Monday, November 24, 2014

M: 3 Years

Happy 3rd birthday to Malachi!

Born with a little bit of turkey in his personality that shines through daily. I don't know anyone else who would concoct a medley of "George of the Jungle" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" for the occasion of grocery shopping.

Favorite things to do: singing, dancing, preschool, picking herbs

Favorite Foods: popcorn, spaghetti, and "all the foods"

Favorite Music: Army of Mushrooms, Raffi (especially Bananaphone), Pop Goes the Weasel, Rico's Pizza Restaurant

Favorite Books: The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

Favorite Humor: Replacing a word of a song or conversation with "NOTHING." For example: There once was a man and his name was NOTHING!

Life Strategy So Far: "fake it 'til you make it" (though occasionally he will admit that he can't actually read)

Skills: Fwimping pancakes, putting toppings on pizza, finding his favorite songs on the computer, being gentle with animals, finding herbs for cooking

Tobias's favorite thing about Malachi: His jokes.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sound Investment

The newest member of our family was delivered last night! It sounds nice, has a much nicer feel than our previous one, and has walnut in the hammers (thought a certain woodworker in my family might appreciate that). Oh, and an anti-finger-slamming mechanism on the cover for all the little fingers that come for lessons!

It was a slightly overwhelming decision so I'm happy we got something nice enough that we won't feel like we have to upgrade again in a few years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

K: 7 weeks in

We're partway through our 7th week of official Kindergarten for Tobias.
Currently we're singing "Let All Things Now Living" and Rico's Pizza Restaurant, as well as old favorites.

Last Easter we started reading to Tobias out of the Vos Story Bible near the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. We continued through the stories that came after that, and recently finished the book with stories of Paul's missionary journeys and John's visions in the book of Revelation. I have to say, Paul's visits to cities, stints in jail, and trials may have been a bit on the harder to understand side for Tobias. I did my best to explain the differences between governors and emperors, what it meant to be a Roman citizen, and more. He enjoyed looking at maps of Paul's trips and that he went to Rome (somewhere we have been).

After some waffling and testing various free things and samples, I "splurged" to purchase handwriting materials from Simply Charlotte Mason. For $9 and the cost of printing I now don't have to think about what comes next for handwriting, which is worth it. I never really liked those extra curves on the D'Nealian handwriting as a kid, so I went for the "plain" letters (how's that for a mature way to make a decision).

Malachi participates in singing, demands his own "maff sheet", and usually wanders away to the Duplos while we read.

We've also completed two weeks of ECHO, our homeschool co-op, which all the kids have enjoyed. 

I feel like we have a good routine going, although I have small moments of "I'm doing this wrong" panic, usually during moments such as kids crumpling up papers in frustration, or parked in front of YouTube "educational" shows in excess of what I usually allow.

Next I'm contemplating if and how to add other subjects; perhaps some more formal piano lessons and practice or Spanish.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Fall 2014 Rotating Meal Schedule

It's the first of October and I'm moving on from "how will I use up all these tomatoes?". We do have plenty of eggs again (thank you, Weasel, Kevin, Pecky, Frances, and Mudge) so I included egg salad sandwiches and an egg breakfast casserole to this menu.

I don't plan out breakfasts but Overnight Baked Oatmeal has been a hit with mix-ins such as blueberries and nuts, apples and cinnamon, and a rhubarb sauce. The kids like helping prepare it the day before; I keep it in the fridge until bedtime, then just let it sit in the oven overnight, programmed to come on around 7:00.

Week A
Soup and grilled cheese or bread
Hamburger Helper (from scratch)
egg salad sandwiches
breakfast (German Apple Pancake is good when we have lots of apples)
crock pot rabbit

Week B
Sweet and sour
Egg/sausage casserole
BBQ sandwiches (chicken or rabbit)
Macaroni and cheese
chicken and rice

dessert ideas: apple crisp with whipped cream, pumpkin bars, zucchini bread, pumpkin pies

Monday, August 25, 2014

And we called it…Kindergarten

We're still doing stuff, learning, reading, singing and asking and answering questions at our house.

