November 2008

I’m weak!…..I lost it!….My last nerve was shot!….I couldn’t take ANYMORE!….

So I gave in to the temptation. But I am not the only guilty party here. In fact, my dear husband was actually the one who suggested we do it……

After a month of almost ceaseless banging on anything and everything, and several broken or cracked rubbermaid-type storage containers, we absolutely could not take JR’s drumming any longer. We had his big Christmas gift wrapped and just sitting under the tree, with every intention of giving it to him for Christmas. But we finally just couldn’t wait any longer.

Aaaahhhhh! Relief at last! Peace once again. Oh, how I love volume control!

I have had a busy day….many enjoyable moments like 2 of my children helping set up the Christmas tree, watching my husband work diligently on a gift for …… (sorry, too many folks read this blog 😉 ), eating some delicious leftovers from yesterday, and we enjoyed a lovely time of family worship together.

I have also had some disheartening moments. We spent quite a bit of time this morning talking with some Jehovah’s witnesses. We don’t usually have discussions with such door-to-door folks, but this is the gentleman’s second attempt with us, and for some reason, we agreed to pull out our Bibles and compare notes. We had some interesting discussion, a great time researching the Bible, and although the gentleman left without converting us, I can only hope that God can use something from our morning to plant a seed of truth in his heart.

This evening we decided to take a VERY rare opportunity and have a “family movie.” So rare, in fact, I don’t think we have done such since last Christmas, when we watched “The Nutcracker Ballet” at Grandma’s house. Anyway, we rented a Christmas movie advertised as PG and family comedy. I cannot believe what is now considered PG! I was actually in shock. Why is it so necessary to put swear words and sex content into everything today?! I guess the only movie I will be watching in the near future is Fireproof–a Christian film, and one I have been wanting to see for some time.

Then I decided to get on the computer and read the news. First, I read some of the headlines about the carnage occuring in India, followed by the saddening stories of people who died right here in America from the Black Friday crowds trampling and shooting each other. I would ask “what has our world come to,” but I already know it is prophecy being fulfilled. Then, to top it all off, I noticed an update had been made to an article from earlier this week. Mind you, the earlier article had revealed the fact that a sample of American-made baby formula had tested positive for melamine–a chemical toxin used to make plastic, or as in the cases in China, used as a filler for food items. This chemical has been responsible for countless pet deaths from contaminated pet food, as well as a number of infant deaths from contaminated formula in that country. So, in this article (I wish I had a copy, sorry), a note was posted, basically saying (in paraphrase), “don’t worry, it was an isolated case, and the FDA has already proven melamine is safe up to 250 parts per billion, which this sample was well-below.” Well, tonight’s article was completely different. As it turns out, while not all samples tested positive, it was not an isolated case. In fact, 2 popular brands tested positive multiple times–including the one that we use! Interestingly, this article said that “recent tests” had shown that the melamine level was now determined to be safe up to 1000 parts per billion. While it is certainly a concern, we realize we cannot worry about it. Even if we switched formula, something else could easily be contaminating a new brand. It is just further evidence that, unless you grow your own food, you just truly don’t know what is being added into what you eat. It is also further support of the fact that it really is no wonder we have so many unexplainable illnesses in the world today.

Really, all we can do is Thank God for all that we have, do our best to care for our bodies with the resources he has given us, and then have faith that He will take care of us in every other way.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We certainly did, although it wasn’t what we had originally planned. Nonetheless, we shared great food and fellowship with new friends. Our children enjoyed playing with the other children (well, actually, just playing with their toys, I suspect), and we all left with happy memories.

I posted a while back on my attempt to somewhat eliminate plastics from our lifestyle. I have since realized the enormity of such a thing. In our modern, western way of life, I am about to conclude it is literally impossible to eliminate plastics. I knew big things like our vehicle, carseats, and such included them, but I have also discovered that almost every food item I buy is wrapped in some way in plastic. Even the organic beef I recently bought, which I assumed would be wrapped in butcher paper, I also found was partially wrapped in a layer of plastic. I have had to replace several of my kitchen cookware items recently. So you have any idea how hard it is to find kitchen gadgets that are plastic-free?! With Chrismas just around the corner, I have been doing some shopping for gifts. Thanks to the melamine and lead-paint scares in China-made products, I have been steering away from plastic toys and looking for silver, natural wood, and other natural toys. I have discovered that ENTIRE warehouse stores contain ONLY China-made toys.

So, in the interest of brevity, here is my current status on plastics: In our current circumstances, I cannot eliminate plastics to the point that I had originally desired. So, I am instead focusing on eliminating where I can. I am trying to avoid any plastic cookware, bakeware, storage containers, or serving dishes. I am also trying to eliminate, or at least reduce, any plastic toys that could potentially come in contact with my children’s mouths.

It was a very interesting attempt though. With all the information being discovered in regards to the toxic chemical components of plastic, it has been very educational learning just how often we come in contact with these toxins. Kinda scary, really!

