Friday, November 8, 2013

A Chance and a Rock - Thoughts on Hope

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life."  Proverbs 13:12

"Given a chance and a rock see which one breaks a window, see which one keeps me up all night and into the day." - Caedmon's Call, Table for Two

Hope is a tricky thing.  It lends a stunning amount of strength and energy to the soul...for good or ill.

Mark has pointed out, very accurately, that one reason consistency in disciplining children is so critical, is that it is human nature to not give up if we can detect any hope of success in achieving a desired goal.  So if a child knows that 9 times out of 10, an action will be disciplined, he also knows that he's got a shot at getting away with it.  I don't know about your kids, but mine are constitutionally unable to resist taking that chance!  Consistency extinguishes the hope that poor behavior will go unpunished, and consequently the child is far less tempted to give it a shot.

The same thing has applied to Mark's search for a full time teaching position.  It is a terrible time to need to land a job.  It is a really terrible time to need a college teaching job.  Make it in the humanities, and one begins to feel that entering Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes might be a better use of one's time.  He has been on the market for 5 very long years - since 2008.  Great timing, we know.

This trial has held many challenges for us personally.  For my part I have struggled with frustration, contentment, worry, frustration, fear, shame (how many people outside academia really get how a job search can take 5 years?  Not many), frustration, and frustration.  But over all that (even the frustration!) is the hope.  If there was literally no hope, we could just quit, and leave this messy part-time job of applying for jobs behind us.  But there is hope.  And with passing years, as he accumulates more and more teaching experience from his part time purgatory adjuncting, and as the economy supposedly stumbles toward recovery, there is more hope.  But hope can be a bittersweet companion in trials.  It can be the carrot in front of a very weary horse.  It can build up a sense of optimism, only to be crushed down again.  You can try to contain it with realism, try to be a pessimist for your own sanity, but it wiggles free again, rising up and whispering, "What if?  What if?"

We have an application out right now that we would very much like to bear fruit.  For me this means that for the next few weeks, I will be constantly trying to keep embers of hope alive without allowing them to rage out of control - because hope out of control is a setup for a fall.

Proverbs 13:12, quoted above, is a comfort to me in trials, in two ways.  First, the reassurance that my heartsickness is okay.  It is alright that this is hard for me.  It's not a sin, it's not lack of faith.  Sometimes, there is sin involved, when worry and fear take over for a time, but the difficulty, the heartsickness, they are normal and a part of the human condition in this sinful world.  It reminds me of another favorite passage that is an anchor for me, Psalm 103:13-14:

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."

I cling to that passage when I feel weak and afraid.  It is a huge solace to me to remember that God already knows how frail I am, that I am just dust, blown about in this fearful place.  That doesn't anger Him, but rather, He has pity on me.  

The second comfort of the passage in Proverbs, to come back to that, is to remember where hope belongs.  When we hope for earthly good, when we put our hope in our own solutions to our problems, when we hope in the whim of an academic bureaucrat (or the skill of a surgeon, the strength of an army, the survival of a nation), that hope may or may not be fulfilled.  When our true hope and our ultimate desire is in God and His purpose, there can be no heartsickness over that.  Our hearts can rest, hoping in safety, knowing in advance that all will be as it should be. 

Cheers, 



photo credit: nationalrural via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Good Food, Cheap Food, Easy Food

I think about food a lot.

It's part of my job, after all.  All these people we've produced keep wanting it, and they're always lookin' at me at mealtime.  And snack time.  And almost snack time.  And I know it's not snack time but Mom, I'm STARVING!!!!  I am certifiably neurotic about only letting the kids eat at specified times; otherwise, I would literally do nothing but feed somebody All Day.  Not to mention the mysterious habit of begging for snacks all day, and then the appetite vanishes come dinnertime...even if said snacks were never granted.

But I digress.

Anyone who cares about health and has limited resources can probably relate to what I am about to say.

Good food isn't cheap.  And it isn't easy.

And I venture to say: it shouldn't be.  At least not in the sense we see around us.

In the past, people usually raised or bought staples, and made what they wanted or needed from that.  Now I don't have any secret desire to be Ma Ingalls, much as I love to read about her, don't get me wrong.  But I think that our cheap, easy food culture has created a monster, where one (among many) reason we struggle with our weight is because many of us have access to cheap, rich foods whenever we want.  Pies, pastries, cakes, cookies, chips, ice cream, chocolates...cheap.  Easy.

