Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Can you tell I have a lot of clothes to fold tonight?  I usually change my blog design when there's a dreaded chore to be done.

Procrastination.  I hate to love it.


The Simple Mom blog published a list of the fruits and veggies containing the highest amount of pesticide.  We happen to eat from this list regularly!  Washing with just water doesn't protect, because the pesticides are designed to be water resistant (due to rain). The article suggests that we buy a special wash, or wash them with vinegar and water.

Can life get any more complicated???????

Wouldn't it be easier to just work the land and grow all our own food?

Is your head spinning yet?

Monday, March 29, 2010

multiple choice

If you are suffering from stress-induced hives, which of the following is not helpful, in terms of your recovery?

A.    There is no more chocolate in the cupboard.

B.    You have a lot to do to prepare for your sister-in-law's Easter visit.

C.    Your baby ransacks your house on a regular basis.

D.    A salesman comes to the door and smiles at your baby daughter, who is in your arms.  He then says to her, "Well hello there.  Does Grandma have you?"

Answer:  All of the above, but most especially D!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

a quick prayer request

Not too many read blogs on the weekends.  Just in case a few of you do tune in, I'm asking for a quick prayer.  My nerves have gotten the best of me.  I'm dealing with a horrible case of hives.  The itching is driving me insane, and they've distorted my lips and eyes and hands.  Benedryl is helping some with the itching, but it's been over 24 hours and there's no sign they're going away.

Thank you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

on humor

My clock says eleven forty-nine.  But this day can so end right now, far as I'm concerned.  Only my six year old behaves lately.   The rest listen not.  The baby sleeps not.   I walk around trying to figure out what I've done wrong.

But I know what I've done wrong.

Financial worries weigh on me.  My parenting focus falters.

God will, I suspect, come through for us.  Somehow though, knowing that doesn't help with the weariness.

More time in the Word will help.  Only sometimes emotional exhaustion makes disciplined reading difficult.

Have you been there?

I'm here talking to you, so I can avoid saying something I'll regret to my eight year old.  I love him dearly, but stressful times for Momma mean that his ADHD symptoms rise exponentially.  His condition remains incentive to dwell close to the Almighty, daily drawing strength from that connection. Sometimes I am better at focusing on the blessings associated with his condition.  Today?  Not so much.

And what do I find online?  A little humor.  From the Pioneer Lady.  Rich and famous, she shares nothing of my experience.  And yet God has gifted her to help.  Humor is a gift.  We don't appreciate it nearly enough, until it proves our saving grace.

Self focus.  A detrimental sin.

Yet, we never learn.

The beauty of humor lies in its ability to bounce our focus immediately off ourselves.  Much of published humor rings foul, but we can't let that detract from the fact that God invented humor.  I see it as a packaged gift for the taking--a blessing.

Read about The Pioneer Woman's texting adventures.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Homeschooling with Babies and Toddlers Around

Every time I read a post about how to homeschool with babies and toddlers around, I take issue with some of the suggestions.  Older babies and toddlers need movement and exploration.  When we have to confine them, it should be in as large a space as possible--such as a whole room.  If we put them in one container after another just so the older children can have uninterrupted schooling, we will pay later.  Our precious little ones won't develop to their fullest potential.  The months between six and eighteen are crucial for intellectual development.  If they are wasted, we can't ever get the same window of opportunity back.

Why are their needs not just as important?  They too need daily schooling--which for them is movement and exploration.  I'm all for playpens when they're needed for safety, such as during Mom's quick trip to the bathroom or during cooking.

Suggestions that don't involve confining babies and toddlers:

- Go over mistakes in daily work at night, when Dad is home.  It doesn't have to be more than half an hour.  Use the time for a writing conference, or to explain new concepts in math or English.

- School year round so you can stretch out your year.  When babies are learning to crawl or walk, stick to just reading, writing and arithmetic.  Later that same year, work on just social studies and science.

- Finish school in a couple hours a day.  Remember that children are also learning while pursuing their interests.  While school-aged kids are busy building structures, or running a pretend restaurant, or putting together a play, mom can provide stimulation for babies and toddlers and preschoolers.

- If you choose a curriculum that requires a lot of planning time, or a lot of material gathering, or a lot of teacher-directed lessons, you'll most likely be asking your baby to stay put too often.  This isn't a problem for a younger baby in a sling--but later, that same sling will prevent necessary exercise and exploration.

- There will be plenty of time in upper-elementary, middle-school, and in the high-school years for you to use your ideal curriculum--whatever that might be.  When you have babies and toddlers along with primary students (no one over eight or nine), consider yourself successful if your primary kids are reading and writing and doing arithmetic every day.  Throw in the other stuff by reading lots of library books at night or during nap time, and by going on family field trips with your husband on the weekends (somehow between naps).

- If you want to use baby/toddler naptimes to teach your older kids, then try training your oldest child to shuffle laundry for you throughout the day (not fold, just load and switch from washer to dryer).   That way,  when naptime arrives, you won't be temped to shuffle laundry instead of teach.

- Plan art or messy projects on the weekends when hubby is home to play with the babies and toddlers.

