Inspiration for a New Year

Dec 29, 2010

Sometimes, the Creator of the universe grabs our attention through a computer screen. Through the inspired words of another mom in a blog post. In between reading about organizing tips and cookie recipes, I am halted by words that convict me, inspire me, give me hope, and redirect my focus. 

At the Well, I found parenting inspiration while reading A Heart to Serve and Parenting on Our Knees. Most of the time, I strive to do the right thing, the right way and become disappointed when I don't get the desired result. How easy it is to forget to turn it over to the Lord in prayer first, instead of waiting until my feeble, flawed human efforts don't produce the outcome I want.

While reading Courtney's post about her theme word for 2011 at Women Living Well, a word came to me - devotion. This year has flown by and was filled with life-changing events right out of the gate. Most were good things, but I allowed a few difficult experiences to steal my joy and I put up a wall to protect myself. In doing so, I pulled away from relationships and began to grow bitter. My goal for the new year is to be devoted - to making time for reading my Bible and having quiet time with God, to becoming a prayer warrior for my family, to becoming a better help mate for my husband, to becoming an instrument for the Lord, to teaching my sons by example. I will be devoted to letting God work in my life.

"Busy mom syndrome" has become my excuse for not reading my Bible regularly and it is apparent in the fruit of my daily life. Jess at Making Home says it better than I could with her article, Like a Newborn Baby. I was further inspired to action by reading Goal Setting Tips for the New Year - From a 7 Year Old. If Kat's 7yo daughter can read the Bible in a year, so can I. 

Reading blogs and blogging can distract you and steal your time, but God can redeem it by leading you to places that will refill your spirit and refocus your attention. I have to go now. I have things to do.

As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man.  -Proverbs 27:15 NIV

Conversations with LJ

Dec 28, 2010

This picture is from the end of summer but I couldn't resist sharing it and the story behind the red mark on his forehead. I don't think you could ever guess what he did to get it. It took quite a bit of questioning for me to figure it out. It is a friction burn. He turned his big wheel upside down, turned the pedal to get the wheel spinning really fast, and....leaned over and touched his head to it! This was one of the many times that I have asked my boys: "What were you thinking?"

My mom always includes a box of chocolate turtles (chocolate, caramel, & pecan candy) for any holiday gift-giving because she knows I love them. LJ was opening the box to get his 4th or 5th one...
Me: "You need to stop eating those now. They are going to make you sick."
LJ: "Then you need to put them somewhere else." {Smart boy.}

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

My husband's favorite cookies are peanut butter and oatmeal, so when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The original recipe calls for all shortening, quick oats, and regular whole wheat (I was out). So I made substitutions and we really like the results.

I kept thinking that these tasted familiar and I finally figured it out...Girl Scout Cookies - Savannahs! Without the creamy filling, of course. But if you really wanted to recreate them, you could blend some peanut butter with powdered sugar and spread it between two cookies or just dip them. :)

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c coconut oil
1 1/2 c natural peanut butter
1 3/4 c packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
3 c rolled oats
2 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix well. In separate bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls (mine were more like tablespoonfuls), about 2 inches, apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. By making them bigger, I got 8 per sheet. Flatten with a fork, if desired (I didn't). Bake 9 minutes, until lightly browned. Let sit for a couple of minutes before removing to cooling rack. They are fragile while warm. Makes about 3-5 dozen, depending on size.

Linked to Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesdays, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop,  What's Cooking Wednesday, 2011 Holiday Cookie Recipe Swap

Croup is in the House

Dec 27, 2010

Lovely name for an illness, isn't it? Croup. We have gone through it with every child so far and it is always worrisome. The tell-tale barking cough in the middle of the night. Sitting in a hot, steamy bathroom with your child trying to make it easier for him to breathe. Standing in the cold night air with your little one wrapped in a blanket to open up his tiny little airway. Listening for the stridor, that harsh, raspy sound. Looking for retractions in his little chest when he breathes. Ready to dash to the emergency room at the first sign that your baby is having difficulty breathing. Lack of sleep. For everyone.