What if we had to make it all from scratch?  Most people wouldn't have time.  Many people wouldn't have the money.  Yes, it can be cheaper to cook from scratch for a comparable item, but since homemade foods are often made from, oh I don't know, FOOD, they tend to be more costly than the latest concoction of Red 5.

I'm not announcing any sort of dietary perfection.  A glance in my freezer will always reveal some purchased ice cream.  Why?  We like it.  A lot.  Homemade ice cream costs a fortune, and is a pain to make even with an automatic churn.  (Any Trim Healthy Mama friends who may be reading this...fear not.  Mine's low carb. ;))  I'm not immune.

I am saying that I firmly believe that the industrialization of our food has been a terrible mistake.   We took food production away from people who cared about feeding their families, and gave it to people who cared about the bottom line.  The result?  Cheap, easy convenience food, full of cheap and tasty junk.  The kind of junk that makes you crave it - and it's so cheap and easy, why not have another?

We were all better off when food was harder to prepare. Those foods can be profoundly nourishing - and less tempting to go crazy on.  They are made to fill and nurture, not tantalize with fake flavor, in the hopes of making a buck.

Just something to chew on.

Be Blessed,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coping with a Nursing Strike

Note the date. I have come back in time...
The Strike

When Alex was 11 months old, he went on a nursing strike.

He had always been an incorrigible biter.  One day, once he had all his front teeth, he chomped down hard.

He wouldn't let go.  The pain was horrible and I couldn't get him off.

I screamed in pain and surprise.  Terrified at my shriek, he let go and wailed.  We both cried, and then we got over it - or so I thought.

The next time I tried to feed him, he bit me again.  This time, before I could react, he cried and pulled away, and refused to eat.  We repeated this unpleasant scenario over and over again that day, until I was horribly sore.  I suppose the memory of my scream was just so upsetting, he couldn't handle it.

The strike stretched on into day 2.  We were both miserable.  In the middle of a nursing strike, there are a few things you are likely to run into:
  • Pain.  Even this late in our nursing relationship, I became painfully engorged.  I didn't own a pump, but on Day 2, I went and bought one, frantic to relieve the pain.  Pumping both relieves the pain and maintains your milk supply.
  • Worry.  Baby needs to eat and drink, and when he refuses, mama gets worried and rightly so.
  • Doubt.  Is nursing over?  Are we weaning?  This is not how I wanted to wean! (A nursing strike is rarely permanent).
  • Rejection.  I was completely unprepared for the emotional side of a nursing strike.  My head knew that Alex was rejecting my milk, not me.  But, nursing is such a close and tender relationship, and so much a part of the love between a nursing mom and her baby, that the rejection hurt me deeply anyway.
How we ended it

There are a lot of wonderful resources available to help with a nursing strike.  Here are a couple of my favorites:

La Leche League, International
Mayo Clinic

Those pages are full of wonderful suggestions to get things going again.  None of them worked for Alex and I, though.  Here's what did work:  I took that breast pump I bought to relieve engorgement, and I put a little bit of milk in a cup.  I gave the cup to Alex and let him drink from it.  When he got a taste of breast milk again, he started to cry, and crawled over to me, up in my lap, and began to nurse.  I hardly dared breathe, lest I disturb him, but he seemed to decide he'd had enough, and our strike was over.  He was breastfed for 6 more months after that with no more issues.

If you have dealt with this problem, please share how you solved it!




Saturday, October 26, 2013

Birth Story # 7 - Emily Ruth - Water Birth!

Only an hour old!
Emily's birth was a whole new ball of wax for me - first time out of the hospital (intentionally, anyway), and my first water birth.  I had her at a local freestanding birthing center just a mile or two up the road from our house - a distinct improvement over the 40 minute drive to our previous venue.  Though I did find that I missed those drives to my prenatal visits - 40 minutes up and back, all to myself, through a gorgeous canyon...yeah, it was alright.

Anyway.  With Emily, as usual I felt like I was in early labor for about the last 4 or 5 weeks of my pregnancy.  I spent most evenings in the bathtub, and I also spent a shocking amount of time playing some jewel game that Jonathan has on my Kindle.  My body did not want to move, and my mind did not want to think.  We were reading Lord of the Rings together as a family at the time, and I am afraid that the final chapters may always remind me of that silly game, as I would so often listen and play at the same time.  I hope that memory fades before I read it again!