- Older kids can take turns supervising a baby or toddler in a playroom--ideally one that is visible from the teaching area, or one that includes a baby monitor.  Train them carefully and post safety rules.  Go over what age-appropriate things they might work on with baby (i.e. stacking blocks, looking at object-naming books, putting things in a container).  Limit unsupervised sessions like this to twenty minutes or so, depending on maturity.  See Managers of Their Homes, by Steve and Terri Maxwell, for an extended discussion on this practice.  I don't like all their suggestions for babies and toddlers, but their discussion on this practice is excellent.

- If you live in a state requiring sample work, consider buying a textbook/workbook curriculum, or do lots of Charlotte Mason-style reading, dictating, journaling and questioning, but make sure you have time to document your learning.  Documentation takes time and planning!  You don't want to be scrambling for samples right before your yearly meeting (or monthly meeting, depending on your state).

- If you abhor textbooks and workbooks, use them only on the days you haven't put something more interesting together.  There will be plenty of days like that.  Diapers and potty training are time sucks, believe me.

- Kids need steady work.  The fewer days off per year, the better.  Have a back-up plan to keep them plowing forward, regardless of what you're doing.  You aren't going to over work them in two hours per day.  Those two hours are more beneficial year-round, than the traditional schooling practice of four hours per day, with extended summer and holiday breaks. Steadiness leads to proficiency (and even to excellence).

-When weather is nice in the summer, school one hour in the morning and one in the late afternoon.

- Do Saturday school for two hours if you need a free errand day during the week--with Dad home, this could make for an easy day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

hello there

It has been a week already.  Missed ya'll.  No, the organizing and purging project is not yet complete.  My baby has awakened numerous times this week, making my evening progress slow.  Who knew molars took so much time to fully come in?  Apparently, her problem is that every time she teethes, it's several teeth at once.

That Water Thing
Should you ever get the lofty idea that your kids should only drink water, think again.  Please.  I gave this no-juice, no Country-Time Lemonade thing serious discipline.  Any pediatrician would be proud of me.

And yet, for two nights I have been in heart-wrenching mommy pain watching my three-year-old battle constipation.  I hope we've seen the last of it.  Our family doesn't suffer from this, as a rule.  It was the decreased liquid she was taking in.  What an unpleasant experience!

I'm defeated.  It just isn't worth it.  Remembering that I didn't become an avid water drinker until my thirties, I'm realizing that this isn't something worth pursuing with young persnickety kids.

Whole Food Journey
Other aspects of our whole food journey are going well.  (Yes, Jess, I would like the granola recipe.  Thank you!)  I'm actually enjoying all the extra cooking, and I'm learning a ton!  We no longer buy anything boxed or jarred that's pre-made or pre-mixed (like pancake mix or cake mix--we make our own), and the only cans we buy are primarily those needed to whip up our own spaghetti sauce (I don't own canning supplies).

I've encountered a few problem areas, requiring more investigating at other stores:
- ketchup (most have high fructose corn syrup, and/or other additives)

- jelly (most have high fructose corn syrup, and/or other additives--paying more doesn't change this.  I need to learn to make my own.)

- peanut butter (high fructose corn syrup, and/or other additives)

- 100% whole wheat bread (I am paying more money for less bread, to get rid of additives!  Hoping to find a bread machine when garage sales start up.)

We'll see how it goes at a fancier grocery store, like Giant Eagle.  Maybe I'll find some healthier alternatives without breaking the bank.  It's no wonder that poverty and obesity are linked, by the way.  Healthy food can be expensive!

Culinary Lessons
I tried a new recipe the other day--scrumptious sweet potato soup.  If you click on the link, you'll notice that it calls for 1.5 cups of cooked sweet potatoes.  Folks, that isn't enough potato for a soup.  I knew it when I read it, so I slightly more than doubled the amount of potatoes.  Still, it came out watery and lacking flavor.  So, I kept putting another potato in the microwave to puree for the soup--three more times.  Finally, I came up with scrumptious soup, after also tweaking the spices and sugar amounts.

The thing is, I didn't get upset!   Something didn't work out initially in the kitchen, and I didn't get upset!  I used to feel like crying, or actually cry, when a recipe didn't work out.  For me it was confirmation that I'm lousy in the domesticity department.  This time, I blamed the recipe.  Poorly written recipes are not uncommon; it isn't always my failings.  In my humble, non-culinary-artist opinion, a recipe should never use cups to specify how much of a fruit or vegetable is needed.  Better to specify 6 medium sweet potatoes, or 5 medium apples.

A Good Read
I wanted to share a piece I read today from the Pursuing Titus 2 blog.  It's about this: to be an effective parent who leaves a powerful legacy, we have to be nice to our kids.  Simple.  Many other things are important too, but how often do we discount the importance of just being nice?  How often do we get annoyed about a muddy floor, or about another pair of dirty socks left lying around.......and then take out the irritation on our kids--lecturing them yet again?  I found her post to be very convicting on many levels.  It's worth reading.