Croup has been visiting us this week and we are ready for it to leave. The two youngest have had the croup cough for a few days now. When any of the little ones are sick, Papa Bear and I take turns sleeping near them so we will be able to hear them if they need us. Yesterday morning, I awoke to the sound of LJ's labored breathing. I roused him and asked if he was having a hard time breathing and he nodded. I scooped him up and called my oldest, who was sleeping upstairs, to come down in case the baby woke up. Then I headed to the kitchen. I had two things on my mind: get the phone to call Papa Bear, who was working a double, and get LJ outside into the cold air. On the way, LJ said he wanted a drink of water, so I gave him a small drink before heading out the door. As soon as we got outside, Papa Bear answered the phone and Levi threw up the water. Needless to say, Papa Bear was en route. We went back in, started the hot shower, and sat in the steamy bathroom until Paul got home a few minutes later. LJ was still having trouble breathing, so Papa Bear and M1 took him to the ER. Fortunately, the ER was empty and they got him right in. LJ had to have an Xray and a shot (which LJ didn't acknowledge with even the slightest flinch), then he received a breathing treatment and had to be observed for a couple of hours. He left with a prescription for a nebulizer to use at home. 

Normally, I try to avoid pharmaceuticals but there are times when they are necessary. When your precious child can't breathe, that's one of those times. We have been running the humidifier at night, staying home and running off visitors, sitting on the couch, watching a lot of TV, and since M2 also has the croup, I have been nursing A LOT. LJ has been very whiny and M2 has been clingy, which is understandable. And sleep...well, we'll sleep when they are all better.

Organizing Tip - Hats and Gloves

Dec 22, 2010

This is how I used to store our family's winter hats and gloves. 

When we only had two boys, it worked out just fine. As we added more boys, it seemed like the accessories multiplied every time we closed the closet door. Which is partially true because my mom thinks you can never have enough {of anything} and buys the boys new hats and gloves every time she sees them on sale. Fortunately, she buys the same type of gloves most of the time and that helps to offset missing mate syndrome. Well, I'm sure you can guess what happened any time a boy needed a hat or gloves...yes, a huge pile all over the hall or closet floor.

Now it looks like this...

When we moved into our new house, I discovered that I couldn't use my shoe organizer because we have sliding doors on our bedroom closet. I remembered seeing this idea somewhere and knew it would work for us. I used 3M hooks to hang the mesh shoe organizer. Mesh works best so that you can see what is in the pockets. I put the younger hobbits' items at the bottom and go up according to size. The boys can easily find what they are looking for and nothing gets pulled out unnecessarily. The hobbits don't usually return their belongings to the closet yet, but we're working on that.

Have you repurposed something to organize your stuff?

Linked to Works for Us Wednesday and Large Family Organizing.

Merry Christmas to Some Thief in New York

Dec 21, 2010

Dear Computer Hacker,

I hope that you are using our money wisely. Please make sure that your children are fed, your utilities are paid, and that you buy something nice for your kids and your mother for Christmas. I'll let the phone company know that my payment is late because you needed our money more than we did. I'm sure you were relieved to find an account that had just enough money left right before Christmas. Oh, and don't worry, our bank says that it will only be 3 to 5 days before they are finished investigating and can credit it back to our account. We have enough food to last us until then, I think. It's not like my husband is the sole provider for a family of seven and working overtime and an extra job to make ends meet. Well, take care of yourself. My husband and I would love to see you soon. 

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

Homemade Recycled Toys

Dec 19, 2010

My boys can be fickle when it comes to toys, so I stick to the proven boy favorites as much as possible. Legos. Wooden blocks. Army men. Play food. Hot Wheels. Lincoln Logs. Wooden train set. Playmobil. Nerf guns. But to provide variety when they get bored with the usual and not waste money on new toys that they'll tire of even quicker, I have found some great ideas for homemade toys made from household items. The boys can have just as much fun in the process of making it as they do when playing with it. is a cool educational website for craft projects using household materials. You'll never look at your empty milk carton the same way. 

ZiggityZoom has some really cute crafts including Monster Stompers and a Pirate Castle.

Family Fun has too many recyclable projects to list. Although I did link to some of them below.

What you can do with a half gallon milk or juice carton:

Milk carton blocks - I made some of these for my older boys when they were little. They are sturdy and light for their size.

Milk carton dump truck - Picture tutorials from Origami Mommy.

Traffic light - Add some signs made from cardboard and set up an indoor driving course for your little ones or teach them about street safety.

What you can do with cardboard boxes/tubes:

Kitchen - This adorable pint-size sink/stove combo is made from boxes, paper plates, and plastic caps.

Marble Run - Save your wrapping paper tubes and a couple of margarine tubs.

Park and Play Garage - Two cereal boxes and some toilet paper tubes are all you need to make this parking garage with ramp for your little guy's Hot Wheels.