I don't really get nervous about labor.  I don't know why, because I worry all the time about everything, really.  I just accept that I am blessed with an exception, here.  This time around I was worried about one thing, though.  I had changed providers due to the move; not only this, but for my entire birthing career, I have been seen by ONE midwife - not the same for every baby, but only one for the pregnancy and birth.  She knew me.  She knew that my labors can be wacky, and she knew about the elevator birth and why it happened.  All I had to say was, "I'm coming," and she told the nurses to get in gear, pronto.  Aw, she was awesome.

Well, at the birthing center, there was a team - large enough that I am not even sure how many there are.  I liked most of them quite a lot, they are all caring and competent folks.  But there is no way that any of them were going to know who I was when I called in the middle of the night to say that my contractions were completely patternless and not overly close together, but I needed to come in anyway.  And, the birthing center isn't automatically open all night the way a hospital is, so it's not like I could just show up.

I fretted about that a lot.

In the end, when I called the on call midwife at 2 am with indistinct signs of labor, she was a little confused as to why I thought I needed to come in right away.  But I dropped a few terms like "seventh baby," "history of precipitous birth," and "elevator," and she said she'd meet me there.  :)

It was a good thing, too.  We got to the center, they admitted me, administered my IV antibiotics, and removed the IV at my request.  Then I hopped (okay, climbed, with some difficulty) into the enomous birthing tub.  The water felt wonderful.  In the past, I have been in a regular to largish bathtub during labor, which did nothing for me.  This thing was like a mini swimming pool, and the water was very warm, just perfect.  I had complete freedom of movement, which seemed to make my labor pick up speed.  This is where I began to insist to anyone who would listen that I wasn't going to be able to do this, after all.  I always say that.  I even always believe it.  Labor messes with your head.

Well, I didn't have long to think of an alternative...Emily was born only 45 minutes after I first arrived at the center.  One of my all time favorite birthing memories is when they lifted her out of the water and put her on my chest.  She picked up her little head and looked straight in my eyes.  John 16:21 was very, very present to me at that moment!

"A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world."
 
 



All the birth stories...
Birth Story #7 - Emily 
Birth Story #6 - Abigail
Birth Story #5 - Alex
Birth Story #4 - Jonathan
Birth Story #3 - Rebecca
Birth Story #2 - Anna
Birth Story #1: Erin




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Year Later

Yeah, it's been an entire year. Blog's still here, and for some reason I can't quite fathom, people still come. (Welcome, people!)  Well I like this old blog and I think it is time to pick it up, dust it off, and start posting again. Now and then.

So the rundown on the past year? The short version? Here goes:

We moved. We like our house a ton; we've got awesome neighbors, and chickens. Really, I can't believe that the chickens alone never called me back to blogging. I love them.  Well, no, I don't, actually.  But I love their eggs, and Erin and Anna look after them, so it works out just fine.  I have discovered about myself that I don't really like livestock for its own sake, I'm just in it for the food!

We had a baby, our seventh. Oh, the posts to write about our Miss Emily - my first birthing center birth, and my first water birth. She's 6 months old, now, and a sweet, charming, chubby thing she is.

 
Emily Ruth







Mark is still looking for full time work, fun times.  But from watching the news, he is hardly alone.

Homeschool is in full swing!  This year we have 9th, 7th, and 3rd grades.  Jonathan is in "Kindergarten," which doesn't mean a whole lot 'round here other than that he stays busy learning by osmosis and tearing through life as a little boy should.  Well, we do Hooked on Phonics now and then, too.

Lately I've been pretty excited about the book Trim Healthy Mama (affiliate link).  It is a fantastic resource for health and weight, and I will doubtless be including posts about that quite regularly.  If you visit me on Pinterest you will find a small but growing collection of THM recipes along with miscellaneous nonsense (isn't that what Pinterest is for??)  In the past I have lost baby weight by calorie counting, and I like the THM approach so very much better.

Just for kicks to wrap up, some pictures from the last year...

Newborn Emily

Meeting big sister

Gratuitous coffee picture.  You're welcome.

Playing with flour...


Picking cherries in our backyard.  Awesome till we found the worms.


Be blessed,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why the long silence?

Wow, so it has really been four months since I have posted?  I have missed my blog!  My life has been very, very busy and full in those four months.  At first, I set posting aside due to some other online projects that I became involved in - I didn't have the time for both.  Those projects have concluded - actually they concluded quite some time ago, but I was still overwhelmingly busy.