Most mornings we sing a hymn or two, and a traditional children's song or folk song. Pop Goes the Weasel is a perpetual favorite and you may hear little voices around the house singing "half a pound of two penny rice, half a pound of treacle, mix it up and make it nice…POP goes the weasel!"
Then we read a Bible story and have a short prayer for our day.
We also read and explore through the day, and have bedtime reading.

Starting next week we plan to take a turn towards slightly more formal lessons for Tobias. We will be adding some Math activities (Miquon Math and board/card games) and historical books and biographies. More subjects will be added when we get in a good routine.

Stay tuned, it's sure to be an adventure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Harvest Menu 2014

The last 6 weeks I didn't have a meal plan, due to being deluged with post-baby meals and also blessed to be traveling with family. We returned home from our latest trip to ripe tomatoes in the gardens and greenhouse, thus beginning the season of the BLT.

We currently don't have chickens laying eggs (perhaps soon?) but we do have rabbits to eat. I've not cooked rabbits before so I'm not sure exactly what kind of recipes I will use for them. The meal plan uses 1 rabbit every two weeks, so we'll see if that is a good rate compared to how many we have available to eat.
If you don't have rabbit you could substitute a chicken meal for the rabbit meals in the menu.

Week A
tacos or fajitas
BLTs or egg salad sandwiches
salad & bread
Oven or crock pot rabbit

Week B
Stir fry or sweet and sour and rice (meat: leftover rabbit?)
zucchini quiche (Simply in Season page 139)
tavern & veggies with dip
Misc. garden-produce-inspired meal
burgers or brats

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

T: 5 years!

Five years ago we were very excited to meet Tobias! It would have been hard then to imagine him as a helping, hiking, reading, building, joking 5 year old. It's fun to be able to hear all his ideas and questions about the world and I'm excited to see how much he learns and grows this year.

Some of his current favorite things:
  • Book: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (to listen to), Marvin K. Mooney will you Please Go Now (to read himself)
  • Food: pizza (for me to cook), sausages (to cook himself)
  • Thing to do outside: play on playground with ECHO preschool friends
  • Thing to do with Dad: Snap Circuits or go for a walk
  • Thing to do with Malachi: build trains or Duplos
  • Thing to do with Avery: pat his head
  • Thing to do with Mom: help clean the kitchen floor
  • Thing to do in the car: look out the window at trains and mountains
  • Movie: The Iron Giant
Things he thinks he will do while he is 5:
  • learn to cook at ECHO
  • finish the Narnia books with Dad
  • hold Avery

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Avery's Birth (Finally!)

A run-down of Avery's birth for those who have asked about it, plus a short review of the Contraction Timer App.

Waiting, waiting. The other boys took 41 weeks, so I thought this baby might be likely to follow their pattern. 41 weeks came and went and we were approaching a "deadline" of 42 weeks, after which Kristin would not be legally licensed to attend the birth at home.
We tried stripping membranes, taking evening primrose oil, other herbs, plenty of walking, acupressure points, and hooking up to a breast pump to cause contractions. Got some contractions but it didn't turn into actual labor. So with two days left, I went to bed with plans to try taking castor oil in the morning. Let's just say castor oil produces muscle contractions of all sorts and can be unpleasant.

Imagine how thankful and excited I was on many levels to wake at 11:30 with "real contractions" (meeting baby and no castor oil, yay!). Unfortunately for Nate he had not gone to bed yet; no sleep for you! He was great at getting the necessary things done and being awake when I needed him though.

I texted Kristin at 1:05 saying contractions were 9 minutes apart. I tried to rest between them but I was too excited so I took care of things like making sure a babysitter was available for the boys if they woke up, cleaning up some things, finding various birth supplies, etc.

1:24 I texted her to say "Every 4-5 minutes now at about 50 seconds long". Things seemed to be going more quickly than my other labors.