Box Buildings - The perfect addition to the parking garage. I like the idea of stuffing them with newspaper to make them sturdier. If you wanted to skip the decoupage step, you could just cover them with paper and double-sided tape.

Trashtown Fire Department - Continue the city theme with a fire station.

The Great Cardboard Castle - This one is more involved than the Pirate Castle above but looks awesome.

For your wee little ones:

Discovery Bottles - Multisensory bottles for ages 6 mos and up. You can also fill them with beans, rice, oil/water/food coloring mixture, or small jingle bells for even more sensory experiences.

A Flock of Baby Socks Mobile - Ever wonder what to do with those sweet baby socks that lost their mate?

Simple Shakers - Babies and toddlers love things that make noise and this rolls too.

Drum - Uses an oatmeal container and a large mailing envelope.

Conversations with LJ

Dec 16, 2010

This little boy never fails to make me smile everyday with the words that come out of his mouth.

LJ, upon trying green bean casserole, "I don't yike it. It's all swobbery."

I was preparing to make cookies and had all of the ingredients on the counter. LJ spotted the sugar and wanted to eat it straight from the canister.
Me: "No." (As he shoves a clump in his mouth.)
LJ: "Why? Is it good for me?"
Me: "No, it isn't."
LJ: "I yike it. Bugs yike it." (He's referring to the sugar bugs in his mouth.)
Me: "Yes, I know."
LJ: "They're having a party in my mouth."

Wordless Wednesday #7 - "Mystery Photographer"

Dec 14, 2010

Hmmm...someone has been taking pictures with my camera.

I wonder who it could be...


Linked to And Miles to Go Before We Sleep, 5 Minutes for Mom, and Wordless Wednesday.

Oregon Delight (or Americanized Turkish Delight)

After reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, my children and I had wondered what Turkish Delight was. Several years ago, while searching for Christmas cookie and candy recipes, I came across a recipe for Oregon Delight in my Joy of Cooking cookbook. The description says:

"These are similar to the famous confections known as Aplets and Cotlets - a West Coast version of Turkish Delight. For a more Middle Eastern flavor, substitute unsweetened pomegranate juice for the apple or apricot juice and add a teaspoon of rose water. Almonds, pistachios, or macadamia nuts would also be nice in place of the walnuts."

I realized that I had eaten it before, at least the Americanized version of Aplets and Cotlets, and loved it. It was promptly added to my Christmas cookie and candy making list. They will make a great treat for our unit study or the day we take the boys to see the new Narnia movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

*You need to make this, at least, the day or night before you want to eat it. It has to sit for 12 hours or overnight.

Oregon Delight (makes 64 1-inch squares)
3 c apple or unsweetened apricot juice, divided
4 envelope (3 Tbl) unflavored gelatin
1/4 c plus 2 Tbs cornstarch
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 1/3 c sugar
1 c chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 c cornstarch, for coating

Place 1/2 c apple juice in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over; set aside to allow gelatin to soften.
In another small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, lemon and lime juices.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine 2 1/2 c apple juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar, then cook for 15 minutes to reduce and concentrate the juice.

Remove from heat, add the gelatin mixture, and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved. Return to the heat, add the cornstarch mixture, and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes. The mixture will be very thick.

Stir in walnuts. Remove from heat. Rinse an 8-inch square baking dish with cold water, and shake to remove the excess water. Pour in the juice/gelatin mixture, and let the jelly harden for at least 12 hours, or overnight.

Use a lightly oiled knife to cut the jelly into 1-inch squares. Remove from the pan with a small offset spatula. Toss the squares in the 1/2 c cornstarch, coating them completely. Place in fluted candy cups or mini cupcake liners. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week or up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Unit Study Resources

Dec 12, 2010

It's two weeks until Christmas and it's time to do something different and fun for our homeschool. Something that we can all participate in together. With the new movie, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in the theaters and The Chronicles of Narnia as our favorite book series, I think that the boys would enjoy a unit study on it. We can also watch the first two Narnia movies and make Oregon Delight in preparation for viewing the new movie.

Here are some great resources I've found:
Voyage of the Dawn Treader Lapbook - Includes lapbook templates, activities & discussion questions, and alphabet copywork and coloring pages for the littles ones.
Educator's Guide - Walden Media has a reproducible guide to use with grades 5-8.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Literature-Based Unit Study - From Easy Fun School. Created by a 17 year-old student, this study is still in process. The first 3 chapters are ready, with chapters 4 & 5 due this week.