In August, we moved about 30 miles away from our previous home.  I assume moving is traumatically overwhelming to everyone, not just me.  I have seen people blog through a move, and it just amazes me.  The whole process just overwhelms my brain till it about shuts down.  Not much else does that to me, with the clear exception of pregnancy. 

Which is a brilliant segue.  We are thrilled to announce - belatedly, if you know us personally this is old, old news (unless I forgot to tell you, in which case, um, sorry about that.  See above re: brain shutdown) - that we are expecting our seventh child!

I am already into the second trimester, 16 weeks to be exact.  My first trimester was mercifully mild compared to what I have experienced in the past - I was merely exhausted and queasy.  I have had several babies where I was violently sick all day, every day for 2 straight months, plus frequent migraines, so while I whined a lot this time anyhow, I am really grateful for the ease so far.  Nevertheless, it is lovely to be coming OUT of the first trimester, which at its very best means that I fall asleep at 8pm every night, and require a lengthy afternoon nap as well just to be functional.  The time lost to sleep in pregnancy is hard to make up for, and the house inevitably suffers.  My oldest daughters are a great help and blessing to me, babysitting so that I can nap whether Abby does or not.

Sooo...that's where I was.  Working, gestating, and moving.  Lots to talk about, now that I can think straight!  Organizing a new house and a new school year, pregnancy, new horizons in childbirth as we are using an out-of-hospital birthing center this time, for the first time. 





Friday, June 15, 2012

Of Teens and Toddlers

Erin's not a teen yet.  She's got 5 more months before we celebrate that milestone.

Abby just turned 1 on Wednesday, but she's not quite walking yet. She can crawl roughly as fast as a greyhound, though, so why bother with the walking?

Anyway - I guess I ought to have called the post "Of Pre-Teens and Pre-Toddlers."  Seems a bit unwieldy, though, doesn't it?

I have heard it said that toddlers and teens have a lot in common.  I always assumed that was referring to a certain negativity and pigheadedness that can be associated with those ages, and perhaps it is.  What I am noticing, though, is that these two ladies have so very much in common that has nothing to do with any negative issues.

They are both on the cusp of a whole new world.  They are both so incredibly curious, with an insatiable desire to understand themselves and the world around them.  As Erin, with an energetic zeal that wears me out just watching her, leaps at every opportunity to explore, expand, refine, and profit from her unique gifts and interests, I am powerfully reminded of Abby as she zips around the house, scrambling across the floor at top speed, every waking moment used to explore and understand her world, and to grow and perfect her own abilities.

And maybe those similarities are one reason why both ages sometimes struggle with mood, temper, and attitude issues.  So much is changing, so fast - still a baby, but turning into a kid.  Still a kid, but rapidly transforming into an adult, with a huge learning curve.  Both phases require a lot of coaching, sympathy, direction, and discipline.

But I am not going to wax too eloquent on handling teens - I don't have any yet!  I am just so struck by the parallels between the two age groups.  They are both such blessings, just like all their siblings!






Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cooking for Carnivores: Mexican-Amish Corn Soup

I'm not particularly good at making soup.

It's probably lack of practice, since I live with a bunch of soup-haters.

However, the other day I whipped up a lovely Mexican-Amish Chicken Corn Soup...and it was quite good.

Did she just say "Mexican-Amish??"

Haven't you heard of Fusion cuisine?  I'm sort of un-trendy, but I hear it's all the rage!

Anyway, seriously, this just worked.  I had some ears of corn that needed using - not enough to just serve with dinner.  So I found this recipe, and set out to make it.  I was tweaking with abandon - noodles instead of the homemade dumplings, 4 ears of corn instead of 10 (10!?  Really?), only 1 onion, no celery...so, by the time it was almost done, I had wandered pretty far afield already.  Then, I found that my chicken frames that I was using really didn't have much meat on them...only about half a cup.

I guess when I picked the meat off the leftover roast chickens, making tacos the day before, I was pretty thorough.

So thorough, I had quite a bit of taco chicken left over...so, I dumped it in the pot.  And then for good measure I threw in the leftover black beans and rice, too.  The result was quite pleasing - the corniness of the Amish recipe was perfect with the Mexicaniness of the chicken, rice, and beans. :)

Sooo, this isn't really a recipe, I suppose.  But if you elect to try something like it, I'd love to hear about the results!