Kristin arrived around 2:15, at which point Nate had turned up the hot water heater and started filling the birth tub. I was doing OK with the contractions, which were now around 3 minutes apart, by leaning on the counter and trying to relax, and putting cold washcloths on my tummy. But I was mostly wishing that the tub would fill…fast. Kristin checked things like blood pressure, baby's heartbeat and position, and my temperature every once in awhile. The doppler for the baby works underwater so she could keep doing that after I was in the tub too.

Once I got in the tub my contractions slowed to every ~4 minutes (or 2 minutes if I happened to get out to use the bathroom…I tried to be quick but sometimes got caught out of the water during a contraction, ouch!). See the contraction that came after 7 minutes and 43 seconds? I remember that one...I think that is where I made Nate put his hands on my back during contractions and not lay down between anymore.

Kristin's assistant was on her way and I could tell it was definitely time to push this baby out. As his head came out Kristin said that he was still covered in the amniotic sac which had not broken. I couldn't see because of how I was leaning in the tub. Later she told me he looked like a bank robber with nylon pulled over his face, and that she was trying not to sound too excited so I didn't feel bad about not being able to see it. His shoulders and whole body came out and then the amniotic sac broke as I was leaning back to see him and hold him. It is super rare to be born "in the caul" (supposedly 1 in 80,000? but I'm guessing no one has good statistics on it). If you're superstitious it means all sorts of crazy things; Kristin said it's more likely that in a healthy mom with a not-huge baby and gentle birth practices it just happens sometimes. Our neighbor, where the boys went while Nate and I slept the next morning, said that one of her daughters was born this way too.

The placenta came quickly, and likely related to that, I lost enough blood to be considered a hemorrhage. Thankfully it stopped on it's own, I was not even aware of a problem until Kristin told me later how much I lost. Midwives do carry injectable medication (Pitocin) to manage bleeding if it hadn't stopped on it's own. Anyway, steak and spinach are on the menu to build iron back up!

The assistant had arrived somewhere in that time and helped me get settled while Kristin took a look at Avery and examined the placenta as well. She looked at her charts and checklists (something like this one I think) and said Avery looked in every way to be 40 weeks gestation, not nearly 42. I'm glad he came when he was ready.

Avery weighed in at 7 lbs. and 5 oz and 20.75 inches long. Tobias and Malachi slept through the whole thing and came in to meet their brother briefly in the morning. Then Nate walked them over to a neighbor so we could sleep for awhile.

We are enjoying getting to know this new little boy in our family!

          Psalm 100:3
Know that the Lord, he is God
 It is he who made us, and we are his; 
 we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Short review:
The Contraction Timer app on my phone was easy to use and to see the minutes. There is one button to start and stop, but if you want you can go back and edit the times of a contraction like if you forgot to press "stop". The only thing that would have made it easier to use was it if would connect to my Pebble watch and I could start it and stop it right from that! I would recommend this app because while you are in labor you want something easy for yourself or a helper to use.

I downloaded an app for helping my fuzzled brain keep track of nursing (minutes, sides) for the first few days that I ended up deleting in frustration at 2 a.m. because it required pressing too many buttons rather than a simple "start" and "stop". The one I found to replace it works more simply but kept crashing so I do not have any recommendations in that area.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

FREE Vitamin D: getting more without taking more

Vitamin D is not a pricey supplement, but taking larger doses over a period of time can add up, and some people just don't see very good results even when taking high doses, or are hesitant to take larger doses.
I take 5,000-10,000 IUs a day and my blood levels recently tested around 40, which is considered sufficient (although maybe not optimal according to some research…there is a wide variety of what is considered enough). Many local friends report experiencing the same thing.
These are the ideas I've run across lately could help people get optimal blood levels of Vitamin D without having to add more supplements.