Weighty Unemployment News
It's been a year since my husband first applied for unemployment compensation.  The weekly amount is based on the prior 15 months' earnings (two highest earning months are used).  When he reapplied this March, we found out that he'll be getting a much reduced amount, putting the house payment in serious jeopardy.  Because he works part-time, most weeks he won't get any unemployment.  The amount is small anyway and they subtract some when you work part-time.

We should have known this was coming, but didn't.  So many are in the same predicament.  In a normal economy, most people find something within the standard, 26-week unemployment period.  Now, more and more people are into their second year of financial trouble, with all safeguards gone.

The government can't extend unemployment much longer, regardless of the economy.  Our country just doesn't have the money!

Upon learning the somber income news, we just had to look at each other and wonder--what's next God?  There are only very low paying jobs, and sometimes hundreds of people apply for the same ones--many of whom are over-qualified.  I'm sure it will all work out, but we're awfully weary.  He saw a job the other day for a computer tech, paying only $7.00/hr! Very discouraging for us, since that's what he hopes to become, at an entry level.

I strongly suspect that companies are taking advantage of the economy by offering lower wages.  I guess some of them could be genuinely hurting themselves, but much of it is on purpose, since so many desperate people have to take any wage.

Anyhow, I won't be blogging daily anymore.  Too much praying to do!

Take care, and enjoy the beautiful spring weather!  There are always blessings, and plenty of them!  I'm counting them daily.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

goodbye for now

Larger families living in smallish homes need to declutter at least half-yearly.  This is no longer something that I should do.  I have to do it, seeing as how my sanity left sometime in early February.  We haven't seen it since--my sanity, that is.

I had a baby in December, 2006 and another in December, 2008.  Non-stop diapers and spills and spit-up and toddler-rescues quickly took over my time.  Every task is a right now task.  All this, coupled with the extra laundry generated by the rain, snow and mud of Northeast Ohio, rendered decluttering a some-day dream.

But no more excuses, real or perceived.  Now I have a plan.  I needed a plan.  Because I rather like my sanity.  We had a good thing going all these years.

Today I moved every container of children's clutter (and some paper clutter) into the living room.  This project will be a clandestine affair.  I will organize and bag up at night, and then load the van with the loot.  By day, I'll shuttle it to Goodwill or to the church nursery.

We'll attempt to keep the children out of this--they were told only that Mommy will be organizing.  One in particular, my Paul, cries and stresses if I throw even a broken toy away.  This reaction is rather recent, so we're thinking it stems from underemployment stress.  He won't miss the things I'm purging, so I don't think we'll have any problems.  Many of them were already taken out of the playroom and stored in the baby's room.  We had to do it this way, when she began ravaging the playroom on a hourly basis.

I should add that we have no garage or basement--two sanity-savers most moms utilize in toy management.

I am treating myself like quite the child in all this.  I won't be blogging again until the job is done.  Blogging is the reward.  Next time you hear from me, my friend sanity will be back.

I hope.

Bless you!

P.S.  I turned 44 yesterday.  Oh, the horror!  While the whole thing proved significantly depressing (no cake or anything--we're too busy with everyday chores to observe much of anything right now) something good did come out of it.  $125 from relatives.  I got my camera!

The other day Beth sat down in a soup pot--looking so cute!  I mourned the loss of the camera so much that day!  It's only a material thing, but one that makes memories live on.  I'm so grateful we could replace it!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

what will we do?

I eagerly anticipated Kristin's final Kenya post this morning--even asking the boys to check for it during their computer-math time.  Here it is.  Don't miss it.

She asks us:  Now that we've seen, what will we do?

Here are some ideas:

- If you have a blog, spread the word about Compassion International.

- Sit down with your kids and see how many multiples of $38 (sponsor amount for one child) you can create by cutting unnecessary expenses/luxurious experiences.

- Read Bible verses as a family about caring for orphans.

- Spread the word to family and friends, through letters or e-mails.

This world has enough food, enough clothing, enough shelter, enough money.  It's a matter of us sharing the wealth.  It's that simple.  Yes, governments are corrupt.  But Compassion does their life-saving work despite corruption.  Even North Korea allows humanitarian work to go on in their country--Franklin Graham has been there many times.

One thing is true.

We have to do something.

We will be held accountable now, for our new knowledge.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Do you put your children to bed and then go right into the chores?  If so, what's your secret?  How do you motivate yourself at that time?  I need help!

I like to read and write first instead; it relaxes me and sorts out my thoughts.  Husband is only home on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and his presence on those nights helps motivate me to do chores earlier.

Other nights, I immediately sit and read or write after tucking in the last child.  My mind sorts my thoughts into mental file folders so they can be given separate themes.  The themes then get prioritized, and learning and focus occurs. Sounds crazy, but I do better spiritually when I make time for this thought-sorting.  Must have to do with being an analytical, introspective personality?

After a couple thought-sorting hours my night person body shifts into higher gear, and I do chores.  Beth wakes up for nursing a few times before 2 a.m., and sometimes I fall asleep nursing her, only to wake up at 3 a.m. or so and realize I didn't finish the dishes or shuffle the laundry that one last time.