Linked up with Raising Olives.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Drop in the Bucket

Today I have been thinking a lot about the little things.

Yesterday (or the day before?  I can't remember) I read this post by The Thrifty Couple, and it got me thinking.  While I am a frugal person by nature, my frugality is mainly governed by a natural lack of interest in acquiring stuff, and a native dislike of spending.  I'm not really all that good at being intentional with our resources.  I can be wasteful; I can be lazy.  I forget to plan ahead.  I can sometimes despair because I don't see a way from point A - where we are - to point B - where we want to be.

Here's what got to me, from the post linked above: "When you’re trying to cut a few pounds, you don’t just mindlessly graze on the snack jar next to your chair – you intentionally consider how that and every decision you make will help you towards your final goal.  Its the same whether its your budget, your spending, earning extra income or any other decision you are working on.  If you have your end goal in mind and decide the next step based on that goal, you will have a much higher success rate." 

When I read this a great big light bulb just went off in my head.  NOW you're speaking my language!  See, I gain weight when I'm pregnant.  News flash, right?  Except I gain a LOT of weight - usually 50 or 60 pounds.  With each pregnancy I tell myself it's not going to happen again - but so far, no luck.  So, I spend my time in between pregnancies trimming some of that back off, and over the years I have become intimately familiar with the mechanics of calorie-counting and weight loss, at least as it works out for me.

So I understand that successfully losing weight requires commitment to the little choices.  You don't lose a lot at a time.  You don't starve yourself for a month and be done.  You eat a little less than you need, day in, day out, for months.  You don't feel like you are getting anywhere, usually, because it is so slow.  You have setbacks; some are your fault and some are not.  You want to just forget it!  Avoiding such a modest amount of food, through so many pitfalls and errors, seems insignificant, pointless.  But, barring other circumstances, it all adds up if you persist!

Thinking about our finances this way is so INCREDIBLY encouraging, I really can't adequately express it.  I am the kind of person who knows I need to save money, but I will not bother to stop a $5 monthly bill that I don't benefit from.  I will throw away bread scraps rather than taking a minute to freeze them for future use.  Because, what possible good will saving a few cents on bread do, in the face of the rather daunting goals we have set ourselves?  Just a drop in the bucket...

But now I am realizing that that is the key:

Just a drop in the bucket.

What is a bucket full of, anyway?


Just a bunch of drops.  If you have ever put a bucket under a slow dripping leak, and then forgotten about it for (ahem) awhile...and had it fill up and overflow...you get my point.

I love thinking about it this way.  It's encouraging to remember that small, slow progress is REAL PROGRESS, and will eventually get somewhere, God willing!

Be blessed -


Linked up at: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways  and also at:


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where I've been...

So, some of you wonder where I am, I suppose.

Call it writer's block...
or mother's exhaustion...
or my tendency to have a few too many irons in the fire.

It's been one of those kind of months where if you asked me, "So what have you been up to?"  I would probably say, "Ummm...I don't really remember.  We've gotten pretty muddy..."  Not because we haven't done anything, but in my life sometimes the wild, endless flurry of activity kind of all blends together.

On my agenda...
  • Clean off that dresser.  You know, the one I pile everything on now that the rest of my bedroom is clean.  I think I keep putting it off because I know that once I do, there will be nowhere to pile things.  Ah...then what?
  • Make a plan for the last quarter of school.  Time to survey how far we have come, how much is left to do, and prioritize what has to get done, and what can be good enough.  Because, it's time to admit that there are a few books we're not going to finish.  Tell me I'm not alone! :-) 
  • Make a plan for summer school.  We don't school year round, and we don't do much bookwork in summer...but we do do a little, and I also like to use summer to increase our focus on life skills, crafts, individual interests, etc.  
  • Think about next year and begin to budget for new books.  This is a love/hate project.  I hate spending money.  I love buying books!
  • Clamp down on the grocery budget.  I am Sisyphus...
  • Plant the garden once our absurdly late frost date rolls around.
How about you?  Is your school year preparing for the end, or do you zip along all year? 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Getting better, catching up, and making yogurt!

Well.  So, how long does it take YOU to recover from the flu?

No, I'm not really talking about not-being-sick.

I am talking about-catching-up-on-everything-that-you-got-behind-on-while-you-were-out-of-commission.

