Menu Plan 5/21/12

May 21, 2012

The weather has been getting consistently hotter, so I need to avoid heating up the kitchen with the oven or long-simmering dishes. While I was trying to put my menu plan together, I realized that I need more crockpot recipes. My first stop was Stephanie O'Dea's A Year of Slow Cooking where I found a several recipes I'm going to try this week.

Do you have any tried & true slow cooker recipes?

Monday: Chicken & rice soup, salad

Tuesday: Slow-cooker Italian chicken & veggies, oatmeal bread

Wednesday: Spaghetti, salad, garlic toast

Thursday: Rustic cabbage soup, sourdough bread

Friday: Crockpot falafels on pita w/yogurt sauce, lettuce, tomato

Saturday: Sweet & spicy salmon, Basmati rice, garlic-butter green beans

Sunday: Honey garlic chicken, Basmati rice, steamed broccoli


May 20, 2012

My two oldest sons may try to hack my blog when they see these photos. For some reason, at least one of them does not like for me to share with the world just how adorable they were when they were younger. While I'm changing my password, here is an example of leverage for you.

National Police Week 2012

May 17, 2012

As many of my regular readers know, Papa Bear is a police officer and this week has a special meaning for us that most people don't recognize. May 15 was the official Peace Officers' Memorial Day, but we are joining in a local remembrance tonight. I especially look forward to getting to hear my amazing husband sing during the ceremony. My boys' favorite part is at the end when the Scottish bagpipes play and then we move outside for a moment of silence filled with dozens of flashing red and blue lights, followed by a 21-gun salute. It is very heart-stirring.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these events in your community, I highly recommend it. It is a great way to teach your children to respect and honor those who have lost their lives in the line of duty and those who continue to put their lives at risk to protect your family and other local citizens.

Even if you are unable to participate in a memorial service near you, here are some ways that you and your children can still observe National Police Week and learn more about police officers:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Little Words

May 13, 2012

When you have a baby, you look forward to the day when he speaks his first word. Wondering whether it will be mama or dada. (Sometimes, he surprises you with some other sound, but it's usually one of these.) That day eventually comes and your little one learns that his words have power. At this point, the power to delight his parents and bring smiles and applause.

At about 18 months, M2 had a language explosion. He was learning several new words daily. He would repeat just about every word you said to him...except "love you". Not. Even. Once. I wasn't concerned, but we all became close to obsessed with being the first to get him to say it. That first "luvoo" melted our hearts. He was almost two.

"Luvoo, Momma!"
"Luvoo, Daddy!"
"Luvoo, Bubbie!"

It didn't take long for M2 to figure out how to adjust his tone and facial expression to match his words and to occasionally get a desired response. Now, if he causes me pain or spills something, he tilts his head to the side, displays a sad face, and says "torry, Mommy".

Of course, children quickly learn that their words also have the power to inflict pain. All of my boys have used the weapon of words against me at one point or another, but I'm seasoned enough to not let their words get under my skin.

"You're a mean mom!"
"I don't love you anymore!"
"I want a new mom!"
"I hate you!"

Even M2 has picked up on it and I get the occasional "toopid mom". Yes, my 26 month old has called me stupid. He doesn't yet know what it means, but he does know that it's a word that is discouraged and has a negative meaning.

Just as easily as those bitter words spill out, so do sweet words reaffirming a little boy's love for his mother. Complete with kisses and "huggies" around the neck.

"You're the best mom in the universe!"
"I love you to infinity and beyond!"
"I'm going to marry you when I grow up, Mom."

Even little words are a big deal. God has plenty to say about them. Not only do I need to teach my sons to carefully choose their words, but I need to take great care in doing the same. They will follow the example that my husband and I set.

Honestly, writing this post has been very convicting for me. I am not as careful as I should be when speaking to my sons. Many times, I am too harsh or my words are discouraging instead of building up. Please pray for me that the Lord would place a guard over my mouth. That I would set a godly example for my sons with my words, as well as my actions.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Psalm 141:3

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21    
 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 
         Ephesians 4:29

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. 
 Proverbs 16:24

Happy Mother's Day!
May your day be blessed and filled with loving little words!

Free eBooks

May 10, 2012

I never understood what all the hoopla over smart phones was about...until I got one. One of my favorite things is being able to download free ebooks from directly to my Android phone. Here are several free ebooks, but I don't how long they will be free, so be quick!