This is a terrible system, if you can call it that!  I get little sleep and feel foolish the next day, but I seem incapable of making a change right now.  The kids are so little and it's all so emotionally exhausting.  Still, I know all about the "me time" trap--the more you get the more you want, followed by getting less done around the house and feeling more frustrated.

Suffice it to say, when dealing with little ones life is far from balanced.  I don't want to be a slave to perfectionism, or cross over into selfishness.  My family deserves folded socks and underwear, tucked properly into drawers--not into clothes baskets.  My baby is older now so I don't have that excuse any longer!  Time to get back to efficiency.

God, get me off this roller coaster!  Help me with self-discipline in this area!

Do I need some kind of token economy system, like a child would use?  If I do the chores first four nights in a row, I can get a treat?  Tell me I'm not that immature!

Off my frustrations now.....

...and on to that cornbread review.  The  3-Minute Microwave Cornbread was delicious.  My husband said it would never work--that the microwave would dry it out.  But no!  It was wonderfully moist and delicious.  I added some extra sugar, as I like my cornbread to have a good hint of sweetness.

The black bean soup was scrumptious!  I'll post that recipe sometime soon.

On to those dirty dishes, that cluttered counter, and that last load of laundry.

Good night, Friends!

corn bread surprise

It's AWANA night and I needed to whip up cornbread quickly to accompany our black bean soup.  Guess what I found? A five-minute microwave recipe!  Can you believe it!  Here it is.  I'll review it later.

a steal

When you are looking for used homeschool curriculum here, you have to check every day for new posts.  Everything sells within hours.  This morning, I saw that a bunch of math manipulatives were posted for $15.00.

Momma:  "A mom is selling unifix cubes, 3d shapes, pattern blocks, geo boards, a judy clock and counters, all for $15 postage paid.  That's a steal!"

Paul, looking over my shoulder:  "Did she have go to jail?"

Momma starts laughing.

Paul:  "I mean because she stole something."

Momma:  "No, when we say that something is a "steal" we mean it's a real bargain.  It's just an expression."

Paul, laughing:  "Oooh! I get it."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

daily blessings and lessons

- God is forever stretching me.  But patiently.

- My children are forever stretching me--impatiently.  Resulting in my having to grow patience.

- Children leave you a better person.

- Babies and toddlers make it impossible to plan anything or teach school the way we presume it should be done.  This gem of an article addresses that:  The baby is the lesson.

- It's easy as a homeschooling mother to pop a video in so the squirrelly preschooler will let us "teach". I consider it a blessing to have read the above article today, so I can resist that temptation.

- My boys both knew their letters and sounds and could attempt simple blending of sounds by the time they were Mary's age.  Mary only recognizes a few letters and no numbers.  She is bright but doesn't have the same interests the boys had.   She'll sit for books or table activities for a fraction of the time they did.  God is coaching me to stop comparing and let her shine in the way He has ordained.  She may end up the better student of the bunch, down the line.  Or she may be average.  Whatever.  She needs me to seek out her uniqueness and celebrate it with her.  My heart can't require her to like what I like.  I consider it a blessing that God is showing me this now--when she's only three.

- My Peter loves to cook--a fact I've emphasized before.  Dry black beans soaked on the counter all last night and all day today.  The last thing he said before falling asleep:
 "Are we going to make the black bean soup tomorrow?  Are we for sure?  Really?"
His strong interests and passions are a blessing.  He will need them to help him relax and self-regulate as he grows up, marries, and has his own children. He's extremely high strung and needs multiple outlets.

- As I process what I've learned about Kenya this week, God is teaching me so much.  One of the areas is in how I raise my children.  I see how much work I have to do to raise grateful children.  I've (we've) erred in giving them too much.  This isn't the first time I've realized this, but it is the first time I've realized that overindulging a child is sin, on the parent's part.

It's a wrong notion that because one finds a toy for fifty cents at a garage sale, it's okay to buy it, since it's so affordable.  God is driving home strongly that too many things spoil a child.  It's the amount of giving and the frequency of giving.  I've resisted purging toys because I've suspected home babysitting might once again be necessary.  This week, God has released me from these toys, so to speak.  Many of them are going to Goodwill in the next month.  I will do it in secret as I have time, to avoid stressing the children or making them feel like I'm punishing them.  I'll explain only when they ask for a specific missing toy.  They don't play with many of their things, other than the classics--like Legos, TinkerToys, Lincoln Logs, train set, toy dishes/play kitchen, puzzles, books, blocks, art supplies.  Mary has never been one to play with dolls, but I'll keep them for Beth, and for sister fun for later.

- The Raising Godly Tomatoes wisdom helped me get tighter control over the children.  But I'm learning that it only goes so for.  It's really my behavior that teaches my children--not some system.  I have to gain control over my responses first and foremost.  Not be perfect, but know that my standards for my own behavior have to be higher than my standards for them.

Don't misunderstand though--The Raising Godly Tomatoes site is a good place to start, if you feel your kids have become disrespectful or unruly.

Okay.  Have to get busy finding a good black bean soup recipe.  Good night, Friends!
I wanted to highly recommend Elise's blog A Path Made Straight.  She is a dear, humble person dedicated to God and to her family.  And she's quite an amazing mother.  Her blog was reader nominated as one of the 100 Best by the Internet Cafe.  She didn't even mention it on her blog.  She lets God shine in her space there. Never any advertising or self-promoting (not that those are always bad).  Humble and true.  Gentle and quiet. Always a beautiful read.