We had our first homestudy visit by the social worker today. Anyone who has been through one of these can understand the “slight” stress that is involved in having someone come in to inspect your house–possibly looking in drawers and cabinets, behind doors, and in closets (all with the intent of ensuring child-safety, of course). So I spent the last few days frantically cleaning, forbidding the kids to make a mess, and, I must confess, being generally stressed and unpleasant to be around. Wouldn’t you know the guy never left my dining table! After all that! Turns out this first visit was designed as an introductory visit to discuss the homestudy process, discuss our future plans a bit, and generally a “get-to-know-you” session. The second (and final) visit will involve him meeting and talking with the kids, watching how we interact, and the home inspection. Our first homestudy only involved one visit total, and we did everything at that visit. It was funny though, as I had compiled a big stack of paperwork, based on our last homestudy requirements. When he pulled out his checklist and started discussing what we needed, I just handed him the required paper. After a couple of times, he just quit discussing the checklist, took my whole stack, went through it, filed what he needed, and we started again, discussing just the 3 remaining items we needed (not required by our last homestudy). He said he had never before encountered folks who were that prepared. We got a kick out of it, and explained that we like to get our part done with! So now we eagerly wait to find out when our next appointment is. Hopefully I can keep on top of the house between now and then. In the mean time, apparently there has been no sign of certain paperwork being sent to him from other places (out of our hands). If you would say a little prayer that God would allow that paperwork to come back quickly and smoothly so we can conclude this stage, we would really appreciate it. While I know God is already in charge, it is far too easy to worry about the human error involved in this type of paperwork. I look forward to getting through the homestudy so we can just rest, knowing that we have done our part, and we are simply waiting for God to match us with our baby.

I just thought I would summarize some of the happenings here recently:

We started the month off with a huge airshow. We learned that A has no idea how to fall asleep in the stroller (he hates being on his back), so I wound up carrying him half the morning on my back, where he loves to sleep. The kids had a great time–JR in particular. He got to see stunt planes, choppers, the Thunderbirds, skydivers, and more.

A is now taking his baths with JR and M. M is convinced it is her job to watch out for him, entertain him, wash his hair, dump water all over him, and actually bathe him. I can’t seem to convince her otherwise, but fortunately A is a great sport.

JR has developed a fascination with the drums. He stopped going to his kid’s Sunday School class so he could attend “big church.” Considering he spends most of the hour watching the drummer, though, I have a feeling it isn’t the sermon he comes to hear. He has been LOUDLY pounding anything I will let him. I have, for the most part, kept his noise confined to the play room so we can all escape as necessary. When he combines his drumming with his singing, oh, such joy (and NOISE) fills the house! Just for kicks, this past Sunday, I took him over to actually meet the drummer at the church. JR, of course, played shy, but the drummer picked him up onto the platform, let him sit on the stool, and then actually helped him play a tune. JR couldn’t hide the thrill he got from that! So now, he wants to be a pilot, a “train-driver”, a teacher, AND a drummer! Notice how he sat his little stuffed dog in the chair to watch him.

Then comes little A. He is sitting up totally by himself now, and just today I noticed he FINALLY has his first tooth popping through. He has been showing signs of teething for months now–I’m talking bumps on his gums, copious drool, fussyness, not sleeping well, discomfort with sucking on his bottle, ridges along the gum line, chewing on everything, pale/white pressure areas around his gums, and even a distinct point of a tooth we could feel that has refused to pop through for over 6 weeks. Finally today, I can actually see a tooth poking through. And it is NOT the point we have felt for months. That one is yet to come. Oh, and after the refusal to sleep at the air show, I decided it was high time he learn to sleep on his back. From the beginning he refused to sleep well on his back, so after weeks of sleepless nights, I finally gave in and allowed him to be a tummy sleeper. To this day, he sleeps great on his tummy, but has trouble on his back–this means in his carseat, in a stroller, anywhere he can’t lay on his tummy. So, one night when he was pretty tired, I laid him on his back in his crib, tucked him good, and turned on his mobile. I let him cry, going in and soothing a couple of times, but, after a surprisingly short cry session, he actually fell asleep. Later that night I went in and flipped him on his tummy so we could all sleep well through the night. The next day, I picked one of his naps and did the same thing. He cried just for a few minutes, and dozed off. Ever since, he goes to bed on his back at night, and usually once during the day, and he rarely even fusses now. He plays for a few minutes and falls asleep. I still have to work up the courage to let him go all night on his back, but he is defintely getting better. Today, on a lengthy trip, he fell asleep twice in his carseat without crying. That was amazing, so it must be working somehow!

We have also spent the last couple weeks getting ready for our homestudy. S got his medical eval done, we have been checking in with our references, and applying for and collecting background checks and driver histories from 3 states. The last few days in particular, I have been gathering and sorting the paperwork we have and making copies. We drove to a nearby state this morning to actually collect some additional paperwork in person, as that state is known for its incompetence with handling such paperwork. So, we are almost there. I have to pick up the kids’ medical forms tomorrow, then we have our first visit by the social worker on Saturday, then hopefully my last bit of paperwork will arrive in the mail soon, and finally, I have to get my medical eval completed. We can see the finish line.