For me, however long I am sick, that seems to be about how long it also takes to feel like I am caught up to life in general, after I am better.  So, had the flu for about a week and a half, and now, a week and a half AFTER I started feeling more well than sick, I now feel like my routines and general life activities are caught up too. 

Incidentally, Miss Baby is 9 months old now...and I am JUST NOW feeling as though I have undone all (or most of) the chaos that piled up while I was pregnant!  Whether it is early pregnancy when I get to live with my head in the toilet, or later when I seem to want to return to infancy myself (eat, sleep, cry, repeat!) - really not much beyond the bare necessities gets done. And sure enough, what took nine months to pile up took nine months to undo. 

Anyway, even though I've been way too tired to blog, things have been happening.  I've been making yogurt - did you think I forgot about my year toward sustainability project?

The yogurt is absurdly easy.  It takes about 15 minutes to put in the maker.  You heat the milk to 180 degrees:

Like my fancy double boiler?
Then you cool it to 112 degrees.  I use a cold water bath in the bottom of the double boiler for this.  Dissolve your starter in a little of the milk (or stir in some of your last batch of yogurt).


Put it in your yogurt maker.  For instructions on making without a maker...uh, try Google.  :-D


It incubates for about 8 hours.  Then you stick it in the fridge, and congratulate yourself on having found such a painless way to impress your friends!  ;-)  This is how many dishes you will have to wash:


Not bad!

Miss Baby loves it.  She and I eat it plain - I bought vanilla beans to try to make vanilla yogurt, but haven't done it yet.  If you have a good method for that, do share!


 Cheers!



Linking up at: Frugal Days Sustainable Ways  and



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Slow month for decluttering...

And, a slow month for blogging, too.  Sorry for being such a slacker.  My excuse is this wretched cold/cough thing wandering its way through the family.  I didn't even get it very badly, but it has really taken a toll on my energy level in the evening.  I'm a nighttime writer, so if I can't stay awake, it just doesn't happen.  Coffee probably could have produced some posts - but if I'm fighting illness I don't like to push it!

Anywho, I did do some decluttering in the room formerly known as the Frightening Bedroom of Doom.  Not much, but here it is:

Before:



I've posted that picture before.  I don't have enough bookshelves, and I can't really get rid of very many books.  It's an occupational hazard of being married to a philosopher/theologian.

Therefore, it is only reasonable that, since my shelves are doomed to be overloaded, that I also keep my Christmas ornaments, out-of-date prenatal vitamins, papers to be shredded, miscellaneous decorative items, and a good bit of dust on the shelves, as well.  Right???

Sigh.

Here's what I've managed so far:



Top three shelves.  Hey - it's something!  Slow and steady wins the race.  I will put something pretty up top, as soon as I decide what.

I was also supposed to be working on the dresser.  Umm, well...here's the before and after pics...





I'm not going to bother telling you which is which.  It doesn't really matter.  What does matter is that on the day I had planned to do something about it, we had a blast at the Children's Museum instead.  :-)  We had an awesome month of school, too.  Give and take, I guess.

On another homekeeping note, I have been reading a most delightful book on the subject:



This book is enormous.  It is also a warmly written combination of the why and the how of housework.  Any job that you encounter in homekeeping is likely to be described at length in here, detailed instructions as well as how this task contributes to a warm, welcoming home.  A blurb described it as The Joy of Cooking for housework, and I am finding that to be accurate.  If you want to be encourage to be a better homekeeper, and especially if you are encouraged by better understanding the why and how - you will probably find it as delightful as I have.

So, I hit a bit of a bump the road on my decluttering, but I'll be pressing on as able.  Not giving up is the most important part, even if progress slows or stops for a time.

Be blessed-




Linked up at: A Slob Comes Clean




Saturday, February 11, 2012

A baby food primer

Blueberries
Over the years I have very gradually converted to making baby food.  With my first baby, I never made any of her baby food.  I used instant cereals and all jarred foods.  It never even crossed my mind to do anything else - you know, dogs eat dog food, cats eat cat food, and babies eat baby food.  I even bought jarred mashed bananas.

Then, with my last several babes, I have had this slow-dawning idea of making more and more of their food.  Now, with Abby, I am to a point where I am making almost all her food from scratch, and it is just not the big deal I might have thought it would be.  I decided to throw together a primer for making homemade baby food from what I have learned over the years, by much trial and error.

