little kids then jump on you to ask you if they can watch another episode.
2:45 - Tell big kids to write a research report on the animals they talked about on zaboombafoo. Whining ensues.
3:30 - School day ends.
3:35 - Tell the kids to play out side
5:00ish - Dinner
6:00 dance/ aikido/ meetings depending on any given night.
8:30 - Night time prayers / little kids bedtime
9:00 - big kids bed time
10:00 - lights out
10:05 - Issue warnings.....
10:10 - Administer discipline
11:00 - Bed. Bliss.


Friday, 9 December 2011

Fluffy White Stuff

So today I am finally writing about popcorn. I have actually mentioned it in passing in a few of my other posts but I have not yet had the pleasure of expanding on why I love the fluffy white stuff.

First of all let me get one thing straight. The best way (and the only way it is prepared in my household) is on the stove. As counter intuitive as it may seem, one serving of stove top popped popcorn (about 3 tbsp of unpopped kernels worth) is only about 120 calories. What does it take to burn off 120 calories? You will burn 120 calories doing any of the following: 33mins of walking, 14 mins of jogging, 10 mins of swimming or 18 mins of cycling.

Now, depending on how you prepare it it, popcorn (even stove popped) can be relatively healthy or very unhealthy for you. If you are in the habit of pouring on truckloads of salt and butter or margarine on your popcorn, you might as well get into the habit of eating fettuccine alfredo every night of the week while you are at it. I prefer a little sprinkling of salt with some butter. Throwing a little garlic or onion powder on there as well takes popcorn to a whole new level!

But the other reason I love the stuff, is that pound for pound, buying unpopped pop corn is probably the best value snack food there is! 

Here is the math:

A bag of no name popcorn kernels usually runs about $1.99 to $2.99 and contains about 6 cups of kernels.

A regular serving of popcorn is about 3 tbsp of kernels, which yields about a liter and a half of popped kernels, which is about the same volume as a bag of chips.

So one bag of popcorn kernels contains 96 tablespoons, which is about 32 servings of popcorn, which works out to roughly 6 to 9 cents a serving!

Try to find a $0.09 bag of chips these days!

One of the advantages of popping corn on the stove is that it also forces you to think twice about whether or not you are really snackish....which also cuts down on the calorie consumption!

So here is the secret to making perfect stove top popcorn:

  1. First preheat 1 tbsp of oil in a sauce pan on med-low heat
  2. Next place 3 kernels into heated pan.
  3. Once the three kernels ave popped the oil is now hot enough to pour in the rest.
  4. Give the pan a shake to spread the kernels around.
  5. Once the popping slows to about a couple of seconds between pops, the popcorn is ready!

I recommend salting the popcorn while it is hot, so that the salt sticks to it better. Also try different seasonings, the kids like "All Dressed" popcorn seasoning, I personally, really like adding salt and some freshly ground black pepper!

Just as a point of reference, we make about 1 cup of (unpopped) popcorn at a time, which is more than enough for all the kids to eat and then some!

Happy Popping!


Monday, 21 November 2011

Sometimes, you just have to wash the dishes.

Of the greatest mysteries of the universe, none has been as perplexing as how to bridge the huge void between the different ways men and women communicate.

Enough books to fill a hundred libraries have been written on how to communicate, the way to communicate, body language etc etc etc.

The problem is, at the end of the day, whether you are from Mars or from Venus, a waffle or spaghetti, a husband is still going to communicate like a man, and a wife is still going to communicate like a woman. So how do you address the widening communication gap that is becoming more and more prevalent in our society to day? It is my sneaking suspicion that one of the biggest reasons that a lot of marriages are breaking down in this day and age, is a failure to communicate. Scratch that. It is my sneaking suspicion that marriages are breaking down today due to a failure to communicate productively.

It is not a big secret that people communicate in different ways. Vocal intonation (which guys are naturally not very good at interpreting, ladies), body gestures, and prolonged silences, speak volumes in ways words can never express. However the secret to productive communication is knowing that a glottal stop does not necessarily indicate an "uh oh", that sitting back on the couch does not necessarily mean boredom, and silence does not necessarily mean something is wrong.

So what is my revolutionary approach to bridging the communication gap?

Doing the dishes.

No, that is not a euphemism for trying to catch up with the Duggars.

Let me explain, but first a primer:

Ladies, men generally bond shoulder to shoulder, working side by side towards a common goal. You would be surprised at how much guys talk when they are working together on a project, like building a deck, or changing the oil in the car.

Men, women generally bond by talking to each other, often spending hours and hours talking about problems that could easily be resolved with a hammer and some sandpaper.....but here is the kicker....a lot of the time they don't actually want us to to solve them....they just want to know that someone is listening to them.

So where does the palmolive come in?

Washing dishes by hand allows for the best of both worlds. It allows us men to work shoulder to shoulder with the love of our life, and many a heartfelt conversation can happen while rinsing greasy spoons and forks.

Here are the rules:

Who ever wants to wash gets to wash and who ever wants to dry gets to dry. It has been my experience that each person has their own particular way of washing and drying dishes, soooo, who ever is doing what, gets to do it according to their own way. Remember, the objective is to get clean dishes into the it does not matter if you wash the forks before the spoons, or the plates before the cups.

What does matter is that both of you get to work together towards a common goal. And actually washing dishes by hand every once in a while is kinda fun. Not to mention that when the kids see you washing dishes together, they learn what it means to work as a husband and wife team.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Cool Umbrellas

Greetings everyone!
I was browsing over the internet the other day and I came across an art installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude called "Umbrellas"

Executed in 1991, Umbrellas consisted of 3100 massive umbrellas being open and displayed on both sides of the Pacific, in Japan and California.
What struck me about the work was its elegant simplicity. The free standing Umbrellas were designed to:

“ ….reflect the availability of the land in each valley, creating an invitational inner space, as houses without walls, or temporary settlements and related to the ephemeral character of the work of art.”

To give an idea of scale, each umbrella was 26 ft in diameter and 19 feet high. To understand what that means, the average two car garage is 19 feet by 18 feet and the standard height of a room is 8 feet tall. In other words each umbrella covered an area of 530 square feet and encompassed a volume of 10 082 cubic feet.

For some reason north American culture has adopted a mentality that bigger is better, especially in the area of housing. If it is not obvious yet, my family and I live in a way that is somewhat counter cultural….our family of 9 lives in a 1375sqft town house. There are families of 3 in that live in houses that are 3500sqft.
Now I am not saying that we intend to stay in a house this size, in fact, we are in the process of house hunting in amongst all the other things we are doing! However, consider the following:
The common Yurt Mongolian families have lived in for centuries, is 16 ft in diameter. Which is a footprint of about 296sqft….that is smaller than a two car garage! So essentially these umbrellas represent a Mongolian mansion!

Especially when you take into account that a the equivalent two story house would stand about 16 ft (that is of course a bare minimum slab on grade two story house with no basement and a pretty flat roof….not too common here but common enough in other places in the world where they don’t get much snow or rain)

I think what impressed me most about the artists themselves is that they are completely self funded! Which means, they are free to make their own subtle statements with out having to worry about reflecting the bias of a particular sponsor….which is often a hidden presence in commissioned art. And in that way they can truly be individual.

Anyway here is a link to their work!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Chicken Soup for the Perpetually Runny Nose.

Kids get sick. If there was anything more surer than death and taxes, it's that if you have kids, you will one day wipe up vomit, snot, or any combination of various bodily fluids during your tenure.

Now that halloween is over and cold and flu season is just about to get underway, I thought I would share one of my all time favorite secret family recipes for staving off the damp and cold.