Monday, March 8, 2010

trans fat breaks your heart

Overhead at the dinner table, while Paul studied the food label on the ketchup:

"This ketchup has no trans fat.  Trans fat is the worst kind of fat.  It breaks your heart if you eat too much of it."

financial info on Compassion International

I didn't mean to post so many times in one day--just worked out that way.

I shared Kristen's From Hell Kenya blog post with my husband and two boys.  Tough to read it and see the images without forever being changed.  My older children needed to understand why it's unacceptable to complain about chores or about the food they're served. I also wanted them to be moved enough to cheerfully give away a portion of their financial blessings (their money from extra chores).

The boys were not traumatized by the blog post.  The featured 18-year-old student's faith inspired my Peter (age 8).  He was moved to tears, as was my husband.  Paul (age 6) was just very sad to see the conditions.

I wanted to post some information I researched about Compassion International.  My husband asked me to find out about administrative costs before making a decision about sponsoring a child.  He was pleased with the financial report.

The organization spends 82% of funds on Child Programs, 10% of funds on fundraising, and the remaining 8% on administration costs.  Find out more here.  I verified this information using a charity fact site (not affiliated with CI).

must read

You simply must read this.  Trust me.  And two posts down on my blog, read "compassion".

spoken like a man

The equivalent of three large loads of laundry were purchased for the children at a thrift store for a mere $164.00 (shhhh....don't tell my husband it was that much...he didn't ask).  The clothes should get us through seven months--except for Peter's pants, which will have holes within two months.

Much excitement follows my homecoming on these days; the clothes basically look new, and they smell good thanks to some great air freshener at Goodwill.  Twenty minutes of admiring later, Peter says:

"You know, you really shouldn't spend all your money on clothes."

Spoken like a true man.

My unspoken response?

My thanks will come later.....from your wife.  She'll appreciate your clothes-combining sense.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I'm beginning to loathe commercialized blogs.  No good reason, really.  If the content is usually good or excellent, I try to overlook the lists of sponsors and ads and the frequent giveaways.  We Are That Family is a new blog for me, and I hesitated to put it on my sidebar at first.  It's commercialized but the content is often very good, and this week especially, I am loving it.  Kristen is in Kenya with Compassion International and blogging daily about her experiences.  Compassion is a wonderful, reliable organization, worthy of Christian offerings, as Kristin's posts illustrate (whether monthly for the sponsorship of a child, or occasionally, as God allows).

One of my California pastors wrote an account once about his reluctance to contribute money to a church building fund.  He had credit card debt and three kids in college, and felt he just couldn't do it.  But out of obedience, he did it anyway.  A month later he received a large sum of money from the Veteran's Administration (something to do with his Vietnam war injuries).  It completely paid off all debt and helped with college tuition.  I read his account seven years ago, but it still brings tears to my eyes to think about how God honored his sacrifice.

Our current pastor blesses us with similar stories--such as being given $1000 for his son's braces from an anonymous donor.  Last summer his daughter got married and a sizable sum of money came in anonymously for her wedding flowers.

I can add my own story.

We recently received a $7000 tax credit stemming from the earned income tax credit, and the additional child tax credit.  Normally, people may not tithe on tax refunds, because the income is tithed on when paychecks are received.  But this money was not a refund to us.  Tax credits are provided by other, higher-income tax payers.  Thank you, if you are one of them!

Getting free money is always humbling--definitely, we felt the need to tithe on it.  Although writing a tithe check for as much as our house payment proved somewhat scary, we knew first hand that exercising faith brings blessing in some form or another.

Two rather large checks were written for car repairs since we received the money--for needed repairs we had put off and for a water pump.  And I dropped and broke the camera!  (No replacement yet, thus no pics.)  My faith wavered some at this rapid exiting of funds, but still, I remembered many stories about blessings coming from giving cheerfully.

Confirmation came today that God was honored, or at least happy about the whole tithe thing.  My husband was handed a $200 check at church, written through the church, but donated anonymously for school expenses.  We were blessed...and relieved.  School curriculum needs to be purchased for 2010-11, and all four children have grown out of clothes recently, necessitating thrift store visits.

All this to say, jump out in faith!  Read Kristin's Compassion posts and pray about sponsoring a child.  God will honor your sacrifice.  Yes, giving it might hurt, but your money is likely to come back to you in some way.  Test it out and be blessed!

culinary matters

For a few years I've been buying most of our meat from the fowl section--7% lean ground turkey, whole chickens, and lean turkey Italian sausage.  Recipe options abound for each of these meats, so we never feel like we're lacking variety.

Today I thawed ground turkey for meat and cheese enchiladas.  Half a hour before I needed to start prepping dinner, I remembered that I'd stopped buying enchilada sauce--because of that whole foods thingy we've got going on.

Dinner can't be late these days because my three year old gave up her nap and needs to be in bed, clean and brushed, by seven o'clock. So this no enchilada sauce thing threw a glitch in my evening.