Online ebooks for purchasing:
Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader Project Pack - From In The Hands of a Child. Gr. 4-8. They also have other Narnia packs available.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader Literature Unit Study & Lapbook - has this ebook 50% off through tomorrow, 12/13.

Other Activities:
Viking ship - I had to add this awesome ship made from a milk carton. Be sure to check the other cool projects there too.

First Snow and Hot Cocoa (Dairy-Free)

Our first snow has fallen {if you don't count the light dusting we got last week that melted as soon as the sun hit it}. My blue-eyed hobbit was excited to see that it was snowing this morning and danced around me saying, "Dit me dressed! Dit me dressed!" So, I bundled him up and he went out to make tracks in the snow with everything he could find.

While LJ enjoyed his frosty adventure, I was searching for a hot cocoa recipe to warm him up. I usually just make the one on the back of the Hershey's cocoa but since I'm using almond milk, I wanted to try something different. I found Hot Cocoa with Almond Milk on Martha Stewart, of course, and another one here amidst several other Hot Chocolate recipes. And then there is the Almond Joy Hot ChocolateI'm a fan of anything that has almonds, coconut, and chocolate. This was my hot chocolate choice.

Since the recipe called for 2 cups of coconut milk and I used a can with approximately 1 2/3 cups, I added more almond milk. Also, I do not yet own an immersion blender, so I just whisked it really good. 

LJ and I both liked it. It's thick and rich, with subtle almond and coconut flavors. If you aren't accustomed to anything other than dairy milk, it may take some getting used to. Papa Bear isn't a coconut lover, so he "bleched" it after just a little sip. Not surprised. The older boys aren't here to try it out but I'm guessing it would probably be an even split on the "yum" scale. Next time, I would probably skip the coconut milk. This was the first time I used chocolate chips to make hot chocolate and it does make for a richer drink and requires less added sugar than hot cocoa.

Now, I'm off to read The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats to my two smallest hobbits. If you're here in the Midwest area, stay inside and keep warm. If you're in a warmer region of the world, say hello to the sun for me.

Easy & Affordable Green Cleaning

Dec 9, 2010

Baking soda and vinegar. 

These are my top two natural cleaners. They just can't be beat. I buy a 13.5 lb. bag of baking soda from Sam's Club and a large jug of store brand white vinegar at the grocery. Add some dish liquid and hot water and you can clean just about anything.

This is what I do with them:
  • Bathtub/sink scrub - Run a little bit of hot water into the plugged tub (just about a 1/2-1 inch over drain) while getting sides of tub wet. Sprinkle about 1/2-3/4 cup of baking soda all around tub sides, then drizzle a little dish liquid (I use Seventh Generation natural dish liquid) over it. Use a scrubbing sponge to scrub tub in circular motions until clean and smooth. Unplug drain and rinse tub with hot water. 
  • Drain cleaner - Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, pour 1/2 cup baking soda into drain. Pour about a cup of vinegar down drain. Let sit for about 5 minutes; pour boiling water down drain. Use a plunger (carefully, your drain is full of boiling water!), if drain is still going slow. Sometimes that helps to loosen the soap scum and hair. Run hot water to test drain. If it is still slow, it may need a second treatment. If you do this regularly, you're less likely to need a plumber for simple clogs. 
  • Toilet bowl cleaner - Sprinkle baking soda around inside of bowl, add 1/2 cup vinegar to water, use toilet brush to scrub, and let sit as long as possible or overnight.
  • Mildew remover - Ever leave a load of clothes in the washer overnight? ;) Wash on warm or hot and add 1 cup vinegar. Wash again on normal with detergent.
  • Fabric softener - Add 1/2 cup vinegar to rinse cycle.
  • Stainless steel pots & pans - Burnt food stuck to the bottom of pan? Sprinkle a layer of baking soda in bottom of pan, drizzle a little dish liquid, and add about an inch of hot water. Let soak for a while. Once it's softened up, use a spatula or scraper to remove food. For just regular pot cleaning, I sprinkle a little baking soda inside before washing with hot, soapy water and a scrubbing sponge.
  • Kitchen cleaning - I clean my kitchen sink the same way I clean the bathtub. For cleaning the refrigerator shelves, sprinkle a little baking soda on a hot, soapy dishcloth or sponge and wipe down shelves. Rinse cloth or sponge and wipe shelves until clean. For disinfecting, use straight vinegar in spray bottle. Spray surface, let sit for a minute, wipe away.