Good old fashion chicken soup....with a bit of an asian twist:


4 or 5 chicken leg quarters (whole chicken works great but it is kinda inconvenient during the deboning phase)
1 tbsp black pepper corn
1-2 onions
5 cloves garlic
And the secret ingredient.....2 inches of Ginger, peeled and chopped

Pressure cook the chicken legs, ginger and peppercorns for about one hour in two liters of water. If you don't have a pressure cooker then bring chicken, ginger, pepper mixture to a boil and simmer for 3 hours. The meat should basically disintegrate off the bone.

After pressure cooking, release pressure and debone. If simmering, after three hours, or when chicken falls off bone do likewise.
Add onions and garlic....chopped if you prefer, simmer for about five minutes, make sure onion is cooked.
Chop celery, carrots and add into broth.
Salt to taste.

We serve the soup with broth and veggies in a bowl, and ladle the chicken with a bit of broth on the rice.

It tastes great with soy sauce....but I would HIGHLY recommend Kikkoman brand soy sauce for this recipe. Other brands will taste ok, but if you use Kikkoman, you will taste the difference.

Let me know how it turns out!


Friday, 28 October 2011

Bring an umbrella

Time really flies!

Where does the time go? If you have been following my blog for some time then you will notice the period between posts has been getting longer and longer! The fact of the matter is balancing family, time, money and everything in between has been somewhat challenging as of late!

Funny, you would think that being on parental leave would give me more time to do stuff like blog, however, with bills to pay, places to go and volunteer meetings to attend, things just get a little crazy. Coming home to seven kids is the calm part.

I am in the middle of writing a post about turkey....if you can believe it....basically breaking the cost down and examining how cost effective it is.

I also have exciting news which I am hoping to share in a month or we are not pregnant again...yet.

In the meantime, I think I will close this post off with a word about providence....and relying on God rather than your master card.

One of the things you hear people talk about these days is the whole instant gratification thing.....but I think that there is a bigger factor working in people's lives that is driving the debt problem that is the elephant in the room these days.

That factor is the sense of urgency that comes when the food is getting low and the money is getting tight. There is an automatic response to run to the credit card just to bridge things over from paycheck to paycheck.

A story : During a period of severe drought, a preacher told his congregation that if they prayed hard enough, God would send the rain....they even set a date! However on the appointed day the preacher stood up in front of the congregation and solemnly told them that the rains would not come because of their lack of faith....when asked what he meant, he replied we have been praying for the rain to come on this day for weeks and weeks, yet today...none of you has brought an umbrella.

We will go through storms in this life...and we will also go through drought. Many automatically turn to God during the storm....however during periods of drought we turn to the credit card...

I am not going to lie, things have been tight income has essentially been cut in half....and the income from this blog has been pretty minimal....however somehow, there is milk in the fridge today...and there is $20 bucks in the bank.....which not zero.

God provides.....just bring an umbrella.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

How good of a deal is it?

This weeks post is about money. Your money. Or more importantly, what to do with your money.

There is a simple truth of life that no one is going to care about your money as much as you will. This is not to say that everyone is materialistic and greedy, nor is it implying that a person can not be generous. But the fact of the matter is, no one but you is going to appreciate the blood sweat and tears that went into every dollar that you earned...and will eventually spend.

Think of it this way:

Say you make a salary of $35 000 a year. If you divide that by 50 weeks (take two weeks off for vacation and sick days) that would give you $700 a week. Divide that by 40 hours, that would mean that you make $17.50 an hour.

Now let's take a look at what that means. The average gas tank these days will hold between 50-70 litres of gas. At 70 litres, it would take you 4 hours to make enough money to fill your tank once! For smaller cars, it would take you 3 hours of work to put 52.5 litres into your vehicle.

The thing is, as green as we want to be, most of us still have to drive to work! Not to mention that contrary to conventional wisdom, money exists to be spent! If we did not spend money, how would we eat?

The key is to keep track of your money...and spend it on things that matter.

Here are some of the things we do in order to spend our money more wisely:

Instead of buying sandwich bags, I cut the end off milk bags and use them for my sandwiches....I reuse the bag (rinsing it every night) for one week before I need a new one.

Instead of paying for cable, we have our computer hooked up to our tv, which basically means we have 42" iMac, and watch our favourite shows online. And for the record, we DO NOT try to save money buy downloading illegally. The way I see it, is much as I might not agree with the outrageous prices of movies these days, the camera operator still has a family to feed. And so does the costume designer. And so does everybody else involved in making the movie....paying for movies is how these guys feed their families. So instead, we subscribe to Netflix and watch our movies that way.

We whip our butter. Whipping butter increases its volume without reducing its flavour, and it lasts twice as long.

We buy food that is on sale. Those bananas on the clearance isle? We use them for banana bread, which saves us on cookies.

A word about buying in bulk: buying in bulk is a good thing for some things but not for others. For example, 5 gallons of cream corn for $6.99 may seem like a great deal but are you really going to eat 5 gallons of cream corn? Personally I prefer All Bran.

When buying an item in bulk, write the date you purchased the item...or if you do not use it right away, the date you started using it. This way you can see how long it takes you to go through this product and gauge your consumption accordingly.

Here is another tip for keeping track of spending: learn to figure out the cost per unit for every thing you buy at the grocery store. For example, $3.99 for one kilo of pasta may seem like a great deal however that works out to $.0039 per gram. Contrast that to 900 gram bags of pasta that go on sale for $0.89, you have $0.00098, which is a significantly better deal.
It may seem a bit like nickel and diming, but 350 nickels is one hours worth of work. Would you rather work for more pasta, or towards the 55" plasma?


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Only You Can Prove Them Wrong

I have had it. There, I said it. This weeks post is as close to an all out rant as I ever really want to come but sometimes things just need to be said. I am sick and tired of the way that we as a society have allowed boys grow into just bigger boys, instead of teaching them to be men.

It used to be that being a man meant something. These days being a man can mean anything from playing xbox in your parents basement at the age of thirty, to acting like a raving lunatic at some sports bar during the big game! Words like honour and integrity mean little in this day and age. Man-ly responsibility seems to have gone out the window too.

There was a time when boys looked up to men. When to be called man caused you to feel a sense of pride and a responsibility to live up to that title. Now it seems that any act of idiocy and stupidity is enough to get you called "da man"

There was a time when if a man gave you his word you could take it to the bank. When a man knew the meaning of sacrifice meant to make something holy instead of giving up something that was selfish anyway. There was a time when a man was disciplined.

I do not claim to know why things have deteriorated the way they have, although I do have my suspicions. But when I look at some of the things going in the world today I can not help but think to myself that the world needs more real men.

What makes a Real Man? I have had the honour of meeting real men in my life and this is what they taught me,

A Real man:

Knows the line between chivalry and chauvinism
Does not play xbox until 3 in the morning in his parents basement at 35 years old.
Does not watch pornography
Understands beauty
Will defend his wife against her mother in law
Holds true to the words in sickness and in health, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, Till death do us part
Holds himself to a standard higher than others expect of him
Is not ashamed to hold his daughters little mermaid pink umbrella for her
Is not embarrassed to hold his wife's purse
Opens the door for others
Reads to his children at night
Sings lullabies to his children, no matter how off key
Lives by a code that is higher than himself
Will never walk away from a fight with his wife...even if no one would blame him for walking away
Fights for his marriage, not for his pride
Gets emotional from time to time
Would not rather spend friday night with anyone else than his wife
Holds the words: Honour Integrity Discipline Dedication in high esteem
Understands his responsibility
Strives to become something greater than the sum of his experiences
Knows the true meaning of love
Sees a woman as a child of God first, as a person second and places himself third in that relationship
Has eyes only for his wife
Lives for others before himself
Provides for his family.
Does not spend his money on frivolous things for himself before making sure his family is provided for
Does not swear in the presence of women and children.
Does not need to swear.
Controls his temper
Stands in the presence of a lady.
Will pull her chair out for her.
Is the first to offer his seat to a lady, or anyone older than him.
Makes sure that everyone has been served
Faces his personal demons
Is not ashamed to ask for help in fighting them.
Does not drink uncontrollably
Walks on the side of the sidewalk closest to the road
Will offer his arm to help the elderly climb down the stairs
Knows that the girl in those ads is somebody's daughter
Doesn't let his daughter dress like that
Teaches his daughters to respect themselves
Teaches his sons to respect their mother
Plans for his children's future
Cares about the quality of his work
Will fight for the lives of his children. Even the ones who aren't born yet.
Will stand by his wife every second as she battles the sickness that will eventually take her life......