  1. Live further south. This Harvard Study says that people living further north than the 37th parallel make little to no Vitamin D from the sun, except in the summer. It has to do with the angle of the sun, not necessarily how many minutes you spend outside. So if you live north of San Francisco, you are likely to need a good supplement in the fall/winter/spring. If you are looking for an excuse to take a winter vacation to somewhere warm and sunny, this might be it! Take me along too. Time outside can also help during the summery parts of the year.
  2. Take Vitamin D with your largest meal: The fat in the meal helps the Vitamin D be absorbed. Participants in a study saw 50% more benefit from their supplements when they took them with their largest meal. I currently take all my vitamins with breakfast, so if I remembered to take them with supper I'd probably be better off.
  3. Get enough magnesium: Magnesium has a lot of roles in the body. A lot of people do not get enough from their diet, and some medications, including types of antibiotics and birth control pills, tax the body's magnesium reserves. Being short on magnesium has effects such as muscle cramps, blood sugar problems, and sleep disruptions. Being low in magnesium and Vitamin D is also associated with preterm labor. Magnesium is needed for Vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals to be used in the body; they all work together. Some people report side effects like headaches when taking large doses of Vitamin D, and this is likely because absorbing that much Vitamin D into the body uses up a lot of the available magnesium, leaving the person feeling yucky. Leafy greens, whole grains, and nuts and seeds are good food sources, and it can be taken in supplement form as well. 
I get teased by a certain person about my "old person" pile of vitamins in the morning, so I might try following tip #2 and taking Vitamin D with a larger meal and keep the dose the same or slightly smaller.
Don't know if I'll be remeasuring levels to get any official results, but it might be interesting to try anyway!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Winco & Costco Price Comparisons

I don't have a detailed price list of good grocery prices like some frugal people do or my mom's good-price memory, but I did want to do a few comparisons so I can best make use of my new Costco membership.

All prices reflect the time period of February-March, 2014 in Richland, WA. Seasonal produce of course varies more than other staples. For each item compared, I checked the prices in both places within a week of each other.

Here are my results:

Costco Wins:

  • Earthbound Farms organic spring mix, 1 lb.: $3.99 ($4.78 at Winco)
  • Strawberries: $1.69 per lb. sold in 4 lb. package ($1.98/lb. at Winco)
  • Whole Milk, gallon: $2.53 per gallon, sold in 2 gallon packs ($2.76 at Winco, although it was cheaper another time I checked there but forgot to check again at Costco)
  • Pizza cheese blend: $2.92/lb, sold in 5 lb. bag. Winco no longer sells a pizza blend.
  • String cheese: $0.19 each (Winco $0.25 each)
  • Aidell's Chicken & Apple sausages: $0.93 per sausage sold in packs of 15 ($1.20 per sausage at Winco)
  • samples! Frequent and free at Costco, pretty rare at Winco.

Winco Wins:
  • White unbleached flour: $0.02 per ounce in 5 lb. bags = $1.67 ($0.032 per ounce at Costco, must buy 25 lb. bags) 
  • bread: $1.57 for a loaf of Honey Wheat Berry. Costco didn't carry anything quite the same, but all the loaves I looked at were more than that.
  • Most other items. Without crunching the numbers, most of our staples (vegetables, fruit, fruit juice, nuts, crackers etc.) appeared to usually be a better deal at Winco. I will continue to write down prices on things we buy frequently, just to make sure!
  • ability to buy smaller quantities of everything (especially things in the bulk bins you can buy any quantity you want)
Hope that is helpful to other shoppers! I'm curious if other locations of Costco have significantly different prices, and how they compare to other local stores.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Review: Hazelwood Jewelry by Rebecca

Hazelwood jewelry definitely helped Malachi's eczema last year when his skin was miserable. He is  better enough now that he does not need to wear the hazelwood all the time. Either he has grown out of  the eczema somewhat, or the other things we are doing (probiotics) are enough to keep it under control.

Dawn and Rebecca live in the Tri-Cities, WA area and make hazelwood jewelry. Hazelwood jewelry is useful in relieving conditions such as eczema, reflux, heartburn, and other things associated with too much acid in the body.