Remember to start with very fine, thin purees and single ingredients, introducing new foods a few days apart.  Baby can work up to thicker, coarser textures and multiple-ingredient foods over time.

Grains

I already covered rice cereal in a previous post.  This same method can be used with pretty much any grain - although I have personally only tried rice and oats.  I plan to do barley and wheat soon.  A good rule of thumb for cooking time for the powder seems to be about 1/4 of the time it would take to cook the intact grains.  So, if you have oatmeal, and it says to cook it for 5 minutes, you can grind the oats and cook the powder (1/4 c powder to about a cup of water) for just over a minute.  Don't cook it for 10 minutes as if it were brown rice - unless you are trying to make glue.  Not that I had to learn that the hard way, of course.

Vegetables

Babies usually love yellow and orange veggies; I've had mixed reactions to the green ones.  As a general rule, bake or steam the veggie until very soft, and either fork-mash or run it thru the blender or food processor, depending on how fine your baby needs it to be.   Some veggies are easy to puree (squashes and sweet potatoes come to mind), while others are a bit more stubborn.  When you are pureeing vegetables, you will need to add water - I like to add the cooking water, if there is any, since it has some of the nutrients in it.  You may need to add more water than you would expect, and let the food processor run for a few minutes.  This will accomplish a fine puree even for peas and green beans.  Some ideas:
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squashes
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
Avoid:  Cruciferous veggies (like broccoli or cauliflower), leafy greens (ew...I've seen salad in a blender, it's not pretty.)

Fruits

Lots of fruits need very little prep.  The ones that do will just need a little cook time and the blender treatment.  Ideas:
  • Bananas - fork mash or use an electric mixer
  • Apples - cook with a little water (no peels).  Or cheat and just use plain old bottled applesauce - no sugar!
  • Pears - same as apples.
  • Berries - no cooking needed, just blend with some water or juice.  Mind the seedy ones for a young baby, though.
  • Peaches and plums - haven't tried this yet.  I suspect that very ripe ones would blend up fine, or you could lightly cook them first to soften.
  • Prunes - Cook to soften
  • Grapes?  Maybe?
  • Avocado 
  • Cherries
Avoid:  Citrus.

 
Proteins:

  • Whole milk yogurt
  • Egg yolks - hard boiled and mashed.
  • I don't make meats by themselves for babies.  They do get meat in blends, though.
  • Beans.  We're not big bean-eaters, so I don't think of them much - but they are so cheap and healthy that a good bean or lentil puree would be a fantastic baby food.

Blends:

This is the fun part!  I love to mix together two or three different foods for different tastes!  I will also lightly season blends, with cinnamon, garlic, or other spices.  I don't use salt, though.  I'll list some ideas, but this is where the possibilities are really limitless.
  • cereal, any fruit, and cinnamon
  • blend several fruits for a fruit salad
  • cereal, yogurt, and sweet potato
  • veggie medley
  • If the family is eating a dish that could go in the blender - do so!  I have done this with pot roast, spaghetti, beef stroganoff, chicken soup...don't be afraid to add water, broth, or juice to get the right texture.
Storage:

I use ice cube trays to freeze the extra in little cubes, which I put in ziplocks.  A cube is easy to defrost and is a perfect serving size.  For cereal, I just make enough for a couple of days and keep it in the fridge.

Do you make baby foods?  Please share how you do it and what foods you prepare!



Linked up at:  No Ordinary Blog Hop, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways,
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Organizing Challenge - the floor is done!

Well, almost. :)  I decided to follow Alana's advice in the comments on my previous post, and remove anything not too heavy to move for vacuuming from the floor.  I haven't moved the speakers yet, so technically, the floor's not done.

But, just to make me happy, let's be UNtechnical, and say, "The floor is done!"  Hooray!  Cheer with me!  Because, it was only a few months ago that it looked like this:


                
Sometimes the progress has been painfully slow, and sometimes, piles shrank only to grow again. And, the whole room is not done, so the challenge isn't over.  The top of the dresser, the desk, and the bookshelf all need work.  And the closet...oh, the closet.  That could be a whole series in itself, but for now, we celebrate, because now it looks like this:


Took me about an hour to clear out that last pile in front of the dresser.  Mostly clothes that needed put away, or donated.  Quite a lot of outgrown baby clothes, and a huge stack of CDs.

The whole floor being cleared is something that has not happened for over a year...ever since I lost control during my first trimester of my most recent pregnancy. 