This is not in any way an exhaustive list, and I can not claim to have met every one of these points perfectly. However I can say that I try to honour those real men by emulating their example.

True story: A teacher once walked into an all boys classroom. When he addressed them he called them "gentlemen" and they all laughed at him. To which he replied, "you may all think I am foolish to be calling you gentlemen, however only you can prove me wrong"

This is a battle cry to all the real men out there. The world is no longer surprised when males are lazy, irresponsible, disrespectful and unfaithful.

Only you can prove them wrong.


Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Budo and the Art of Making Tomatoes (into sauce that is....)

One of my favourite things in the world to eat is instant ramen. There was a time when that guilty pleasure was known only to a select group of people, but now that cultural diversity is becoming the norm, you can find some pretty good quality instant ramen at your local grocery store!

Now before you start thinking that you are reading the wrong blogpost for the topic at hand, I can assure you that in a round about way this will all connect, promise.

But one of the things that I want to experience in my life is to have some real ramen made by a true ramen chef. There is a gentle art in making ramen, and those who know will tell you that the secret to ramen is in the broth. It is the "soul" of the ramen. The broth is the unifying principle that ties everything together. It is the chi of the meal.

A bowl of ramen is a universe onto itself. Every ingredient existing in perfect harmony with each other. Actually if you want to see a great non cerebral, yet still intelligent movie about a great bowl of ramen, watch the 2008 movie "The Ramen Girl"

The key to making the broth is that you need to put your soul into it. It is not just about throwing a bunch of ingredients together and simmering it for an hour or two. You have to stir a bit of yourself into it. No I don't mean literally stirring yourself into the broth...that would be unsanitary! But there is a relationship that develops between you and the broth that is in a way indescribable.

So where do the tomatoes come in???????

One of the family traditions that we are starting to develop is the yearly making of the sauce....tomato sauce that is. Actually, our family makes passata di pomodoro.

In cost cutting terms, making your own sauce is VERY labour intensive and it requires quite a bit of upfront expense. So generally speaking you have to commit yourself to years of making sauce to really break even.

HOWEVER, one does not necessarily choose to make tomatoes for the cost is the experience that making tomatoes creates. Talk to anyone of Italian descent and they can tell you all sorts of stories about making sauce. All the stuff that happens around the sauce gives it a bit of life....our kids love to watch the puree as it passes through the machine as it separates the skins. They come up with all sorts of stories and imaginative uses for the skins...laughing as they try to lift a bushels worth of tomato skins in the little green bin. I have NOT introduced them to Tomatina.

This year each of the older kids assigned themselves a "station" where they all took part in the process, which involves stewing the tomatoes, then passing them through a tomato machine and simmering the puree for a few hours. It is in the simmering that the magic happens. While simmering the mixture with a spoon the size of a small canoe paddle, what looks like a vat of red water will slowly thicken into a puree with the consistency of chinese congee. It is in this moment where ramen meets risotto.

Here is the math:

5 bushels of plum tomatoes @$15.99 = $79.95
Tank of propane $12 (Costco has the best price for propane btw)
7 boxes Jar lids @1.99 = $14

Previously purchased:

Propane burner: $79.00

Huge really huge...I think ours holds 65 litres: $80

Tomato machine: this one depends. We bought a hand crank one years ago for about $100 or so, but you can get motorized machines for $499. A lot of people make their own motorized machine for a lot less, we have been able to use a home made motorized machine the last couple of years....what a difference!

Out of this batch of tomatoes, we processed 4 bushels worth and jarred 59 litres of sauce....we would have had 60 litres, but you can't go through a day of making sauce without having spaghetti for dinner!!!!

So if you have been working it out in your head, that comes to about $105.88 which is about $1.76/L. If you buy tomato sauce on sale you can get it for about $0.88/ 680ml.

Which is not that big of a cost savings if you consider that that price does not factor in the initial costs of the machine, the burner and the mamma honkin' pot that you simmer the tomatoes in (We also process the jars, but I have had many Italian friends tell me that it is not necessary if you do it right)

What you do get is a year's worth of pure, tomato sauce that has no additives, no preservatives, no salt, all natural tomato sauce. Not to mention memories to last a lifetime.

I suddenly feel a craving for meatballs.


Monday, 22 August 2011

Introducing the Cast of the Show.....

Greetings TiPSI Dad readers!

As I was pondering the different things I could write about in this weeks entry, I realized that perhaps this would be a good time to introduce the various members of our TPSI family! (Just in case you are wondering, I am trying to coin a term don't ya know....TPSI = Two Parent Single Income...I just put the "i" in the title of my blog to help people with the pronunciation)

One of the first things you learn when you are a parent of more than one child is that though they come from the same genetic make up as you do....they are all different!!! All of a sudden all those XXYY XxYy charts in first year Bio take on a whole new relevance. Still don't understand them though.

Anyway, the various members of this TPSI family are:

Gavin (12): He is the oldest of the bunch, and like all firstborns is the one who gets saddled with a lot of the responsibility, but he also gets to be the first to do things too. Being a firstborn myself I hold fast to the conviction that it is the God given right of all firstborns to make life as difficult as it can be for their younger siblings, which he manages to do from time to time. After all, it's payback for how easy it will be for the rest of them when the younger siblings are allowed to get away with everything.....

However let it also be said that Gavin has a great natural curiosity, natural leadership qualities and adapts well to change. One of our ah ha moments was when we came downstairs to find that he had made scrambled eggs and toast for two of his younger siblings, brought Keira, who was 1.5 at the time, down from her crib and fed her two handfuls of cereal.

Next in the line up is Aileen (10): She definitely showed us early on that she was a completely different person from her brother. She is strong willed and very determined, which means that she can definitely hold her own when it comes to dishing it back. She is actually pretty good at dishing it out as well.

Aileen is the artist of our clan, she has great attention to detail and is meticulous about getting things right. She is also the dancer in the family. She recently competed in the Fergus Highland Games in Highland Dancing (her second competition) and placed in the top ten in five of the six dances she danced in.

Matthias (7) is the third. He is the gentle prankster of the group. One of my favourite "atta boy" moments was when he decided to stand one inch inside Aileen's room only to tell her "I'm in here" over and over and over and over until the inevitable MOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!! (btw he was only three at the time)

He is also the scholar and the craftsman. Perhaps even the musician. He likes to sit and pick out tunes on the piano by ear. He also wears his heart on his sleeve as well and has a genuine heart of gold. He is the one who will divide his loot bag into equal parts to share with his brothers and sisters.

Keira (4) is by far the most outgoing in the group. She doesn't just walk into a room, she ENTERS the room. It is almost impossible to stay mad at her for any length of time. True story. While she was getting a stern lecture about I can't remember what now, she started to sing, "You Are My Sunshine" in her cute little three year old voice with a cute little innocent smile...awwwwwww.

