February 2009

I have had this crazy notion for a while now. I just wanted to know if I could make hot dog buns from scratch. Don’t ask why, because I really don’t know why. I don’t even eat hot dogs that often, though I do happen to like them in general. Nonetheless, while I was shopping at my local organic food store recently, I saw they had a pack of organic beef dogs that actually looked like they might taste pretty decent. So I bought a pack, and decided to finally see if I could do it. This was the result:

If I may say so, they were quite good! Of course, homemade bread is always better fresh. It has toughened up a bit over the last day or two. But, I have to admit, I am rather impressed that I was able to do it. Don’t know that I will do it again anytime soon (since we don’t buy hot dogs very often), but for some goofy reason, I find satisfaction in knowing that I can if I want to.

In the last 2 weeks, I have implemented a great schedule, gotten my kids started on a terrific chore system, learned to bake all sorts of new things from scratch, and generally have a clean house and happy family. I had this smug satisfaction creeping up on me this week. I mean, it is all too easy to let these kinds of things go to my head! I mean, hey, I was in control! I guess someone decided I needed a bit of humble pie. Yesterday, JR came downstairs after his afternoon nap. I helped him get a little snack, and left to finish whatever I was working on. I heard some strange noises coming out of the kitchen, so I returned to check on things. This is what I found:

JR had finished the snack I gave him, grabbed the jar of peanut butter, gotten onto the counter and made himself comfortable (not something that my kids generally do unless we are actively creating something in the kitchen, and ONLY with permission), gotten a spoon out of the drawer, and was chowing down on peanut butter! I honestly didn’t know whether to scold or laugh, so I just shook my head and grabbed my camera. I do love my children and the surprises they throw my way!

A, age 10 months

Do you ever find yourself trying to bribe your kids to do their chores? Do you have to nag in order to get the chores done correctly? Do your kids enjoy doing chores? Do you have young children who need lots of assistance with chores? Do you tend to try to distract young children so they aren’t “in the way” at chore time?
“Chores” is a label that can be given to any number of tasks. Anything from laundry, bathrooms, and washing dishes, to brushing teeth, dressing, and cleaning the car can be classified as a chore. As many of you know, I recently read a book called “Managers of Their Homes” and began a daily schedule that has proven very successful. I also started a new chore system thanks to the book “Managers of their Chores.” It is AWESOME. In fact, it has solved so many issues around here, I think I love it more than the schedule by itself. It uses an author-invented idea called a “ChorePack,” that has been tested and approved by large families around the nation. Basically, you divide chores up into different parts of the day, and assign them to a member of the family (for simplicity, I will focus on children here). You then assemble a set of chore cards, specifically tailored for that child and time of day. Then, at the given chore time, you give the assembled chore pack to the child to wear as they complete their chores. When they are finished, they return the pack to you for inspection.
This system truly works wonders. I cannot testify to older children, although I have heard good things. However, in my family of younger children, who have a desire to help, but are still too young to do much, this has been a wonderful addition to our routine. I used to wake in the morning and spend 20 minutes helping/reminding the kids to dress, tidy their room (they played every morning before coming to breakfast), and despite the reminders, I gave up on requiring bed-making. I was also finding things my 4 year old would forget to do EVERY morning. As we went through the day, I would nag a bit to ensure toys were periodically picked up and tried to keep things tidy around the house–not always an easy task. No more.
Now, before I go to bed at night, I put the children’s morning ChorePacks in their room in a designated spot. When they awake the next morning, rather than play, they eagerly put on their pack and set to the assigned tasks. Their tasks include things like dressing, putting away PJ’s, brushing teeth and hair, tidying room, making beds, etc. Some tasks are assigned to both children, while others are given to only one child or the other. When necessary, M will come to me for help in dressing and switching to the next task, but JR works completely independently. He feels like such a big boy, I don’t have to nag him at all, and he doesn’t forget anything. When he is finished, he brings me his ChorePack and I go inspect his work. Their room is not messy in the morning because their tasks keep them busy. Having started our day off on the right foot, we can then start our schedule for the day. After lunch, I pass out their lunchtime ChorePacks, and they spend about 10-20 minutes performing those tasks. In the mean time, I am able to tend to the babies, clean the kitchen up, and do other odds and ends. When finished, I inspect their work. As the day progresses, we have a very small ChorePack for before dinner, a small one for after dinner, and a bedtime one. The hardest part is just remembering to hand them out at the given time. Our schedule helps here.
S has commented on how everyone seems happier somehow these days, the house is much cleaner at any given time, I do not feel as overwhelmed or lost, the kids love being useful and having jobs, and things are getting accomplished. We spent the first few days with the idea of “training” the kids to use them, but they caught on very quickly. M was actually the most difficult on day 1, due to her strong-willed nature. But with a little encouragement using “natural consequences” from another book I love (How to Make Children Mind Without Losing Yours), by day 2, she became a full and willing participant. I highly recommend this system for anyone who is even remotely chore-challenged, or if you just want a better way to do things. By using a system, you/the kids are kept busy, but you are all doing things that you enjoy.
I have to finish with just one example of what we have encountered this week. As I mentioned, on Day 1, M chose to be less-than-cooperative at first. When it came time to make her bed, she adamantly refused. While I don’t expect a 2 yr. old to create a masterpiece, I did expect her to do her best to at least pull the covers up over her pillow. Despite the instruction, she still refused. I calmly explained that there would be consequences. Our schedule said that at x:xx time, we had to do (whatever), and if her bed wasn’t made, she would not be able to participate. She chose to sit on her bed while the rest of the family went on with our day. About an hour later, she finally allowed me to help her make her bed. Done. At 7:00 a.m. on Day 2, M came running into my room, already wearing her ChorePack. She wanted some help flipping to the next card. I helped her and told her the next assignment was to go make her bed. She exclaimed, “But I already did!” Not believing her, I went to her room, and sure enough! Let me tell you, the quickest way to set a Mom’s day right from the beginning is to allow her to walk in to her children’s bedroom, and the two of them be standing there dressed, with teeth brushed, hair combed, beds made, floor tidy, and everyone in a good mood! Oh, if only I could capture that type of moment on camera!
Make it your amibition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
–1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