Fresh Fruit Pies, Tarts, and Galettes - Every Recipe has a Gluten Free Alternative

Grandma's Best Muffin Recipes (Grandma's Best Recipes)

Healthy Whole Grains, Easy and Delicious Soup Recipes

The Organized Kitchen: Keep Your Kitchen Clean, Organized, and Full of Good Food-and Save Time, Money, (and Your Sanity) Every Day!

Amazon's collection of free Classics eBooks are perfect for homeschoolers or anyone interested in good literature. Download Treasure Island or Gulliver's Travels for the next time you have to wait in the car for soccer practice to finish or while you are waiting to see the dentist.

Homeschool Preschool

May 9, 2012

Over the years, many moms, usually already staying at home, have asked me about homeschooling their preschool children. All of these women are caring, actively involved mothers, but our culture of early academics has cast a shadow of doubt on their confidence. Most moms know that the best place for their young child is with them, but they are mostly afraid that they will "ruin" their children by not socializing them in a school setting. That is so far from the truth.

Everything is a learning opportunity for a preschool-age child and there will plenty of time for formal learning in the future. They need concrete, hands-on activity, and lots of free time to explore their world, especially 3-5 year-old boys. Here are some suggestions for giving your preschooler a head start:

  • READ, READ, READ. This one thing will set a foundation for all later learning. It will not only strengthen the bond between you and your little boy, but it will expand his worldview, help him develop a rich vocabulary and the ability to listen, and give him a knowledge base to build on later. Choose good quality books, like Newbury and Caldecott Award winners and classics. Avoid too many "junk food for the brain" books. Don't limit yourself to fictional stories, also read non-fictional books about things he's interested in. For example, if you dig up some worms while planting flowers and he's excited about them, get a book on worms from the library. Or tigers, sharks, race cars, etc. Here are Ten Read-Aloud Commandments to get the most out of reading with your little one.
  • Include your child in your everyday activities, such as cooking, shopping, errands, and chores, including some of his own. Explain what you are doing as you do it and why.
  • Go on field trips to the museum, botanical garden, nature trails, the zoo, farmer's market, orchard, and the library (storytime).
  • Study nature. Plant a small garden together, grow sunflowers, put out a bird feeder and watch the birds, go on a nature walk and observe bugs, flowers, trees, etc., collect things (rocks, leaves, etc.), catch tadpoles and watch them grow into frogs, order some caterpillars, press flowers.
  • Teach letter names and sounds using signs, story books, menus, food labels, etc. Focus on one letter each week.
  • Build a foundation of math literacy. Count everything (beans, M&Ms, cars, houses on your street, etc.). Sort legos by color or size. Have him figure out how many place settings you need at the table.
  • Encourage small-motor skills. Make playdough. Play with rice in a plastic tub or dishpan. String large wooden beads. Work with wooden puzzles. Practice pouring water or rice from cup to cup.
  • Expose him to the rhyme and rhythm of language. Sing songs and read silly poems and nursery rhymes. Take turns making up combinations of rhyming phrases.
  • Let him have lots of time to run around in the yard and just play. Provide toys that promote creativity and imagination (instead of toys that have only one use), like blocks, play food, dress-up stuff, little people (my 5yo loves Playmobil).
If you are looking for something more, literature-based unit studies are a fun way to teach to kids of all ages and you can do as much or as little as you want. Basically, you read a book and do activities that go along with the theme. For example, read Blueberries for Sal, then pick blueberries, create blue art, make blueberry muffins, learn about bears, etc. You can also make a lapbook, which is a very clever way of recording what your child has learned and makes a great keepsake to look at again and again to reinforce learning or to show to doubtful friends and family.

Sometimes, your preschooler may want to do "real" school, which to them, most likely means paper and pencil work. This website has printable learning pages and activities for a wide variety of subjects. You can also utilize technology for preschoolers with interactive websites for pre-reading and other basic skills.

Some would try to make you believe that it is necessary to send your young child away to preschool. Usually, the reasons all boil down to socialization, but this article tells you why you should NOT put your child in preschool. You know your child better than anyone and you have taught your child so much already. Keep up the good work!

Linked to Better Mom Monday and Titus 2 Tuesday.