She is also the boss. Not that she is bossy, she just has a knack for getting people to do what she wants to do. In fact it is uncanny how she can get her oldest brother to do things for her.......good thing I am immune to puppy eyes.

And then you have Nathan (3) the fearless, who has managed to break more things than the first four combined. Give him a roof and he will jump off it. He is the true test of so called "unbreakable" products....if it's Nathan proof, then you know it's good quality.
He is also the protector. He will defend whatever he is holding with tooth and nail right to the very end. Not even his oldest brother can get the ball from him if Nathan has decided that he doesn't want to part with it. He will also be the brother that will intimidate all the boys the girls will bring home.

Which brings us to Raphael (1.5) who like his namesake is angelic....for now. He also broke the pattern....if you noticed, the order of boys and girls so far has been boy girl boy girl boy. Lately he has taken to singing in church....whether the choir is singing or not.

And finally Bernadette (4 months) who is the youngest of the clan and is the centre of everyone's attention. She has just found her favourite fingers to suck on and is just starting to let her little voice be heard.

When I was in university I remember reading all sorts of articles and studies from so called "experts" regarding raising children, nature vs nurture etc. The thing is, a good number of these studies, were probably carried out by people who did not have kids!!!! Case in point, even though we deliberately did not do expose her to anything girly, Aileen started pretending to put on make up when she was two!!! The truth is, what I am finding out these days is that there is a whole lot more nature than the proponents of nurture would like you to believe.

Which brings me to this week's book recommendations (not that I am going to start recommending books on a weekly basis, it just sounded cool to say that)

However I have to totally recommend "Why Gender Matters" by Dr. Leonard is in my books I recommend section. As Liz (aka TiPSI Mom) puts it " Every father with a daughter and every mother with a son has to read this book!" You can read the synopsis of the book yourself, but I have to say that it has really helped me to understand the kids on a totally different level than before.

The other book I would strongly recommend is called "the Temperament God Gave You" by Art and Larraine Bennet (also in my recommended books section) This book not only helped me to understand my kids better, but it has taken Liz's and my communication to a whole new level!!! What I like about this book is that it cuts through all the airy fairy stuff and really gives nuts and bolts strategies to effective communication....AND it is the only communication model that I know of that requires only ONE of the individuals involved to be on board.....which should catch the attention of anyone in the business of communication and negotiation...because as you guys know, most communication tools out there require both parties to buy into the system.

Well that's it for now folks! Next week: making your own tomato sauce and its connection to Japanese Ramen noodles.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Odds and ends

Where did the week go? The last two weeks have been especially busy so this weeks post will be a little more meandering than usual! Last weekend we were at the Fergus Highland Games, where my daughter competed as a highland dancer. (Which I am proud to mention that she placed top ten in five out of the six dances in which she was competing!)

Yesterday my faucet exploded so I spent the day running around fixing that....

Today I have been busy making tomatoes (that's tomato sauce for the uninitiated)

And I have been busy running around taking care of the ordinary business in regular life

AND this weekend I will be going to a youth conference in Midland Ontario!

But I figured that I would give everybody a bit of a preview of the things that will be coming up in the weeks ahead......

So you can look forward to:

Meeting the kids!
Why I like fixing kitchen sinks better than fixing toilets
Our homeschooling odyssey
The budo of making tomatoes
Changes changes and more changes
Our highland adventure
Balancing (at least how I do it) family time, charity work and time for me

Also, if you haven't noticed, the comment field is now wide open for everyone to make comments, and I would love to hear what you think! BE WARNED....KEEP YOUR COMMENTS FAMILY FRIENDLY AND NON-ARGUMENTATIVE OR IT WILL BE REMOVED!

Having said that, I am sure that someone out there in cyberspace has a question or if any of you would like me to talk about any particular topic, just send me a message, or leave a comment.

By the way in case you were wondering, a Zando Zan, is an intergalactic space assassin who was hired to get an ailen recruiter named Centauri in an obscure Disney film from the 80's called The Last Star-Fighter....just in case you haven't had a chance to google it yet ;-)


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Zen and the Art of Zero Budgeting

One of the reasons I started this blog was because one of the most frequently asked questions I would get was "how do you afford all those kids?"

The answer is pretty simple. Actually so simple that sometimes I think that people have a hard time believing me when I tell them. Especially since the pace of life tends to make us think that every thing has to be so complicated....seriously, have you seen the way some kids toys are packaged these days? You almost need a degree in engineering just to get the box open!

So what is the super simple secret to never ending bliss and happiness? Still working on that...but I can tell you that the secret to making sure that all the bills are paid each month and still having enough to buy the odd treat or two is budgeting.

With the amount of debt so many people are in it these days it makes me wonder if budgeting is becoming a dying art. Debt is one of the most aggressively marketed product these days... I can't tell you how many credit cards I have been offered in the last month!

Not only that, but now a days there are twenty somethings who have never experienced the joy of baking home made cookies, let alone the joy of balancing a cheque book! Yet these same non-foodies feel that they are entitled to the same lifestyle their parents worked for years to achieve.

Think about it this way, a household runs like a is a real economy with income and expenses, assets and liabilities, production and waste. Like any business, household should also be concerned with watching the bottom line...which is where the magical mystical zero comes in to the equation.

Anyone with a math background, and really who doesn't absolutely LOVE anything to do with math, would know that in fact zero, while being the smallest non-negative integer, is a rational and therefore real number even though it is neither a prime number nor a composite number. (those of you who know how I really feel about math are laughing at me right about now)

But on an even deeper level, numerically speaking, it can be said that zero represents a state of balance. It is the point where the positive and negative integers cancel each other out. It is the centre point of a number line. It begins the positive, and ends the negative. Just as being still and doing nothing are two very different things, having zero and having nothing are two very different things. Perhaps the reason people who worry about having money at the end of each month are always stressed out, is because they are always seeking to be out of balance!

I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of reinventing the wheel so I should point out that I learned the process of zero budgeting from the book, "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey, not to be confused with Gordon...who has a very fine line of stainless steel cookware by Royal Doulton. Although I think he spells his name with two As.

(BTW, you can check out Total Money Makeover in my recommended books widget)

Here is the math:

Basically this is done via simple spreadsheet, but I haven't figured out how to html a graph on to the blog yet....

In one column, let's call it column A, write down all sources of income eg, pay cheques, tax returns, money from pop bottle returns, whatever.

Next in another column, call it column B, or Beta or Centauri even, whatever you want, just watch out for the Zando-Zan.... I digress. Anyway, write down all of your monthly expenses eg, mortgage, utilities, cell phone etc. in the second column.

BE SURE TO TREAT SAVINGS AS AN EXPENSE!!!!! This is the key to staying out of debt and still getting the things you want in life.

Total each column.

Column A - Column B should equal Zero.

If you have a negative number, you need to figure out what to cut back.

***** REALITY CHECK***** if you are getting negative numbers on a regular basis, you are living beyond your means.

If you have a positive number it means that you can either allocate more for savings or perhaps you can get yourself that (insert frivolous treat here) you were looking at.

The comfort of a zero budget is that every penny gets in its place and is accounted for. It gives each dollar a sense of purpose. It can be argued that when a person does not feel a sense of purpose, they feel like they are a without purpose can easily go to waste as well. It will also put into perspective what you need versus what you want. Buying what you want is not a bad thing....if that is what you have purposed your money for. We (TiPSI Mom and I) wanted something that easy to use and could replace most of the functionality of our lap top, so we purposed our money and now we write our blogs using our brand new Ipad2s!

Right about now some of you (if you haven't already) are saying that there is just not enough time to do all this. The funny thing is, like a good friend said to me once, I only get 24 hours a day, just like everybody else, and I still manage to find half an hour every two weeks to set a budget. Ahem, AND I have seven kids.....