You can find more uses for vinegar at Frugal Fun and for baking soda at The New Homemaker. Eco Child's Play has an article about using vinegar and hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. By using baking soda and vinegar for just the above-mentioned tasks, you can eliminate at least 5-6 toxic chemical cleaners from your home and save money.

Linked to:

My Favorite Online Homeschool Resources

Dec 8, 2010

Mostly, this is for me to remember keep track of the interesting and, mostly FREE, resources for homeschooling that I run across. If it helps someone else also, then that's just icing on the cake.

Homeschool Tracker - The Basic Edition is free to download. I have a binder with all kinds of forms I printed out, but I forget to record consistently. Maybe it will be easier if it's on my computer since I spend so much time on it anyway. - Of course! Free homeschool and household forms, lesson plans for Apologia, handwriting lessons, and lots more.
Daily Grammar - A blog that features short, daily grammar lessons. Or visit here for the complete archive of lessons.
Quizlet - "The largest flashcard and study games website." Study foreign languages, states & capitals, anatomy terms, etc. or create your own flashcards.
Apologia Biology Study Site - Quizlet online study guide for all modules of the 2nd edition, includes eflashcards and a quiz for vocabulary words.
Homeschool Math - Free worksheets, math teaching videos, links to games, articles, and lessons. Maria also has a great math ebook curriculum, Math Mammoth. I have used several of them.
The Biography Maker - Leads students through the creative step-by-step process of creating a biography.
Bluestocking Press - Recommended reading order and course suggestions using Uncle Eric books, like Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? We're using these for Mason's Economics Course.
American Sign Language - Introductory ASL lessons that includes fingerspelling and 110 beginning signs. Noah is interested in learning ASL.
Paddle To The Sea - A web site dedicated to the classic story by Holling C. Holling. You can read the book online and watch the 1966 short film by Canadian filmmaker, Bill Mason.
Notebooking Nook - Freebies page includes Ancient History, Old Testament, Science, Language Arts, & more.
Island of the Blue Dolphins - From Notebooking Nook. Free resources to create lapbook.
Notebooking Pages - Includes some free notebooking pages for Bible, Arts, Geography, History Timeline, and Science.
Oklahoma Homeschool - Free history and science-based unit studies.
HomeschoolShare - Free literature-based unit studies and lapbooks.
Workbox Directory - Heart of Wisdom's directory of workbox users.

Raise Your Child's Reading Comprehension Level Without Reading

Dec 6, 2010

Near the beginning of our homeschooling journey, we discovered the joy of audiobooks. They provided my oldest son with stories that he wasn't ready to read on his own and that I didn't always have time to read with him. It became a bedtime ritual for him to drift off to sleep with visions of Mr. Tumnus, Lucy stepping through a wardrobe, talking beavers, Aslan, young Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and an endless line of other characters and magical places. Little did he know that he was also increasing his vocabulary and comprehension by hearing unfamiliar words used in context, learning proper pronunciation, and developing a love for literature.

"Reading aloud to students fosters the process of phonemic awareness by introducing the sounds of written language, allows access to the structure of written language, demonstrates appropriate 
phrasing and intonation, and provides a model of fluent reading." - Dr. Frank Serafini 1

It saddens me that so many children lose their interest in reading for pleasure before they have had a chance to experience the timeless classics and new epics. Or they develop a "sweet tooth" for pop-culture chapter books and refuse to read anything of substance. Or see the movie and think that they've experienced the fullness of the story. Of course, it would be wonderful if every parent had the time to sit and read for hours out of books like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, The Wind and the Willows, Treasure Island, and The Chronicles of Narnia. There are also the parents who never developed a love of reading for themselves or have difficulty reading aloud. Enter audiobooks. Let someone else read to your kids.

"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children."  - Commission on Reading

Check out free audiobook CDs from your local library. Buy audiobooks as gifts or put them on a wishlist for grandparents. Subscribe to an online site like and download audiobooks to your iPod. Listen to them in the car together, while waiting at the orthodontist or doctor, during family time or dinner, or, like we did, at bedtime. Let your children tell you about the books they listen to, ask questions, but don't try to dissect it. Let them learn to simply enjoy the stories and the rest will follow.

Note: M1 took a standardized test at the end of his 6th grade year and scored in the senior high school level for reading comprehension and vocabulary. 