These are definitely not recommended for weight loss programs, but they are perfect for splurge days! All ingredients can be homemade or found in an organic variety!

6 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/8 cup rapadura
6 Tbs. Maple syrup
2 1/4 cups rolled oats or mixed grains
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup miniature marshmallows

In medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in sugar and syrup until sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Stir in oats, flour, salt, and graham cracker crumbs. Stir until dry ingredients are well-coated.

Pour just over half of mixture into a greased 9×9 or 7×11 casserole dish. Press firmly, and let cool for a few minutes, until it begins to firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle chocolate and marshmallows evenly over top of crust. Top with remaining crust mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until marshmallows and chocolate melt sufficiently. Remove from oven and let cool for about 20 minutes. While still warm, cut into bars. Use a spatula to gently press crust back down into melted center. Cool completely. Enjoy!

I have been wanting to try to make my own graham crackers for a while, and I finally did it today. It was a great “Baking Wednesday” activity for the kids to help with! This recipe actually uses basic wheat flour, rather than graham flour, which makes it a little more practical for using items already in your cabinet. Best of all, they are DELICIOUS!

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 3/4 cup wheat flour
    1/8 cup rapadura
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    2 Tbs. honey
    2 Tbs. molasses
    1/4 cup water
    1 tsp vanilla

In medium mixing bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add butter, and mix thoroughly until mixture resembles wet crumbs, or about 30 seconds. Add the remaining liquid ingredients. Mix until dough begins to stick together into a “dough ball” of sorts, or about another 30 seconds. If it seems too loose, just add sprinkles of wheat flour until desired consistency. Scrape dough out of bowl, and lay on seasoned baking stone (or parchment paper).

Flour rolling pin, and roll dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Chill in fridge for about an hour or until firm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If dough is not already on a baking stone, then remove from paper and put on cookie sheet. Re-roll to ensure 1/8 inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter, cut into 1×3 inch (or as desired) rectangles (these can be snapped apart later). With a toothpick, prick holes spaced about 1 inch apart.

Bake about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned on edges. Remove from oven and use pizza cutter to re-cut into desired sized sections. Set aside to cool on pan about 20 minutes. Using a thin, firm spatula, gently scrape cracker sections off the baking sheet and onto a flat surface. Cool completely. Enjoy!