Taking care of our finances has scriptural roots too, The Parable of the Talents (Mt 25: 14-30) is ...not just about using our God given talents...but it also gives us insight of the importance of treating or money with respect.... How many times have you walked by a penny in the gutter? It will also make you aware of the abundance you have in your life!

One of the useful tidbits that I got from one of the countless self help books I read before I started reading Chesterton was that no body will care for your money as much as you. But even more importantly, if you subscribe to the notion that God provides, it stands to reason that anything we have has actually been given to us by God that we might be the faithful stewards of His creation.

Zero budgeting is a way to accountable to the last penny and therefore to be faithful in little things. (Lk 16:10)

It also allows us to provide the best for our little ones.


Next week: odds and ends.....

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Time outs and Temper Tantrums

I am a big believer in discipline. If you want to have kids who behave you need to not be afraid to be a parent...and being a parent means not being afraid to discipline your children from time to time.

Let's get something clear right off the bat, I am pretty old school when it comes to my views about discipline, especially corporal discipline. But before I get all sorts of emails and comments about the evils of spanking, it is important to point out that I am not talking about the "somebody gonna get a hurt real bad" kind of old school, but if you have been paying attention, you would have noticed that I have been using the word discipline instead of punishment. Punishment and discipline are two VERY different things. And for the record, I have had my share of well deserved ear flicks.

The key to disciplining kids is first and foremost self discipline. Your kids are only a mirror of you when you are stressed out. If you want them to learn self control you need to learn self control. If you want to teach your children that God is a loving and righteous father, you need to be a loving and righteous father. If you want your kids to behave under stress, then you have to show them how to behave under stress. Sometimes it is important AND helpful for your kids to see you get stressed out....and to see how you (healthily) calm yourself down. In other words, to share your humanity while reflecting God's divinity.

However there will come a point when the three year old has gone beyond rational that point it ceases to be a teachable moment and authoritative parenting needs to happen. Take manners for instance, there comes a point when it is no longer productive to wait until the three year old says please or thank you....teaching manners is important...but you have to ask yourself whether this is the hill you are prepared to die on....and really, in a battle of wills against a three year old, who is the adult????

I often tell people that parenting gets easier after three kids, because you have to change your game plan from man to man coverage to playing zone defence. Part of this strategy is knowing that discipline is not about punishment, but about modifying behaviour. You are not trying to get even, or prove that you are smarter or stronger than a two year old....rather you are teaching said two year old that putting a knife in the electrical outlet is not a good thing....better they learn that with a flick to the ear than with a shock to their system.

If you want to teach your kids how to behave at a restaurant, you need to take them to a restaurant once in a while. But teach them table manners at home. Our kids are not allowed to misbehave at the table at any time. If they have not cooled down by the time we finish grace, they are given the chance to cool down away from the table.

Also I can NOT stress the importance of CONSISTENCY enough!!!!!!!!!! Nuff said. Be on the same page as your spouse. Figure out your game plan before the situation arises...because in the heat of the moment, things can get well.....heated.

So while I will admit that I am still figuring some of this discipline stuff out, here are some ground rules that I have found very useful over the years. By the way, while it is a lot of work at first I have to say that I am finding that I don't have to discipline as much these days, because the older ones tend to model for the younger ones....however I still get to use my "asian dad" voice from time to time.

Here is the game plan:

Never discipline when you are angry...ESPECIALLY if you subscribe to corporal punishment.

Always ask your self what is the lesson you are trying to teach.

Ask yourself: Will it matter in five minutes, five days, five weeks or five years?

Discipline MUST be carried out is counter productive to be freaking out when administering discipline...because your freak out undermines your authority.

The child needs to understand, to the fullness of their capacity, why they are being disciplined.

Never threaten a consequence that you are not prepared to carry out.

Never joke about consequences...sends mixed messages

Discipline needs to fit the crime AND the child. Two kids with different temperaments will react differently to the same punishment....sometimes it is unjust to punish with the same consequence. One child may learn from a flick on the ear, the other one may just laugh it off...and another will spend years n therapy blaming that flick for all of their failures....

As a martial artist I like to employ discipline exercises that have physical wall sits or plank pose...if two are at fault sometimes I make them do wall sits side by side...sometimes I will join them.

At the end of the day, teaching a child self discipline is just as important as teaching them math or science. After all that is how we get them to be disciples.

Next week: Zero budget? Try a "Zero Budget"


Thursday, 28 July 2011

It'll Change a Hawk to a Little White Dove

One of the things I like to do in my spare time is to have conversations with myself in my head. Most of the time they are like" where did I put my car keys?" or "how did they get the caramel into those little chocolate pieces?"

Recently though, I thought to myself "if I had to give advice to a new husband, what would I say?" after much thought I sorta came up with this:

The most important thing you need to learn as a husband is how to say, " I love you". One of the most important things you can do, is to say it to your wife...every day.

Sometimes as guys we tend to have a bit of a hard time using this word and it is no surprise because it is one of the most used and abused words in the english language! We tend to think that if we are not feeling in the right mood then it is not appropriate to say because we feel like we are saying something that we don't mean.

The reality is, in general, society tends to give us a screwed up impression of what this word is supposed to mean. You can love your boat, you can love your car, but to love your wife somehow makes you less of a man......IF you choose to believe what the commercials say. The truth is it takes a real man to show love for his wife. And loving your wife, will make you more of a man.

In his book, Love and Responsibility, John Paul II (actually when he wrote it, he was still known as Karol Wojtyla) illustrates in a very lengthy and logical way that the opposite of love is apathy...not hate as many would assume (hate is actually the absence of love, but the absence of a thing is not its opposite because in order to be an opposite of a thing, one must also be a thing...ok brain starting to hurt....just look it up. WARNING, NOT BEDTIME READING!)

In other words, using someone is the opposite of loving them. What gets me is that it seems that it has become more and more acceptable to treat people as objects instead of fellow human beings. Case in point, I remember when "hooking up" just meant meeting someone for coffee....these days you have to be careful who you say that to.

If we take a more scriptural approach, then love is something very different. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Cor 13:4-8a ESV)

As husbands when we look at our wives who do we see? As a christian, the first thing I keep in mind is that she is created in the image and likeness of God (see Gen 1:27)

St Theresa of Avila (a sixteenth century mystic) once wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.

As husbands we have the responsibility of being God's voice towards our wives....which means that when we say to our wives, "I love you" it is not only our voice that is speaking, it is also God's. The love of God never ends, and He wants our wives to know that. And He wants to tell them every day. Which is why we need to tell them every day.

And that's what I would tell a new husband....and maybe a few older ones too.


Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I love coffee. I am not going to lie. I REALLY love coffee. Not that I am a coffee snob, I will drink anything from greasy spoon tar to fine espresso....not so much into the Kopi Luwak though.....

But really, there is nothing like a good cuppa joe to get you going in the morning, speaking for myself of course! A good cup of coffee should taste like toasted butter with a hint of bitterness. Some would even go so far to say that a cup of coffee should be experienced, but perhaps those people have slightly more time to ponder these things than I.

I know, I know....there are all sorts of studies that will astound you about the negative effects of caffeine or that tea has more antioxidants blah blah blah blah blah......and yes, at times I have in fact said to myself, "self, what do you think about giving up coffee?" to which I would then reply, "are you talking to yourself again, self? Perhaps it is time for another cup." And really, with seven kids, I think that I am allowed to enjoy a cup or two of a nice fine brew, and I don't mean the lager kind. I don't do decaf.

The thing is, I make most of our coffee at home. We have everything from a french press coffee maker, to a 32 cup percolator that we bring out for parties. We also have three different stovetop espresso makers! (a three cup, a four cup and a six cup) Sometimes I even grind my own beans, but grinding beans at 6:30 in the morning tends to wake the baby....who only got back to sleep at 4...which is pretty counter productive, so usually I just use the pre-ground stuff.