I rushed to the Almighty Internet and perused enchilada sauce recipes.  Each time I do this, I reject any recipe that has too many steps or too many ingredients.  That's not my life.

Sometimes, like last weekend, picking the simplest recipe brings on culinary disaster.  The cobbler recipe I printed off flopped.  I didn't have tapioca so I had to reject many of the recipes.  I'm learning that a good cook/baker researches ahead of time, and has a well-stocked pantry so that good recipes aren't rejected due to one or two missing ingredients.  I'm too new to from-scratch cooking to ascertain, by myself, what items a "well-stocked" pantry requires.

Now for that enchilada sauce.  We love Mexican dishes around here, but I'm not an authentic Mexican cook by any means.  My version of enchiladas probably resembles more of a baked chimichanga--if there is such a thing.

The simplest recipe I found actually turned out just fine, and quite authentic.  And by authentic, I refer to the fire-department shout out with each taste of the masterpiece.  Was I wise in putting in only a third of the chili seasoning called for?  Definitely.  And even with a third, I had to employ a trick I learned from another online recipe--adding an eighth teaspoon of sugar offsets the fire from the chilis, should said fire overwhelm.  My husband and I pride ourselves on our ability to brave most Thai or Mexican or Indian spices.  But I had to think of the kids--who ended up eating tacos anyway, instead of Momma and Daddy's enchiladas.  Too many folks around here calling for the fire department extra milk didn't seem like a good idea.

When looking for more chili powder a few weeks ago, I noticed the two brands available at Walmart--which unfortunately is the only close supermarket--both contained a preservative.  So I chose Chipotle Chili Pepper, by McCormick, in place of chili powder.  Pray tell, what is the difference between chili pepper, and chili powder?  A question for all you authentic Mexican cooks.

Here is that simple enchilada sauce recipe, which by the way, had me cooking up my first roux.  I know it's pitiful to have reached one's forties without ever having made a roux.  Better late than never, right?

Note from other post:  Thank you, Terri, for your water bottle suggestion.  I have for a few years been looking for good-quality reusable hard-plastic water bottles, to no avail.  The lids are always cheaply made and the plastic caps detach too easily and get lost.  I'll have to try a higher-end store, I think.  Walmart and Target don't have any thing worthwhile on their shelves.  If any of you have found something that lasts, let me know.  Thank you!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Blog Design
If you have a small monitor, you won't be able to see the new border design on this page.  We have one small screen and one large screen, and the brown definitely overwhelms on the small screen; there's not much else in the frame.  You won't have to put up with this design for long though.  I can't decorate my own house, so I'll use this space to exercise that womanly part of me.  The part that wants to make a house a home a screen a whimsical escape.

Teenage Pregnancy
My husband's classmate relayed that the young girl will be keeping her baby.  She decided this before we delivered any letter.  I'm not sure about God's purpose in having me get involved emotionally.  Just to pray for her?  Or maybe the emotional involvement was my doing only?  Maybe the Lord wanted me to love my husband even more?  I certainly did fall in love with hubby all over again over this matter--his tender heart touched me.

At any rate, we'll keep praying for baby and both sides of the family.

Whole Food Endeavor
We still pursue a switch to whole foods.  My efforts to purge everything with food dye from our cupboards recently included the children's beloved Country Time Lemonade.  A huge undertaking; my children aren't fond of water and I'm not fond of juice.  Juice--even real juice--is mostly empty calories and lots of sugar.  Nutritionists don't agree that it equals a half serving of fruit.  Unfortunately, some kids drink their calories and suffer nutritionally.  Country Time has far fewer calories and less sugar, but it has yellow food dye.

With the lemonade out, they stopped drinking liquid and began asking for a lot of milk.  My resolve weakened, people.  Pediatricians tell you to give them water--if they're thirsty, they'll drink.  You know the mantra.  Well, they didn't.  And their urine got darker, and a serious inner battle plagued me.  I bought a bag of lemons to flavor water for them, like restaurants serve it, but no success there.

Next, I bought kid-sized water bottles, in desperation (yeah I know, water bottles aren't a "green" purchase).  But they worked!  They now drink water from their cute little water bottles!   The price of the bottles about equals the lemonade cost, but eventually we'll get a water filter to offset that.  If I can keep the baby from choking on tossed aside water-bottle lids, I'll declare this hydrating experiment a victory.

Now, if I can only get hubby to give up the Mountain Dew.  We don't drink tea or coffee, so I guess he needs it for the caffeine.  I drink only water and sip cocoa on less-busy winter evenings.   Coffee or tea would be healthier for him, but he doesn't care for either and it's hard to get him to drink water, which he needs to offset the caffeine in the soda.  The blood work from his last physical indicated slight dehydration.  Makes me wonder if caffeine skews natural thirst, as well as dehydrates a person?

Highchair Dilemma
For many months Beth had the annoying habit of standing in her highchair within a few minutes of being served (unless Italian food topped the menu).  She hearts Italian, like her Momma.  Boy, I miss the Olive Garden! My sister gave us a gift card, but we have no babysitter right now!