  • These are pretty sweet crackers, so you can eliminate the sugar if desired.
  • These crackers rise to almost double while baking, so be sure they are thin enough before baking.
  • If you use a baking stone, be sure to scrape the stone when finished and save your homemade “graham cracker crumbs” for later use.

I woke up feeling pretty yucky this morning. So yucky in fact, that I figured it would actually be forgivable to miss church. So I sent S, JR, M, and A to church, and N and I stayed home (N would sleep, so I would be able to rest!)

Well, every Sunday after church, we have our weekly meal out at a local restaurant–one that happens to be a part of a popular nationwide chain. However, since I stayed home today, I gave S my order so he would bring me some home. When he arrived home with my lunch, I could not believe what was written on the to-go bag! I mean, I know non-organic food has chemicals and preservatives, but to actually print this on their bags:

Enough said. Once again, unless you grow it, you don’t really know what’s in it!

I have finally found a snack I do not feel guilty about letting my kids eat! They aren’t as sweet as store bought bars, but they are certainly much healthier!! My kids and husband LOVE them!

  • 4 cups raw oats or multi-grain cereal
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tbs peanut butter
  • 2 cups of any other desired ingredients (I used a mixture of raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, flax meal,¬†and chocolate chips)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan. In large mixing bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients and mix well. Stir in the 2 cups of desired mixed items. Pour and press mixture into pan. . Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Center will still be soft. Let cool for 10 minutes, and cut into bars. Let bars cool completely at room temperature before removing from pan. This makes about 18 1×5 inch bars.
Using this recipe, the bars tend to be chewy, and only slightly sweet. They have a very nutty flavor.
  • For sweeter bars, add 1/3 cup brown sugar instead of applesauce, OR decrease the amount of applesauce and add a corresponding amount of honey.
  • Add a crisp cereal and use roasted nuts for a crunchier bar.
  • In the 2 cup mixture, you could also use other dried fruits, chopped nuts, flaked or puff cereals, etc.

Time seems to fly these days, seemingly at the speed of light sometimes. Whole days would pass and I would feel like I was truly missing out on important things. I haven’t stuck to my detailed schedule perfectly yet, but I see so many benefits already. This schedule has really helped me make time for the rewarding, and the important things in life that truly count.

I have read my Bible and had a designated prayer time every day. Equally important, I have been more faithful at having designated Bible reading time with the children.
Earlier this week, we tackled a much-anticipated goal of getting some vegetables started for our first attempt at growing fresh produce.
On Thursday, we took a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s. I have found it to be a relatively inexpensive way to give the kids a thrill. For less than $5, all of us can play for about an hour and a half, the kids get as much stimulation as they can handle, and we all have a great time. This week, my schedule allowed me to plan it in such a way that S was able to share in our fun.

Last night, I found time to try out a new recipe for natural, extra healthy, granola bars. I surprised the kids with them for snack this morning. They love them, but I think they taste a bit like a health-food bar! I will let S be the final judge, and based on his opinion, I will decide whether to post my recipe.

And last, but far from least, I have allowed myself to become more aware of moments like the one below:

When we allow life to get too hectic, it is far to easy to forget to enjoy the things in life that count. Our relationship with Christ, our relationships with others–particularly our spouse and children, ensuring our personal (and family’s) health–the temple of Christ, and caring for the things with which God has entrusted us are the things we should truly value.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil–this is the gift of God.”

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

About a year ago, before little A was placed with us, we were concerned about how I would cope with 3 kids. I knew it was possible, the question was how sane I would remain. So, I talked to a friend, a homeschooling mom of 5 kids, who had scheduled her days. I wasn’t genuinely interested, as I had never used a schedule in my life. Between having a naturally lazy human nature, and ingrained weaknesses of procrastination, “flexibility,” and a general lack of self-discipline or know-how, I was very nervous about even trying. Nonetheless, she gave me a few tips, S encouraged me, and I put together my first daily schedule. I had some success with it, but between the addition of 2 new babies, a cross-country move, deciding to homeschool, and general life circumstances, I gradually drifted away from it. Much to my (and my family’s) dismay.