A simple Google search will give you all sorts of instructions as to how to brew the perfect is how I like to brew it in our french press:

Boil water in kettle
Wait 55 seconds after boiling (the National Coffee Association of USA, recommends an optimal brewing temperature of 195-205 F)
Pour over coffee grounds
Let brew for about 4-5 minutes

While the coffee is brewing I like to ponder the bigger questions of the universe like, "I wonder what's going to get flushed down the toilet today" or, how long has that piece of spaghetti been stuck to the ceiling...and who was it that threw it there in the first place?"

By the time I get said piece of pasta off the ceiling my coffee is usually ready to press and prepare. Fixing coffee is a very touchy subject for many one time I must confess that I had rather strong opinions about such things....but these days I am just grateful if I don't need to reheat it in the microwave before I take my first sip.

The thing is, I know that there are a lot of other people who enjoy a good cup of coffee but would rather go out and buy it instead of making it themselves, but have you ever thought about what a cup a day can do?

Here is the math:

Depending on where you live, a medium double double at the local Timmy's runs for about $1.50

(for those of you reading this outside of Canada, Tim Horton's (Timmy's for short) is the name of our local, national coffee chain...and a double cream, double sugar is affectionately known as a "double double"....for those of you ex pats....mmmmm Maple!)

Anyway, two cups of coffee, which most would agree is not an unreasonable daily quota, then equals $3.00.

Multiply that by five (assuming that you don't buy it on the weekend) and that comes to a total of $15 a week.

$15 x 52 weeks = $780 a year on coffee! That is like a months rent for some university students.....who probably still go out for their daily double tall cappuccino extra dry....which by the way costs about three times as much as a double double.

Now to be clear, I am NOT AGAINST buying coffee at the local coffee shop. In fact, I have been known to indulge in the occasional grande mocha frappuccino. But just to throw in a bit of perspective, in the developing world, two and a half weeks worth of coffee shop coffee is enough to purchase 5 fruit trees. Six and a half weeks of double doubles provides access to clean water for a whole family, 8 months will furnish entire classrooms and a year and two months of daily double doubles will build a family a home! (By the way if you are wondering how I figured this out, I didn't. The folks at World Vision did....check out their "gifts that matter" section)

For a TPSI family with seven kids...a year's worth of double doubles pays for a year's worth of dance classes, swimming lessons, piano lessons...not to mention a whole lot of broccoli.


Next weeks post will be late. I'll tell you why later.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Leaps of Faith.......pointing fingers at the moon.

When I was doing my undergrad in Religious Studies I came across an old Buddhist proverb that said, "The finger that points to the moon is not the moon.... But if you want to discover the moon, you need to choose a finger"

This post actually marks a bit of a turning point for this blog!!! One of the reasons I started this blog in the first place was to answer questions regarding how we manage to raise seven kids on a single income without going crazy. Not only that, but to show that with a little creativity, is also possible to afford the FINANCIAL costs of having kids these days AND still have lots of fun in the meantime!

It is probably evident that I have been writing this blog from a Catholic Christian perspective...which just happens to be the finger I have chosen to study the moon (i.e. my relationship with God). I should point out that I approach theology not only from a personal perspective but from an academic perspective as well. Not only did I do my undergrad in Religious Studies, I also worked at a monastery as the coordinator for their youth program....where by the end of it, I had conducted retreats and motivational seminars for over twelve thousand youth aged 13 to 19.

Anyway the thing that tends to get me these days, regardless of religious point of view, is hearing people balk at the prospect of having kids because of the cost. Let's get something clear right off the bat. First, I am NOT making any judgements about the number of children a couple decide to have. Although it seems that many do not seem to hesitate making some sort of judgement towards us for having so many kids. Second, there is a BIG difference between choosing not to have kids for health or medical reasons and choosing not to have kids for financial reasons.

So this year we are embarking on a journey....perhaps a year long, perhaps even longer.

As of this post, I am beginning a year of parental leave, essentially cutting my income in half, and we have decided to homeschool all the school aged children (four of them are school aged) all the while, with God's grace, making ends meet.

Now just because I choose to believe in God does not meant that I think that bags of money are going to fall out of the sky. You don't have to have a degree in theology to know that God does not exactly work like that. some of you may have read in my discussions with Elrin, when you follow scriptural principles regarding the use (stewardship) of money, God tends to provide funds through ways you don't expect.....especially when you follow the principles of tithing.

One of the things I have mentioned in my offline discussions with Elrin, is that there is an order to charitable giving. What that means is that scripturally speaking, there are levels of charity, the highest being: feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless....(corporal works of mercy anyone?)

That is not to say that giving a few bucks to a kid who is raising funds for a school trip to the zoo is not a good thing, it is just not in the same category as donating funds for building a well in Africa. (raising funds for the school trip falls under a different category of charity....called financial blessing....which I will talk about later)

Having said that, some of you may have noticed the donate button on the top right hand corner of this blog. For most bloggers, this is one of the ways that they generate income from their work. However, we have decided to REVERSE TITHE any income that comes to us through this blog. Here is how it works: Tithing, scripturally speaking, means setting aside the first fruits of your labour to God....right off the top. The exact amount is 10% no more, but more importantly, no less.

Reverse tithing is giving the first 90% of every dollar to God, leaving the last 10% for us. So by donating to this blog, you will not only be helping us make ends meet, but 90% of every dollar you give is going to go towards an organization that feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked and gives shelter to the homeless....and no I don't mean us, although we are going to put some of the 10% towards funding a mission trip sometime in the future.

Another thing to look for in the next coming weeks are books that I will recommend on amazon! There are so many good resources out there, not just about managing your household finances but also about being able to communicate better and getting the most out of life! Once I figure out how to get the button thingy onto the side bar it shall be done. Just so you know, I NEVER recommend anything I have never read and by the way, if I have time to read them then so do you!!!

So that is about it for now; be sure to tune in for more adventures in this Leap of Faith year! By the way, if God decides to send us a reality TV series, we would not say no, but I can assure you that we are most definitely NOT like John and Kate....and that probably wouldn't make for good TV......

Maybe YouTube.

Join us next week where you will hear TiPSI Dad say...."Don't use the toilet brush for your hair......THAT IS NOT PLASTICINE!!!!!!!!"


Monday, 27 June 2011

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? What the heck is that thing anyway?

It is a well known fact that one of the most effective ways to achieve great things is to have a know, the whole "if you fail to plan you plan to fail" thing....but when you have seven kids, sitting down to write a mission statement and a set of S.M.A.R.T. goals is not necessarily easy to do no matter how you feng shui your environment. However, with seven kids things tend to get slightly busy so having some sort of organizational strategy is pretty important to keep things from ending up in a complete and utter catastrophic failure. At the very least, it helps keep our laundry on track.

So the third instalment in this three part series on balancing time, life and everything in between, is about the the power of WRITING LISTS.

Basically, if you want anything to get done around our house you have to write it down. If you don't write it down, you run the risk of loosing the idea of that which you wanted to have done in the ocean of other things that swim in the current of time.....sort of like my train of thought right now......where was I again?

Oh yeah.

Writing lists has become a pretty important part of our daily, weekly and monthly routines. Everything from, "buy milk" to, "remember to change the toilet paper" goes on one of many different lists we have going on around the house. You should see my "honey do" list. In fact, writing lists has saved us literally HUNDREDS of dollars at the grocery store! In a later post I will talk about how meal planning saves us time, money, and reduces food wastage (which is one of my all time pet peeves).