Anyhow, by the time I help serve all the children, and finally attempt a bite of my own food, Beth is done eating and repeatedly standing.  Various scenarios played out over these last months, but each one ended in the same frustration--I couldn't eat hot food.

Older sister Mary behaved similarly at this age, and recently it dawned on me how we solved that problem.  A  booster seat with safety belt (straps to the dining-room chair)!  I guess I was too sleep deprived to remember this earlier.  Boosters with straps make for a tighter fit and keep baby in place for the entire meal.  Walmart had one for ten dollars and I eagerly brought it home and laced the straps.  We set her in it, and BINGO!  VICTORY!

Momma can eat hot food, and maybe even finish her food once in a while!

I can also strap her in while I shuffle the laundry!  I'm just so tickled at this victory over everyday frustrations around here.  She stays safe, and now she can practice "drawing"  with crayons while I fold clothes.  So far she's just trying to eat them, but we'll get there.

She loves the new big-girl seat!

Momma is full of smiles.

Mealtime is a pleasure, once again.

Okay....maybe not a pleasure, per se.  Manners still haven't found my boys.

But we've certainly made a dent in restoring sanity.

Friday, March 5, 2010

used homeschool curriculum

Looking for used homeschool curriculum?  This site proved invaluable to me last year.  I got a complete set of 2nd grade curriculum for a fraction of the retail price.  Everything sent to me was in excellent condition.

When you get into the site, click on Homeschool Swap Boards.

There are lots of ads for Sonlight, Bob Jones, ABeka, My Father's World, and many others.  There are also many listings for misc. items.  Well worth visiting.

If you are interested in something, click on the name of the person selling the items.  That takes you to an e-mail page, and then you list what you're interested in.  Most prices include shipping.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Girls.  So precious.  Sugar and spice and everything nice.  Sensitive, sweet, giving.

Now the boys.  Fun-loving, demanding, overly-active, competitive.  Oh...they're tender about loving their Momma.  I'll give them that.  But I'd only occasionally describe them as sweet, in the same way the girls are sweet.

Now about that last piece of chocolate cake.

Momma applied lipstick in the bathroom.  Daddy worked on the living-room computer.

Mary climbed onto the kitchen cupboard, highly motivated by the tupperware housing a lone piece of chocolate cake.

It's a tough lid, but she conquered it.

From the bathroom, Momma hears Daddy groaning in his worst, these-kids-are-driving-me-crazy kind of way.  Momma scurries out of the bathroom, almost running into Baby Beth and Daddy.

Beth's face is covered--and I do mean covered--in chocolate frosting.  Flustered, Daddy rushes her into the bathroom.

In a most helpful kind of way, Momma bursts out laughing.

 "Was it tasty, Beth?",  Momma asks with a grin.

Beth smiles her answer, undaunted by Daddy's child-rearing angst.

Not easily amused by baby and preschooler antics,  Daddy says,  "Mary decided to get into the chocolate cake and share it with her sister!  It's on the carpet....on the floor...all over their clothes!"

Yes, it was a mess.  And Mary didn't ask permission

But mostly, Momma was struck by the sweetness of the scene, in her mind's eye.  Two little sisters on the floor of the kitchen, sharing a piece of chocolaty goodness.  Not meaning any harm.

Momma tells Mary how nice it was of her to share the last piece of cake with her sister.

"Yeah.  I love her so much, Mommy."

The boys were at the table doing school, and they too, were amused.

Momma teases them.  "I don't think you boys would have shared a lone piece of cake with each other.  Am I right?"

Peter said  "You're right!"

Paul laughed his agreement.

Daddy came around.  Kissed Momma and smiled, the laughter luring him in.

Tomorrow's memories.

Today's blessing.

not alone...never alone

At least once a day I have a sudden thought about someone I know, or about a current event, such as the situation in Haiti.  Sometimes it will regard a known issue, such as a friend's job hunt.  Other times it will merely be the person's name.  I pray in response, even if it's only a sentence-long prayer.

Afterward, I think to myself, "That was a really sudden thought.  I wonder if God himself prompted me to pray?"

Rarely is there ever confirmation that, yes, it was God.

Today such confirmation came.

First, a little lead up as to how the day went in general.

The baby has been working on four first-year molars for what seems like weeks.  Mostly, she's been a brave, happy soul, although not the best sleeper.

Today was different.  She whined plenty.  I would try holding her, only to find she didn't want to be touched. I offered her cold water or a teether, which she threw down in defiance.  I tried a gratuitous nursing, only to wince at her annoyed bite ( the suction involved in nursing can aggravate the pain).

It was a long, stressful day.  There wasn't much time to think.

When Beth nursed at naptime, I lay there on the bed with her, exhausted and grateful for a breather. When tired, she always nurses.  My unsaved parents generally come to mind as soon as the two of us get settled, and I pray for them and for my siblings (also unsaved).

Today, right after praying for my family, a blogger friend's name popped into my head, with the thought:  Here is a person having a harder day than me.