I decided it was not only time to get back on a schedule, but to develop a really good one. I decided to use a tested format and scheduling system called “Managers of Their Home.” As I read this book, I realized a couple of things.
  • First, starting this schedule did not mean changing everything as we knew it, but improving on what we already did during our day. My original schedule was a very good starting point, as some of it had become habitual, and the older kids were already familiar with it.
  • Secondly, a couple of Bible verses got my attention. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” Along those same lines, 1 Corinthians 14:40 states, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” I realized through these verses, that order is a Biblical thing, and is, in fact, expected of us as Christians. Order brings peace in our lives.
  • Thirdly, I realized how beneficial it is for a child to have scheduled order in their lives. A routine is predictable, and children thrive on predictability. Such predictability eliminates many potential discplinary issues with children. If they know what to expect, they are better able to mentally prepare for it. This fact was emphasized to me recently when I had to very suddenly leave my children for almost 2 full weeks, and many loving people, who were otherwise unaquainted with our routines, stepped in to care for them. It was so wonderful to know how well my children not only coped, but also helped direct their caretakers in their daily lives. They knew where to find needed items, JR was able to help them discover the “rules” of the house, and M was able to help ensure things were done “normally.” In addition, a predictable schedule can truly help a child in many ways as he matures.
  • Fourthly, having my habitually valued “me-time” is not a Biblical principle, but a secular one. In fact, scripture reminds us time and again, “They get into the habit of being idle….And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” 1 Timothy 5:13

That all being said, I also learned that this type of schedule does NOT mean rigid, structured, and inflexible. Rather, it should be a guide, or tool, to help you, as a mother, accomplish everything you need to do in the time you have allowed. If set up correctly, the schedule allows plenty of flexibility. In addition, unexpected interruptions are to be expected. James 1:2-4 provides comfort in this fact; “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This helped me stop stressing over issues I had dealt with in my 1st attempt. If I managed to get the whole house cleaned, and turned to find the kids had messed something, I used to get irritated. If I was in the middle of baking and had to stop to change a diaper, I could get frustrated. I have since realized this is to be expected. Relationships with your children, and with others, are much more important than a “spotless” house. I once heard a statement to the effect of, “When your child is off in college and decides to invite a friend home for Thanksgiving dinner, do you want him to say, ‘oh, my mom does such a great job of keeping a clean house and you will even find all the table linens perfectly folded!’? Or would you prefer he say, ‘I can’t wait for you to meet my family! They are the most loving, accepting people I know!’?” If you think about it, this has a good message. Furthermore, “order” does not have to mean a spotless house. It means an orderly house. There is a big difference.

So, we are well into our first week with the new schedule. As you can see, each person (except S) has a schedule that corresponds with everyone else’s, and it is color-coded for quick reference.

The day is basically divided into 30 minute increments (or a combination of several 30-minute increments). This allows plenty of time slots for needed accomplishments, while also allowing a few minutes of “flex” when you finish something early or have an interruption. To allow a little more flex, I have scheduled items in the late morning hours that I can sacrifice, which allows us to do big things on some mornings. For example, Wednesday is a baking day, and Thursday is a field-trip fun day. When we return, we pick up at the current time, and I don’t feel like the whole day is lost. I scheduled things for myself during their nap that gave some flexibility based on my desires that day, and scheduled some things for the kids immediately after nap that I won’t mind being missed if the kids need a little extra sleep. Some moms prefer to wake the kids at a designated time, but I prefer they get the sleep they need. They may need more on a field trip day than a day at home.

This type of schedule is “busy” in one sense, but I can honestly say it is very rewarding. Unlike days where I feel like I have been”busy” but have nothing to show, I have lots to show with a schedule. If I miss something, I just pick it up the next day. It is, at times, exhausting, but I have been sleeping much better (waking at night to feed the baby helps in that area too!). The kids’ bickering has been significantly reduced because they are kept busy. I wake up feeling like I have a “plan” and direction for the day, and feeling in control. It does take self-discipline, which I continue to struggle with, but teaching my children to be self-disciplined, orderly, and obedient is much preferred to many other popular, more secular upbringings today.

Paul counsels the young widows in 1 Timothy 5:14, “…to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.” (emphasis mine) Having an orderly home involves dedication, commitment, hard-work, and perseverance, but is Biblical and rewarding on so many levels.

Sorry for the delay in posting. It has been a very busy weekend! S was off work Friday, so we decided to drive a bit to some sand dunes we had heard about. There is literally this sand basin, right in the middle of a valley surrounded by mountains. While it is an explainable natural phenomenon, it really looks out of place. The highest dunes are over 600 feet tall.