1 Audiobooks & Literacy: An Educator's Guide to Utilizing Audiobooks in the Classroom

Linked to Helpful Homeschool Hints.

Deployed Daddies

Dec 5, 2010

While cleaning the hobbits' bedroom, I found LJ's Daddy Doll under the bed. He had been missing in action and LJ was pleased to be reunited with him. It occurred to me that others may not know about Daddy Dolls and would love to have one for their little ones or themselves.

In March, 2009, Papa Bear was deployed to Afghanistan and LJ had just turned two. I was afraid that he would "forget" Daddy and wanted him to have a daily reminder of his Daddy's face. We were able to use Skype to talk to Papa Bear on the computer but that wasn't always regular or reliable. I found and asked Papa Bear to have someone take a full-body shot of him in uniform and email it to me. Once I received it, I ordered a doll for LJ and dog tags for IB and NG. You should have seen the look on two-year old LJ's little face when the package arrived and I pulled out that doll for him. He snatched it from me and it became his favorite thing until Papa Bear came home a year later. LJ with his Daddy Doll became such a regular sight at church that if we ever left it at home, people would ask him where his Daddy Doll was.

I am so thankful that Papa Bear was able to have fairly regular access to the internet and a cell phone. Many deployed soldiers aren't as fortunate. If your spouse or someone else close to you is deployed, a Daddy Doll is not just a toy, it's a physical reminder. It's something that can be held onto, hugged, talked to. There are other similar ways to keep your loved one close by, like Flat Daddy. Even if you don't have someone deployed, you can have a doll made for long-distance grandparents or other relatives. And if you don't have a use for your own Daddy Doll, you can bless a child with one by donating to Operation Hug-A-Hero.

If your husband or significant other is serving overseas, please tell them "Thank you and Merry Christmas!" for us. And THANK YOU! I know the sacrifices you are making. I know how hard it is to be a "single" mom. I know the fear, the worry, the loneliness. I also know the disappointment that comes when others "forget" about you. The war has been in the headlines for so long that it's "old news" to many people. They don't understand that's it's fresh and very real for you and your family. Don't be too proud to ask for help. If someone offers to bring you dinner or watch your children so you can have a little time to yourself...let them. It will bless both of you.

May God bless our soldiers and their families. May He give comfort and peace while they are separated from each other. May He protect them spiritually and physically. 

Note: I am not affiliated with, I just think they are a great way to ease the stress of children being separated from their Dad or Mom. 

We Need A New Christmas Tradition

Dec 4, 2010

Traditions are very important, especially once you have children. You want to pass something down, have something to look forward to, give meaning to special events and holidays. Our Christmas traditions have evolved over the years, mostly as my faith has grown and matured. While I still struggle with certain aspects of celebrating Christmas, it was easy to let Santa "out of the bag" years ago. We read about the birth of Jesus every December and set up our Haba Navity blocks. I talk to my children about the real reason that we celebrate Christmas and try to minimize the focus on "the gimmies". {Which is exceptionally difficult because my mother is excessively generous, especially at Christmas.} But it is not nearly enough. 

I have not been consistent with more meaningful traditions, like advent or a Jesse tree to teach how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and to create anticipation of Christ's coming or giving to others through charity or volunteering. It is too easy to let the busy-ness of the season and life, in general, to push us off course. We start with good intentions and then we lose track of the time and Christmas is upon us. But I am determined that this year will be different. It has to be. We need it to be. 

Our children are growing up in a culture that is working very hard to undo everything that we teach them. My seven year old wants to believe in Santa, something magical and mysterious. He sees it everywhere, television, catalogs, store displays. He has a longing for something but doesn't yet know what it is. My oldest is in the adolescent period, which naturally pulls his focus inward. Extra effort must be made to get him to reach out to others.

It's time for me to get serious about centering our Christmas traditions on Christ. If you have been reading blogs for even a short while, it is likely that you have come across Ann Voskamp's A Holy Experience. She has created A Jesus Advent Celebration: A Jesse Tree Journey and it is available as a free e-book just for subscribing to her blog. We are getting a late start with it but better late, than not at all. I look forward to starting this new tradition with my children. 

Muslin Swaddling Blanket Review

Dec 3, 2010

One of my favorite baby necessities is a muslin swaddling blanket. They are lightweight, oversized, and super soft. I discovered them before I had M2 and I have used them almost exclusively for him. The most well-known muslin swaddling blankets are from aiden + anais, but I found another great company, Bambino Land. Their swaddling blankets are made with organic cotton muslin, are great quality, and get softer with every wash. 