Next time I'll tackle one of the remaining problem areas in the main room.  Once those are all done, we'll face the closet.  Not, I must emphasize again, that I am afraid of the closet...really.  Why would I be? It's kind of exciting, really, going in there.  Sort of like being an archaeologist, a spelunker, and a mountain climber, all rolled into one.  What's not to like?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

In which I ramble about the elevator story...

Awhile ago now, I shared my elevator story.  It is by far the most entertaining of my birth stories; I always hope for boring births, now!   It was such a long post that I wanted to add my post-elevator thoughts in a second installment.

One time a friend asked me, jokingly, whether now, having experienced both hospital birth and elevator birth, which I preferred.  Ummm....in all seriousness, that's a tough one.  See, I'm kind of a crazy crunchy natural birth momma at heart.  Home birth draws me, though I have never done it for various reasons.  I still might someday.  So...the 100% intervention free aspect of the elevator was kind of nice.  No monitors, no IV (I always am GBS+, so I always have the heplock in)...it wasn't so bad.  Of course, it was cold, and not real clean, and not exactly private...

Nevertheless, I was, for a long time, kind of surprised by the level of sympathy I received from people.  They expected Mark and I to be utterly traumatized by our experience.  Finally, we figured out that there were several factors at play here:

One, I didn't want or expect any pain medication. I think a lot of the "you poor thing!" comments stemmed from an assumption that I would have had an epidural, or at least some analgesics, and would have been traumatized by going through birth without intervention.  On the contrary, I am grateful to God that I have never found myself in need of intervention in my births, and was prepared for a natural birth anyway.

Two, it was our fourth baby.  Mark says that if he had never witnessed birth before he would have been terrified, especially by the grayish color of the baby at the moment of birth.  I would have been much more afraid if I had not had enough experience to know that what I was feeling was within the range of normality - in fast forward!

Three, it just happened so fast.  We both just sat there, thinking, "did that really just happen??" 

On the other hand, there was some lasting effect.  I think the most difficult part of it was that it happened so fast that I didn't get the "brain fog" of labor - that lovely effect that pulls the sting out of the memories.  All my other labors I remember fuzzily - almost like remembering a dream, or like it happened to somebody else, and I heard about it afterward.  From Jonathan's birth, I remember everything very sharply, like any other memory - and that has, probably forever, somewhat altered my feelings about birth.  That's okay.  It's just part of who I am, like all my other births. 

Forgotten Way Farms Giveaway!

Oooh - another one of my occasional giveaway posts.  I don't put up giveaways unless I think they are AMAZING - so check this one out.  Several very neat, high-value prizes to be had, in the homesteading arena!  Go visit Forgotten Way Farms to see the prizes and enter!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Organizing Challenge - Turning the Corner

Time for a progress update on the Frightening Bedroom of Doom.

If you are new to this series, you can see the beginning here.  You can follow my progress by using the "Weekly Challenge" label...even though this isn't really a "weekly" challenge anymore. 

This week I took this:



And turned it into this:



I also cleaned under the desk.  This might not sound like much, but when I was about half done and remembered to snap a picture, it looked like this:


The finished product:


I also threw out another bag of trash, and took another huge box to Savers, from stuff over by the closet.  (I LOVE getting rid of stuff.  It's so much better than putting stuff away.  If you put it away, it will be gotten back out.  If you get rid of it, it will never need put away again.)

And, I am somewhat surprised to be able to report, the parts of the room I already cleaned are mostly staying that way.  The room is beginning to look generally clean with a few scary places, rather than universally horrifying. This seems like a significant turning point!

But, for all that, I found today's decluttering efforts discouraging.  The above projects took a long time for such a small space (the pile was very deep).  I knew when I started that this would take me a long time, and I am enjoying the spaces that I have cleared...but, just being real - I'm kind of tired of cleaning this mess up.  How did it get this way?  And how can I prevent it from happening again?  I am trying to brainstorm ways to keep this mess from ever coming back.  I am a natural born piler, and I have trouble knowing where to put things that don't an obvious home.  I am hoping that if I get rid of enough stuff, places to put the things I have left will become more obvious.  Maybe??  Let's hope!

The best part of the cleaning today?  This:


An earring that I lost months ago - way down behind the desk.  It's one of my favorite pairs, and I was thrilled to find it again!



Linked up at:  A Slob Comes Clean