Here's how it works: when you write your list before you go grocery shopping, and stick to it, you drastically reduce the amount of impulse buying you engage in. However if you like cookies, or chips, then just make sure that you put it on the list! We don't buy chips but we make pop corn...not the microwave kind, but old school, on the stove top pop corn. $2.99 buys enough popcorn to last a few months.

If you have ever felt like you were stuck in a rut, it is probably because you did not have a clear idea of where you wanted to go next. Writing lists is a powerful way to get your life going in the direction you want it to go. It is sort of like making a road map as opposed to a set of directions. Directions are good to a point, but if the road is blocked you will not know where to go. With a map it is possible to see alternate routes. And besides, if you do not know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there? If you had a list of desirable destinations you could check them off one at a time.

When you have a list, you can jump ahead if one task can't be done right away. Also there is something quite satisfying about looking at a list of items, or tasks you were able to check off.

Now there are lists and there are are some pointers that have kept me off the naughty list...although these days the only lists that I seem to be on are (junk)mailing lists.

  • Keep things simple: if a list gets too complex, then it is an indicator that you need to break things down into more manageable chunks.
  • Check things off once you have done them: the thing about having a million things to do is that at times it seems overwhelming, but there is a psychological response to checking things off.
  • Distinguish between the macro and the micro: where you want to be in five years time goes on a different list than "buy eggs this week"
  • Keep a list journal as opposed to having random pieces of paper...this will cut down on clutter, and it serves as a handy dandy reference....very useful for winning arguments...but who's arguing?
  • If you are writing a list for your life plan, keep in mind that if you make a 5 year plan today, 365 days from now it should be a four year plan...otherwise you have not made any progress.

Right. So now that this nowhere near exhaustive, brief introduction to how we manage our time is done, I can check it off my list of possible blog posts.

Next week: Leaps of Faith and sayings I never thought would come out of my mouth.....


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ordered living: you want fries with that?

This weeks post is about ordered living. But should you read this thinking that our house runs like a well oiled machine, or a fine orchestra with all the parts moving in perfect harmony, I can assure you that it does not. Our house sounds more like Jazz. Not the Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble kind of jazz, more like Avant Garde experimental jazz; The kind of jazz where it seems to be going in a certain direction and then the musician climbs into the piano and starts playing the strings with his teeth.

Ordered living is the second principle in this, the second post in the three part series on managing time and balancing life.

Basically it works like this: life tends to run more smoothly when things are in order. On a physical level, when everything is in its place, on a personal level, when you have your priorities straight, and on a spiritual level, when you are harmony with the with your higher power....check that, when you are in harmony with the HIGHEST power. If you feel stressed, especially financially, there is a strong chance that one or more of these aspects of your life is not in order.

Think about it this way: nothing is more frustrating, at least to me, when a job that should only take 5 minutes or so, ends up taking two hours because the tool needed for the job was not in the place it was supposed to be. I am getting stressed-out right now just thinking about it.........

Once again I am going to reference the teachings of Catherine Dorhety, who taught: order, simplicity and consistency. In other words, in order to establish order, keep things simple, and consistent.

Lets face it, million dollar corporations spend big bucks and tons of resources to maximize efficiency. It is ironic that we don't spend as much time as we should trying to maximize the efficiency of our homes, and I'm not just talking about minimizing energy consumption.

Here is the math:

Lets say that you make a salary of $75 000/ year.
That is roughly about $1500/ week (assuming you take 2 weeks vacation)
That puts your hourly rate at $37.50/ hour.

Divide that by 60 and you make roughly $0.625/ min

Now let's take time spent wasted because you forgot to put something back where it was supposed to be. If you spend ten minutes looking for it, you waste $6.25 of your time! If you do that once a day, five days a week, that is $1562.50/ year worth of your time!

Now granted there are things that you will not be able to control that will take up a lot of your time. But the bottom line is, time spent dealing with disorder, is time taken away from your kids.

How much is that worth?

Next week: Now what was I supposed to do again? The power of writing lists.


Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Right about now if you hurry......

Before we get started with this week's post, I just wanted to say thanks to D for letting me know where to find blueing agent! I will let you know how it goes when I get around to it.

Which brings me to the topic at hand....time. Specifically, balancing time between work, home, time with kids, "me" time, couple time, taking out the trash, doing the laundry........

There just was not enough time to write about all of these things in one post, and even if there was, I am sure that it would be so long that most of you would not have the time to read it. Which would then make the effort spent in writing this week's blog a big waste....of time!

So in the interest of keeping things simple, (you thought I was going to make another time reference didn't you?) this is going to be the first of a three part series about managing time....or at least how we manage our time between seven kids, dance class, martial arts lessons, church picnics, etc.

The guiding principle we use to help us balance our time and the rest of life comes from the writings of Catherine Doherty, who founded the Madonna House religious community; it's called, "The Duty of the Moment".

The Duty of the Moment involves asking yourself the following questions:

1) Are you doing what you are supposed do be dong right now?
2) If the answer is "Yes", then are you doing it to the BEST of your ability with great love for God?

Incidentally if the answer to question 1 is no, then you better stop what you are doing and get to what you should be doing!

Think about it this way: to succeed at anything you need to "show up" i.e. You can't expect to win if your head is not in the game. The same goes for any aspect of life. You can't be a good father if your head is still at the office. Just because you don't have any paperwork with you does not mean that you aren't bringing your work home with you. Your duty of the moment is about where you are right now. Sometimes it means reading your kids a story instead of taking a nap. Sometimes it means changing a dirty diaper in the last 10 seconds of overtime. Sometimes it means pouring breakfast cereal for your three year old who asks you to do it just as you are walking out the door to go to work. Mothers know this reality all too well, but seeing as I am writing this as the TiPSI Dad, I figured that it was important to point this out because sometimes as dads, we get so caught up trying to keep up with the bill payments, office politics, eating healthy and 10,000 other things that we have to DO that we forget who we truly ARE....Husbands and Fathers.

I should also point out that if your duty of the moment right now is to rest...then TAKE A REST. You are good to no one if you are burnt out. You will only end up with an ulcer. Ulcers suck.

In another post I mentioned that the best advice that I ever got was to never confuse who I am with what I do. At some point in our lives most of us go through a phase where we want to make a big impact on the world in some way. What I have realized in the last 13 years of our marriage is that no matter what accomplishments I may achieve professionally, they are not going to be as important as the impact I will have on my children. At the end of the day our professional life is just what we did to put food on the table. The impact we have on our own kids is going to last for generations.

Next week: keeping things in order, in other words, how NOT to step into the squashed banana your kids left under the table.


Monday, 6 June 2011

The hills are alive...oh wait it's just the laundry.

We do a lot of laundry. That is not an understatement. One of the life lessons you learn when you are a TPSI family with seven kids is that boys get dirty. (In case you were wondering, we have four boys and three girls) In fact, I am convinced that our three year year old (Number 5) is a hidden artistic genius, who views clean clothes as a blank canvas on which to create his latest abstract masterpiece with his chosen medium....dirt.

If our piles of laundry were mountains, poets would write sonnets about the sheer awesomeness their presence inspires. To be clear, our kids are not necessarily any more dirty than average. In fact per person, we generate about the same as any average individual. However when there are nine people in a household, one of them being a seven week old ( i.e. seven weeks at the time of writing this blog)....those of you with newborns know that a newborn produces about twice the normal amount of laundry...mostly from puking all over your fresh clean get the picture.

Now before everyone sends me messages about being green, and needing to conserve water, and protecting the environment etc....let's get a few things straight. First, one of the things we invested in was a high efficiency front loading washer (yes, which we bought debt free...more on debt free living in a later post) Second, we also bought a GAS dryer (also debt free) which did cost a bit more up front, but has saved us loads in energy bills! Before I get into the numbers, I have to say that I was sold on the first load when our gas dryer completely dried out a SUPERSIZE load of towels in 40 minutes!