The swaddling blankets are 47 inches square, the perfect size for easily wrapping your baby up in a good swaddle, unlike the normal receiving blankets that only work for smaller newborns. Of course, some babies sleep better swaddled for the first few months and this blanket is still big enough to do that. And because it is made from lightweight, airy muslin, you don't have to worry about baby overheating. Many parents give up on swaddling baby too quickly because they never really learn a good technique or the traditional receiving blanket just isn't big enough.

Of course, muslin blankets are great for swaddling babies, but I have also used them as a breastfeeding cover. When I feel the need to be covered while nursing, it's now my first choice. Regular baby blankets are usually too small or heavy to keep a curious baby under cover. When I tried a nursing cover with a strap, I felt like it drew more attention to what I was doing and was more trouble than it was worth. The muslin blanket is thin so baby doesn't get hot and it lets light in and is easy to tuck under baby to keep closed. Of course, the cotton muslin is very absorbent and works great for a burp cloth in a pinch. I love products that serve more than one purpose. 

Prices for muslin swaddling blankets may seem to be expensive at first because they are typically are sold in sets of 2 or more. But Bambino Land has a selection of "Odds & Ends", single organic muslin blankets for $10. That is a great deal, especially once you get it and find out how much you love them. 


Being in our eleventh year of homeschooling, with a final total of five boys, you can imagine that I've been through a few seasons of "burn out". As a matter of fact, I'm in one of those seasons now. In case you haven't noticed, I haven't blogged much about our actual homeschooling. That's because we've been struggling this year to get back on track. Our daily routine is not to my liking but we seem to be stuck in it and the older boys are having serious motivational issues. Thankfully, the hobbits, Isaac and Levi, are always ready for school.

My attitude has been less than ideal for setting the mood in our home. Honestly, it just stinks. I have been snippy with everyone, tired of the rut I'm in, complaining instead of thankful, procrastinating, nagging....Ugh. Not the pretty picture I would like for everyone to have of me. And the saying is true: If Mom's not happy, no one is. I know where the problem lies. It would be easier to blame everyone else but that wouldn't fix anything. It stems from the build-up of nasty, self-centered sludge inside of my own heart. Yes, being a wife and a homeschooling momma to five active boys, nursing a baby, cooking and cleaning, and managing our home takes a lot from me and can lead to burnout all by itself. But I have been neglecting my spirit and my relationship with my Creator. I've been keeping it all to myself, letting it accumulate into a huge, black cloud over our family. I am ready to let go of it and humble myself before God. I am ready to be renewed.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, 
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  
Psalm 51:10-12

Black Friday Husband

Dec 1, 2010

Black Friday is past, of course, but it's not my thing anyway. I think I've only gone out for it a few times in my life because I don't like all of the traffic or the crowds. My holiday gift shopping mostly happens online. I like to comparison shop and take my time, putting plenty of thought into how I spend our money and finding the elusive "perfect" gift.

When I do go out to stores, I'm likely to put a few things in my cart during an hour's time and then put most or all back before leaving. As you could probably guess, I am also a solo shopper. No shopping with girlfriends for me. I would drive them crazy. Especially my impulse-buying friends and my mother. 

My husband, however, is my opposite. He loves the crowds and the busy-ness and has no problem making decisions. And because of his work, he thrives in the odd hours. I do NOT. So, while I slept, Papa Bear went out at 4 a.m. and scored some awesome deals. They are all for our home. 

His best buy was a GE Profile Dishwasher for $299! The regular price is $899! We were originally going to get another Maytag because of the recall rebate but he saw that this was an even better deal. He also got a GE Microwave for $99. We had bought a Samsung from Lowe's but once I read the reviews on it, we decided to return it.

And because he heard me mention that we could probably use a new toaster, he bought a shiny 4-slicer for $30. He had noticed a woman with "lots of kids" packing one around and asked her where she found it. I know, a toaster is a rather mundane thing. But my boys think it's cool that you can toast four slices at once and the buttons and dials light up. 

So, although I still don't have any Christmas shopping done, "we" did take advantage of the Black Friday sales. And my husband proved to me, once again, why he is so awesome.

Are you a Black Friday or a Cyber Monday shopper? What amazing deals did you take advantage of this past weekend?

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