JR was having some trouble figuring out word families and putting numbers together. I decided to actually get a little creative and found a way to break the system down into something he could more easily visualize. It has worked like a charm!

First, I typed each letter of the alphabet, in large print, onto cardstock. Then I cut the letters out in such a way that we could “play” them to make words and such. I was then able to show him how to combine 2 letters to make a word family ( -ad) then just change out the first letter of the word to form different words (had, lad, mad, etc). He caught on pretty quickly, and was soon able to spell out his own words.

In math, he was doing 1-10 easily, but had trouble with his teens. We had practiced 20-29, but he couldn’t seem to get the fact that you just say the name of both numbers (twenty, one, etc.) I had also introduced the “tens” (30, 40, 50)all the way to 100, but he was also having trouble with that. So I typed up his numbers. In large print, I typed numbers 0-9 in one column, then 1-9 in another column. I cut the 0-9 out to make a single long strip of digits. The 1-9 column, I cut into individual pieces. Then, I showed him how to read down the strip, counting 0-9. Then he was to pick up the “1”, lay it beside the “0” on the strip to form “10”, and slide it down the strip as he counted 10-19. The process repeated with “2” sliding down for the twenties, “3” for the thirties, etc. He got it in just two tries! It was amazing! In just one day, he literally went from struggling to count above 10 to counting 0-99 with no more than an occasional correction or reminder. Today, I actually had him count 1-99 without his column, and he did it by memory!

Somehow, this system just seems to have made the light-bulb come on his head, and he totally gets it! I noticed his reading lesson went smoother today, and his counting is all but perfect. I will have to remember this method for my younger kids!

I am proud to report S and I made our first homemade batch of chicken stock tonight. OK, so I have to admit S did most of the work. It was totally unplanned, but the results were wonderful. It all started when I went to our organic food store to pick up some groceries for the week. They had a mega-sale on a whole natural chicken for $1.99/lb (usually $4.99/lb). I couldn’t resist that deal, so I bought 2 chickens. I brought them home, and S skinned and chopped them up for me, leaving us with 2 carcasses and the giblets. He decided to throw them in a pot of water and attempt to make the stock. I quickly found a few recipe ideas on the internet, and we added a few ingredients. The results were beautiful!

Here is the recipe we concocted:

  • 1 Chicken carcass per 4 quarts water
  • Giblets, if desired (they will make the broth much stronger!)
  • Desired amounts of vegetables such as carrots, celery, onion, potatoes, etc.
  • Desired amounts of herbs such as parsley, bay leaves, etc.
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper per 4 quarts

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer soup for about 4 hours. Pour soup through a strainer, seperating broth from solids. I didn’t have a wire strainer, so in order to get the smallest solids and herbs strained, we then re-strained the broth through a linen cloth. We were left with the bowl of broth you see above. We then put all the vegetables into a seperate container, picked the carcass clean, and added the meat to the veggies for a soup tomorrow. Store the excess accordingly, and enjoy!

This picture shows our yield of about 8 quarts of broth (divided into needed portions to either freeze or use tomorrow), and a bowl of chicken and veggies for soup. YUM!! As a side note, S quickly tired of munching on the cooked giblets, so I gave them to Will. Mind you, this is a dog who NEVER gets people food, and rarely gets any hand-fed treats. That dog was in absolute HEAVEN!!!

JR and Will have finally realized that they can be playmates. We watched for over an hour yesterday as they played a few rounds of Will’s favorite game, tug. What do you get when you match a 32 pound, 2 legged boy, against a 95 pound 4 legged dog? You get this:

The warm up: both competitors get a good grip on the rope and circle each other to size up the opposition

And they’re off! Tugging mightily!

Will has JR off balance. Can JR recover?

JR regains his balance, and braces himself. He is determined to win this match!

Oh!! He’s down! Will finally has enough, and with a single solid jerk, knocks JR right off his feet! But wait, JR refuses to let go of the rope!

Will proceeds to drag JR across the floor, as JR tries desperately to hang on. (At this point, mom steps in and tries to delicately explain that Will has won the game.)

My last monthly dinner schedule seemed quite popular, so I have updated with my winter schedule below. A few meals are the same as the summer schedule, but for the most part, the winter meals are good for cooler weather. Like last time, if you decide to try this type of organizing, just replace my dinners with your favorites. I don’t always follow precisely day to day, but I generally stick with having the scheduled meals at some point during the scheduled week. This allows me some flexibility if, for example, I have some produce about to go bad, I can use it in a recipe or if we eat out one evening. I can’t tell how much it helps, though, having a plan, even if you can’t stick to it completely! “FREE” nights are generally for cleaning up leftovers or experimenting with new recipes. If there are any dinners on my sheet that you would like recipes for, just ask, and I will post them when I can!

Click on the image for a larger view. Enjoy!

*Edited to add: I can’t get pic to expand, although the file is plenty big enough. I have uploaded it as large as I can. If any of you can offer advice as to how I might fix this, I am all ears!

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