Just to give you an idea of how much a gas dryer saves on electricity, our last bi-monthly hydro bill was $175.62, that's $87.81 a month. Or monthly gas bill is averages about $90 in the winter and $65 - $75 in the summer. We also have a gas stove and a natural gas barbecue which we use all year too. In our area our water bill averages about $42 a month. Which is pretty good considering the amount of laundry our house of budding abstract artists, extreme dirt bikers, mud pie bakers, and backyard gymnast produces. Not to mention the lawn cutting, dandelion pulling, garden planting TiPSI dad and TiPSI mom.

Anyway, as you can imagine, we do a lot of laundry. Which requires a lot of laundry detergent. The interesting thing is that we got into making our own laundry detergent because we have a lot of sensitive skin issues. Making our own detergent allows us total control over the chemicals that get into our clothes and onto our skin. By the way these formulas are also septic safe and environmentally friendly!

So here is the math:

Or initial outlay involved buying a 5 (US) gallon bucket at the local Home Depot. The recipe requires Borax and Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda!!!) Which we picked up at the local Walmart. We also bought a lid for the bucket....which we also got at Home Depot.

5 (US) gallon (17L) bucket = $5.95
Lid = $3.95
Borax = $4.49
Washing soda = $5.99
Ivory soap (10 pack) = $4.29

Which brings us to a grand total of $24.67 initial cost.

I should point out that after two years of making our own laundry detergent we are still on our first box of Borax and Washing Soda and only our second (10) pack of Ivory!

Here is the recipe,

On the stove, heat 2 litres of water (not to boiling, just warm)
Grate 2 bars of Ivory soap into the warm water. Stir frequently to dissolve.
In the bucket dissolve 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax in 10 litres of HOT tap water.
When soap water is dissolved, add to bucket. Mix really well. (These days I use a paint mixer bit that I have for my cordless drill, but that is unnecessary)

Let the mixture set over night, and stir well again in the morning, or any time.
To keep things manageable we still re-use the last laundry jug we ever bought and pour the detergent into it.
This makes about 5 months worth of laundry detergent for us!

A couple of things to note, if you want you can fragrance your detergent with a few drops  of essential oils...I like to use tea tree. Also if you want to get your whites whiter you can use something called blueing agent...I have not been able to find any and I have been wanting to try it so if any of you out there know where to find it, let me know!

The original recipe calls for a bar of Fels Naptha soap, but we replaced it with Ivory because of the skin issues I mentioned earlier.
Just in case any of you were wondering.....yes we did get this recipe from the Duggars, and yes we are big fans, but we are perfectly content to let them keep the other words, no we are not going to try to beat them.

Well, look at the time! Next week, all work and no play makes people tell me to have more fibre. Balancing life, work and everything in between.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Give us this day our daily five minutes or less.

There are few things more appetizing in this world than the smell of fresh baked bread. Thanks to modern technology experiencing fresh baked bread is as easy as throwing six ingredients into a bread maker and pushing start. You know that you have one lying around somewhere...or if you don't you can always join your local freecycling network! Freecycling is one of the greatest things since, well since sliced bread! Freecyclers are folks who would rather see their still useful stuff go to someone who will use it instead of a landfill. Just look up and check it out.

But back to feeding the multitudes with loaves and sandwich meat (one of our kids has a fish allergy so we don't do fish).  When life is moving in relative order....relative being the key word (look for the post on Ordered Living) we usually get bread into the bread maker right around dinner time, set the timer, and in the morning we wake up to the smell of fresh baked bread.....I am getting hungry just thinking about the butter melts right into the soft warm bread...mmmmm

Another little tidbit about us is that we whip our butter (no we don't get it straight from the cow, we buy the butter and we whip it in our kitchen aid stand mixer) whipping for about 10 minutes doubles the volume and keeps the butter spreadable. It is like getting two sticks of butter for the price of one.

Anyway baking our own bread saves a ton.

Here is the math: (keep in mind that our family goes through one loaf a day)

Buying bread from the store:

$3.49/ loaf x 7 days = $24.43week

$24.43 x 52 weeks = $1270.36/ year

Home baked bread:

We buy flour in bulk for $15.29/ 20kg which lasts us about 2 months. It would last longer but we also bake cookies and cakes, not to mention the pancake breakfasts.

So $15.29 / 2 = $7.65/ month on flour.

Yeast costs us about $6.00 for a 5 month supply so that is $1.20 a month we spend on yeast.

The other ingredients like oil (2 tsp per loaf) and water are so small that their cost per loaf is negligible

So, $7.65 + $1.20 = $8.85/ month

Which means that baking our own bread costs us $106.20 a year!!!

That is a total savings of $1164.16. That is a lot of dough.....maybe even a mortgage payment! You will never look at a gingerbread house the same way again.

How's that for food for thought?

Next week, keeping it clean....with homemade laundry detergent.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Stewardship, or in other words, I'd rather be an ant.....

I once read a story when I was younger, about a bunch of industrious ants and a freeloading grasshopper. The basic premise was that the ants worked all summer while the grasshopper played and did no work. When the winter time came, the ants were able to sustain themselves with the produce they worked for all summer, while the grasshopper was left in the cold. In one version of the story, the ants let the grasshopper share with their bounty and the grasshopper learns his lesson. In another version the ants are partying so hard that they do not hear the grasshopper knocking on the door and he dies.

On that note......I have to say that this post has so far, been the hardest one to start...I am not sure why. However the topic this week is stewardship. I guess the reason this post is a bit slow in starting is that there is so much to say about stewardship. So much in fact that perhaps I will have to revisit the topic a few times. In short, stewardship is taking care of everything that God gives us. If we consider that everything we have has been given to us by God, then things start to take on a whole new perspective.

This includes both time and money. The first question I usually get when people find out that I have seven kids is "are you done?" or some question of the sort...the second most asked first question is "WHY?"

After the slight moment of awkwardness that usually follows, the next question they ask is "how do you afford all those kids?" to this question I usually want to ask, "WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU SPENDING YOUR MONEY ON???????"

Seriously, I have no idea how people say that they can not afford more than one or two kids!! ESPECIALLY when so many of those families have both parents working!!! Someone once told me that you either trust God or you don't. But even if someone doesn't have such faith in God that they can tell a mountain to cast itself in the sea (Mt 21: 18-22), most people do not realize the things that they waste their money on.

Let's do the math:

According to, the average entry level salary for an administrative assistant is $35,000 a year.
Let's say someone enters the work force at 25, and retires at 65 with a salary of $80,000 a year (which I know is considered still pretty modest for some) at what time will the train traveling eastbound meet the car heading westbound......sorry, had a flashback to first year calculus there.....

Seriously though, over the course of that persons career, they will have earned an average of $50,000 a year, over forty years.

$50,000 x 40 yrs = $2,000,000!!!

So over the course of a forty year career, a person will make TWO MILLION DOLLARS!!! The question is, what will they have to show for it?

Financial stewardship is all about thinking twice before spending that dollar. But before you get the idea that financial stewardship is about not spending any money, let me clarify a few things:

First, financial stewardship is about spending money wisely, not not spending, for example, sometimes it is more wise to spend a little bit more for better quality than to save a few dollars buying something that is not going to last very long.

Second, sometimes NOT spending money at the right time is WORSE, like trying to save money by not getting an oil change....for three years....

And finally, financial stewardship means spending money you HAVE, as opposed to money that you don't have.

Well that's enough math for now....too many numbers makes my brain hurt.

Next time I will talk about a HUGE money saver......and how we get our daily bread.