Marinated Cucumbers

When we are eating away from home and my husband reveals another of his favorite foods, I try to find a recipe to replicate it at home. I found a simple recipe for one of my husband's favorite summer dishes in Joy of Cooking. I have only altered the amounts and omitted the onion to suit our family.

Marinated Cucumbers
4-5 cups peeled, sliced cucumbers (about 3 large cucumbers)
Sea salt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tb sugar, dissolved in 2 TB water
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped dill, garnish

In a large bowl, layer cucumber slices, sprinkling lightly with sea salt. Place a weighted plate or heavy bowl on top, cover large bowl, and refrigerate for two hours. Rinse the cucumbers in colander under cold water, drain, and pat dry. Return to bowl and toss with apple cider vinegar and sugar solution. Season with salt and pepper. Chill at least an hour before serving. Garnish with chopped dill, if desired.

Linked to Homemaking Link-Up.


May 6, 2012

This tiny sling is still a little big.
It was bound to happen. I'm surprised we made it this long. Five boys in almost 18 years. Sure, we have experienced other mishaps that required stitches, staples, support braces, and x-rays.

But M2, at 26 months, has broken the first bone.

Last Sunday evening, right before bed, a certain five year old boy opened the door to the stairs and allowed M2 to go upstairs. M2 can navigate the stairs well, but we don't normally let him do it alone. I was busy in another room and unaware...until I heard him fall down several steps. I knew immediately what had happened and when I got to him, he was at the bottom, laying on the wood floor, crying.

Any momma knows how hard it is to not snatch your child up to hold him close and comfort him, but I resisted, especially because of the way he was laying on his left side. After looking him over, I gently scooped him up and called Papa Bear.

Papa Bear came home and checked him out, determining that he may have bruised or briefly popped his shoulder out of place, since he didn't appear to have any broken bones. Little did we know. We made the choice to stay home due to the time of night and not wanting to traumatize a tired toddler, since he didn't seem to need urgent care. The next day, he seemed a little better, so we decided to watch and wait. Even though M2 was using his left arm regularly without complaint, he continued to hold it folded close to his body when he walked or ran. I had a nagging feeling all week that he may have broken his collar bone, so as I was trying to feel around on his shoulder again this afternoon, I thought I felt a knot. Papa Bear agreed and I took M2 to the Convenient Care.

Have you ever tried to hold a scared, uncooperative toddler with a broken bone flat and still for an x-ray? Fortunately, they were able to get it in two takes. The nurses tried to gently get him into a figure-eight brace, but the smallest size wasn't small enough for him. The only other option was an arm sling. Let's just say that he was not too fond of either option. By the time we got home, he had quit trying to get it off because he figured out how to push his arm out so he could use it. There is not really any way to reason with a two year old. I have to call an orthopedic doctor Monday.

By the way, after some mommy-toddler conversation, I discovered and confirmed with LJ that he and M2 had been sliding down the stairs on their bottoms that day. I wonder if any lessons will be retained from this experience.

Did you know that the collar bone is the bone most often fractured during childhood? And that the collar bone does not completely harden until adulthood? Learn more about childhood clavicle fractures here.

Hearty Lentil Soup

May 4, 2012

Finally! I have found a lentil recipe that my family will eat. I started with Marie's lentil soup recipe and combed through the comments to discover the best ways to tweak it. The result is a hearty, flavorful thick lentil soup with lots of veggies. I finely chopped the veggies, letting my Vitamix do the work on the carrots, to get a more uniform texture and to disguise them for my picky eater, who has issues with food textures. Next time, I will probably use crushed tomatoes, like the original recipe calls for, or petite diced tomatoes. If you are going to save some for later, remove that amount and do not add the kale or spinach to it until you are ready to serve it.

Hearty Lentil Soup

3-4 Tb olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ground cumin
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 Tb tomato paste
2 cups dried lentils
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or half water)
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
1/2 cup kale or spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Parmesan, optional

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until veggies are tender.

Stir in garlic, oregano, basil, cumin, and bay leaf; cook for a couple of minutes.

Stir in lentils, water, chicken broth, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour, adding the pasta about 15 minutes before serving.

Just before serving, stir in kale or spinach and cook until it wilts. Add vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top each serving with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Linked to Tuesdays at the TableDomestically Divine TuesdayWhat's Cooking Wednesday, Homemaking Link-Up, and Full Plate Thursday.
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