Looking down at the dunes in the valley.
Will (the dog), me with N in the wrap, and JR after hiking up a small dune.
Hey, S, I dare you to flip off this steep hill! –Wait, I was kidding!!!
Never fear, the kids will come down and rescue you!
Just one problem with that idea….what goes down, must come back up! And that dune was as steep as it looks!
JR, me, M, and Will in a dune valley.
Even A tried to get in on the action, and after eating his fill of dirt, proceeded to try to slide feet first down the hill.
Our ever-faithful guardian supervising us.
On Valentine’s morning, I awoke to find a dozen roses and a very touching card.

Aren’t they beautiful?!

Then we proceeded to use S’s Valentine’s gift–a hand-held GPS–to go geocaching. We first heard about this sport a year ago, and it has since rapidly gained in popularity. This game is designed for outdoor enthusiasts, and is used for many reasons. Basically, it is a treasure hunt, where someone hides a “cache” (the treasure). It could be any size, and contain anything from a finder’s log (the minimum) to a huge stash of collector’s geo-coins, trackable items, dog treats, fast-food toys, etc. Someone (anyone) hides the cache, records its GPS location, logs it onto the geocache website, and waits to see who can find it. It is a way to draw people to an out-of-the-way trail, provide a fun challenge for city-dwellers, or just turn an otherwise average family hike into a cache-hunting race. When you find a cache, you sign the log, take anything you want out of it (as long as you replace it with something else), and move on to the next. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these caches stashed all over the world! There is a good chance you live within a mile of several!
S holding one of his cache finds, while A (in the back carrier sitting on the ground) looks on.
Then we returned home to take a quick rest.
OK, so for some, it was a more lengthy rest!
We then had our first post-placement adoption visit with our social worker. After he left, we loaded up the family, and drove to see some dear friends several hours away. We spent the night, attended their church the next day, enjoyed some good homemade southern food for lunch, visited more friends down the road, and returned home Sunday night.
JR, “Pa-paw”, N, M, “Ma-maw”, and A.
Our first photo as a family of 6!
We are now home, recuperating as best we can, and still recovering from colds. I am putting the finishing touches on a new family schedule and chore system, and am looking forward to testing it out this week. I’ll let you know how it works out!

Today was long, another day of “just surviving.” I was fighting my cold, JR and M had coughing fits, and A was a total wreck. He wouldn’t sleep well, he wouldn’t eat well, and he even fought his bottles. If we tried to encourage him to eat, he would cause himself to vomit (a trait that is becoming more common). And if I set him down, he would scream and scream. I finally realized tonight, however, that in addition to his horrendous cold, he is teething again. I found another tooth that will pop through any day, which explains the fight with food, bottle, and sleep.

As always though, our Father in Heaven showed his presence once again, and in a wonderful way! Since I picked up N from the adoption agency, he has been seen by 2 pediatricians and 2 orthopaedists, all of whom told us he had a moderate case of hip displasia. He was last examined this past Monday, just 2 days ago, and the pediatrician confirmed it again. I was given the information regarding the leg harness he would have to wear, and it was explained to me that he would likely have to wear it for 6 months to 1 year. But, before he could get the harness, he had to have an ultrasound of his hips to find out just how severe the problem was. I had the appointment today. The doctor performing the ultrasound kept asking for the details as they had been explained to us. Then he turned the ultrasound monitor so I could see the screen. He pointed to the image of N’s hip socket, looked at me, and said, “This is a perfectly normal hip.” He then proceeded to take several other measurements while he attempted to literally pop the hips out of joint (N did NOT appreciate that!). Nothing. He said there was absolutely no give, his tendons were fine, everything was shaped normally, and his final report would state “Normal.”

As a medical professional, he explained that it is possible that his tendons were just very loose after birth, allowing more flex than normal, and that they may have just tightened. However, I have trouble believing they went from “moderate” displasia to “normal” in just 2 days! I am in awe. We have been praying for him, though probably not nearly as much as we should have. Perhaps some of you were praying as well. Whatever the case, I am amazed and in awe of God’s unconditional and loving grace and mercy.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…” –1 John 3:1

Next Page »