I am recommending them because the prices are very reasonable, the jewelry is customized in color and size, and I got great customer service (a free repair when Malachi snagged his anklet on a metal part of his carseat and managed to break it). Buying locally was nice because I didn't have to pay shipping, but they do ship to far-away customers. For infants, they make a unique anklet with an adjustable velcro strap to keep it on snugly.

If you would like to check out examples of what they sell or contact them, look here:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sugar Break Results

Yep, I failed at totally avoiding sugar. But not too badly, and I still achieved my goals for the week.

What was my downfall? Well, turkey bacon, ketchup at a restaurant, and the sauce on Friday's pizza was from a can and contained sugar (we did have homemade sauce on Saturday on the spaghetti). I knew these items contained a little sugar but didn't have the time/willpower to dig up replacements. Lest you think I have no will-power, I did turn down several tasty treats over the course of the week such as chocolate chip cookies at the bank.

We ate all-fruit jelly instead of sugared jelly on our bread and yogurt, drank apple cider (or warm milk with vanilla stevia drops once) instead of hot chocolate, and made cinnamon raisin bread in the bread machine to eat with cream cheese or butter instead of store-bought bagels. I baked a batch of banana bread without sugar that was edible but not worth repeating.

Today when my break was officially over I did eat 3 cookies at church (not a binge, because that's my normal amount of cookies), and had ketchup, salad dressing, and apple crisp as parts of my Sunday dinner.

Mini goals and ideas for the future:

  • keep breakfast without sugar 5-6 days a week
  • try making homemade ketchup with less or "better" sugar (or lacto-fermented ketchup)
  • find a homemade french dressing recipe that has less sugar than store-bought
  • find a better banana bread or banana muffin recipe than the one I tried this week
  • can or freeze some of my own spaghetti/pizza sauce with produce from the garden this summer
Let me know if you have any recipe ideas for the things I mentioned!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sugar Break

We don't drink a lot of pop or other typical sugary junk foods, but there is plenty of added sugar in things like cereal, jelly, ketchup, lunch meat, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing and bread. I believe all foods can be healthy in moderation, but the more I learn about processed sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) I am beginning to think of it more as a chemical than a food. Or somewhere in between.
Sometimes referred to as "empty calories", sugar is more of a negative calorie because it uses up real nutrients (particularly B vitamins, magnesium, chromium, calcium, and zinc) to digest it, but it leaves no nutrients in return. According to one story I read, marooned sailors discovered you can live longer eating nothing than eating sugar.

Regardless of whether sugar is a food and what "moderation" might be with it, I'm sure we consumed a bit much over our holiday travels due to eating out and Christmas treats. So I'm going without it for a week as an experiment.

  • Read food labels better to become aware of the hidden sugar
  • Break the habit of buying the cheaper product with more sugar rather than something healthier
  • Stay in the habit of making things like dressing and bread from scratch and try a few new recipes too
  • Give our bodies a chance to recharge
  • I think we were designed to enjoy our food and also to enjoy sweet tastes. I hope by taking a break from sugar we will have more enjoyment in the occasional sweet treat.
  • Noon on Sunday until after-church cookies the next Sunday
  • I won't be replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners
  • Honey and molasses do provide some nutrients and health benefits, but for this week I will not be using them except perhaps a tablespoon or two to make bread. Less processed sugars such as rapadura still have nutrients left so I don't consider them "as bad", but again I will not be cooking or baking with them this week.
  • Nate is on his own, and I'm not going to worry about what the kids eat if they are away from me or offered foods outside our home
  • Kids gummy vitamins and a few ounces of water kefir for the kids (to prevent eczema in Malachi and to prevent jealousy in Tobias) will continue
We're already well into our week of doing this, so come back soon to see how we succeeded in our goals!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Oliebollen (yes, that means "oil balls")

We tripled this recipe (don't worry, it was pretty small to begin with) and fried up some traditional Dutch New Year's treats. It was fun to see the shapes they turned into as they dropped in the oil; some looked like monsters, others like little mutant turkeys. Happy New Year!