My friend is working as a social worker in a new job, much needed by her family.  Her husband lost his job two years ago.  Now in his fifties, he decided to go back to college in response to the depressed job market.  It has been a long, painful road for them, but God has been faithful.  She is a talented writer who loves the craft and would like nothing more than to write for a living, as well as for pleasure and for the glory of God. Her landing a job seemed like a miracle, but a bittersweet one.  Social work is terribly exhausting, leaving her few creative hours in the evenings.  So when her name popped into my head, I knew it had to do with her very difficult job, and her dreams, which some days seem long lost.  I prayed.

Then, after the kids were in bed tonight and I had time to check some blogs, I found her post.  Please read it.  It will encourage you today, and remind you that God never asks us to do anything alone.  I am so blessed right now.

  • Psalm 23  (Scripture from, click on blue)

    A psalm of David.
     1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
           he leads me beside quiet waters,
     3 he restores my soul.
           He guides me in paths of righteousness
           for his name's sake.
     4 Even though I walk
           through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
           I will fear no evil,
           for you are with me;
           your rod and your staff,
           they comfort me.
     5 You prepare a table before me
           in the presence of my enemies.
           You anoint my head with oil;
           my cup overflows.
     6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
           all the days of my life,
           and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010


    Delight in your children.  That is the answer, for the Christian parent.

    I read a post the other day exhorting me in this matter.

    I love my children with an indescribable depth.  It's so deep it hurts.

    And yet.

    Tonight, I flew solo.  Daddy left for work at 4:00 p.m. rather than 9:00 p.m., which is a huge difference in terms of my sanity.  It's not bad when we know ahead of time; we plan for it--completing showers and baths early and prepping the main dish early, leaving me with minimal cooking followed by teethbrushing, storytime and prayer.

    This being a last minute change, we did nothing ahead of time.  In addition, I left for a hair perm appt. late morning, which kept me away three hours.  I arrived home to find messy rooms, a cluttered dining-room table, and a dish-and-crumb-cluttered kitchen.  The laundry had gone no where, and the boys hadn't done their reading.  My nerves rattled within ten minutes of accessing the situation.

    It never pays to leave the house, people.  The more kids you have, the more you need stay home.  This isn't a negative, necessarily.

    What's more, all the children missed me and wanted my attention--especially the girls.  I'm rarely ever gone more than ninety minutes (grocery runs), so three hours felt like an eternity to all of us.  I missed them as well.

    But because the afternoon and evening turned into a herculean challenge, I failed to delight in them.  The baby and three year old were both whiny, which always sends me into fits of guilt and stress.  Baby cries are a sound I find intolerable, possibly because I'm a nursing mom.  Baby cries, offer the breast.  It's a knee-jerk reaction, but when they get older and desire the breast less, you have to find new tricks.  And when you're cooking, it's nearly impossible to entertain an active baby.  Go ahead and run your fingernails across a chalkboard.  That's how it feels to me to hear a baby crying, and be powerless to act immediately.

    My eight year old wanted to help with the Italian-sausage spaghetti sauce and pasta shells.  While I did let him, I was only pleasant in spurts.  His chatty presence made me more nervous, as it blended with the whiny sounds coming from the playroom, where I had gated up the girls.  I've tried many times to cook with them on the loose, but keeping them out of trouble while attending to meal prep consistently ends in futility, without Daddy around to run interference.  The boys try to keep their sisters entertained, but their help isn't what you'd call mature help.  Just yet.

    My intense frustration is this.  There's nothing I want more than to succeed at loving my children.  I try hard.  Much energy is expended in looking for solutions and answers to the various challenges.  I want them to grow up, look back, and feel that I delighted in them and pointed them to Jesus.   That's all I want from this life.  That one thing.  Everything else would be a bonus.

    I really agree that delighting in them is the key.

    Then why, oh why, do I find it so hard sometimes?  Why do I get so nervous so easily?  What a horrible trait!

    I read this post after they all went to bed.  It's a message I hear from God on a regular basis.  Essentially, it's this:

    You don't have to try.  I already did the work.  Stop your treadmill-style effort, and delight in ME!  I am your answer.

    In the last year, I've come to realize that my insane trying is actually sin.  Working out my salvation is sin.  What's behind it, really?

    Dare I say it?  I'm ashamed--but here goes.

    I think we try so hard because we want the credit.  We don't really want the glory to go to God.

    But as Sandi said in her beautiful post, it isn't supposed to be about us.  It must be about him, and his glory, always.

    My weakness isn't about me and where I fall short.

    It's about Him and all His glory.

    His surpassing great power is shown through my inability to do it on my own.

    I need Him on every level and that is good for me and pleasing to Him.

    Why do I fight it so? This stubborn nature of mine, thinking I need to have it together. It is the lie of this age...To do it all, well, and all the time.

    Our limits are our friends not the enemy.

    They escort us to the One who has no lack.

    above excerpt from: A Mother's Musings (Morning Meditation)

    Tomorrow morning during devotions, I will explain the futility of our efforts to the boys.  It's not enough to just apologize to them for snappy behavior.  They need to know why I continue to struggle with nervousness and impatience, and why they continue to struggle with their own faults.  They might not comprehend all of it, but I can gauge where they're at in their understanding of grace, by starting the conversation.