Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas at Our Place, Boy-Style

As we wind down over Christmas, my mind alternates between two thoughts: (1) Boy, that was fun! - and (2) Thank goodness that's over! More on that later. In the meantime, here are a few pics:

Our nearly-walking into-EVERYTHING little guy... too young to care about the presents, but having so much fun with ribbon and wrapping paper! 

"Oh, boy! What mess can I make NOW?"
The eldest, displaying his war wounds from an early morning skirmish with the babies' new wagon. His haul included two guns, two bows with arrows, an adventure book, a Dangerous Book for Boys electronics kit, and a set of adventure books on CD. He was one happy guy! 

The package on the right was his Kentucky rifle, courtesy of The Vision Forum (as were most of his gifts) - he loves it! 

More ribbon and paper!!

"Yes! Yes! Yes!"
And finally... why play with gifts when you can lie on the floor with a bucket on your head? It's so obvious!


Our Christmas went very well. It was, in fact, the largest we've ever hosted - both sides of the family plus our five. I managed to produce a dinner that worked for vegans, hardcore Southerners, gluten-free, and high-protein people all at once, and despite the massive amount of food we cooked, we had almost no leftovers!

And moreover, I managed to stay strictly on the VLC diet, despite the Christmas sugar cookies which are calling my name from the kitchen as we speak!

I hope that each of you has had a lovely Christmas, and I hope to be back to blogging soon!! Love to all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Taming the Ugly Beast

Yesterday, I had an attack of what could be called the Festive Frenzies. The Merry-Christmas-Madness. Holiday Hysteria.

It was ugly.

It all started innocently enough, though, with lots of optimistic plans for a busy and productive day. I got up super-early to do all my usual stuff, work on making a meal to take somewhere, organize a baby shower, plan my day, and help make a big pancake breakfast for the family. Then we rushed out the door to spend an hour delivering cards and Christmas treats to the neighbors. After that my mom and I rushed out the door again to do an hour and a half of shopping for Christmas dinner (in a packed store, which I always find exhausting!).

When we got home, I was tired and hungry and ready to stop. But I couldn't... because when I walked in the door, there was a herd of hungry, cranky people to feed, and a mess in the kitchen that would "turn a Christian's stomach," as the old saying goes (and that saying was usually used to describe particularly gory war wounds!). For the next three hours, I served food, tried to put away an ridiculous amount of groceries, attacked stacks of dishes three feet high, all while trying to finish cooking several items and combat a mess that looked like Sherman's army had just vacated the premises - with several cranky children complicating the situation.

By the time it was all over, I was exhausted, starving, cranky, snappy, and frankly, near tears. I ended up losing my temper - badly - several times with the children, was a stressed-out mess, and was (I hate to admit it) a misery to live with for several hours until I calmed down.

Wait a minute! Hold everything! This is not how I wanted my Christmas season to be! 

My idea of celebrating the Christmas season is one of beauty, joy, and calmness (though the calmness part is hard with kidlets around). Lots of fun activities, but only so many as can be done without stress. Lots of sitting around the fire with hot chocolate, listening to Christmas music and making paper snowflakes with the children. Lots of driving through silent streets looking at Christmas lights and talking about the first Christmas. NOT me making myself and everyone else miserable as I work myself into a frustrated, irritable monster of Christmas-productivity frenzy.

Yes, this would be more of the idea. 
So after the nightmare of yesterday, I sat down and looked at my schedule for the next four days. No doubt about it, there's a lot going on. And most of it has to be done. I can't show up at my Christmas Eve job and say, "Sorry, didn't practice, trying to focus on the important things of life, you know." Presents have to be wrapped, dishes have to be done, etc. etc. etc.

But everything non-essential has gotten the axe. Farmer's market? Gone. Extra errands? Nope. And Christmas cookies? Well, they will get done - but not till after Christmas. It's not worth the killer stress to try to cram them into already over-crowded days and make everyone miserable in the process.

And I have put "sit down, have hot chocolate, and make paper snowflakes" on my to-do list for the day! (Or rather, everyone else can have the chocolate, and I'll stick with the snowflakes!)

And hopefully yesterday will remain an isolated incident, despite the overwhelming amount of STUFF that remains to be done around here.

(*Note to self AGAIN - Make Christmas cookies earlier in the month!)

I hope that each of you has a wonderful and blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our savior. I hope that you are enjoying this time with your families, and that the coming week is a truly lovely and memorable time for you. I probably won't have time to blog for some time, so in the meantime....

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

Love to you all! 

Return of the dishwasher bandit! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Spicing Things Up a Bit!

This week we had so much fun with cinnamon ornaments! A relative had gifted me with several huge bottles of cinnamon, so this was a wonderful use for it - and it was easy, too!

Here is our recipe:

1 cup (4 oz) of cinnamon
3/4 cup of applesauce
1 Tbsp. each of cloves and nutmeg
2 Tbsp. white glue

Mix, roll out, dry in a very low oven (150) or on the countertop.

I think next time I might add some more glue... possibly a bit of water (to prevent cracking). But the recipe works well as-is.

The construction mess.

After rolling out and punching ribbon holes with a straw. 

These made really cute gifts that we are using for little gifts for extended family and for our baby's therapists. They smell wonderful! 



Have fun! Hope you all are enjoying this week before Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Craft With One Ingredient and One Step? Yes, Please!

A few weeks back, I came across this craft for edible peppermint serving trays over at one of my favorite blogs, Raising Olives. How could I possibly resist a Christmas craft that required only one ingredient and had only one step? 

Basic directions:

Unwrap red or green peppermint candies. Line them up (touching) on a parchment-covered baking sheet, then nuke it in the oven for 10-20 minutes at 350. Let cool, and voila!

We tried to find green peppermints as well, so that I could use Kimberly's idea to make a Christmas tree picture (so cute!), but could not find green peppermints. Next year!

This craft seriously took about five minutes. Did I mention how much I love fast and easy crafts? 

We chose to do smaller trays, 6x6 formation. 

Of course, someone non-crafty like me is sure to mess up the craft, regardless of how mindlessly simple it is! Here is what happened on our first one - we overcooked it and didn't realize that the candy would follow any waviness in the parchment.

Yes, I managed to mess up a craft THIS EASY.
The second time, we got it right - and, of course, that one was the one that I forgot to photograph. But really, we did get it right the second time.

What we learned:

- The bottom is prettier than the top, so flip after they cool.
- Don't wait till the candies look like they've completely melded - that results in the overdone results above. When they're touching, they're done and will be smooth on the bottom.
- We wrapped ours in plastic wrap to prevent sticking.

We put these with the Christmas gifts we gave our baby's therapists today! So much fun! Next year, definitely going for multi-colored - might even use them for the neighbor's Christmas cookie plates!

Enjoy, all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finding What Works: Checklists!!

We have now spent almost a year and a half homeschooling, and most of that time has been spent discovering what doesn't work. I can tell you long lists of things that don't work!

But occasionally, I do - solely by the grace of God - discover something that does work. And this is one of them - checklists!

I first heard about checklists when reading the superb book by Hal and Melanie Young, "Raising Real Men." (If you don't have this book yet... you need this it. Love this book. Go buy it!) They suggested the use of checklists especially for boys, because it lays out exactly what the boy needs to do before he is free to go - and it puts the burden onto the child (rather than the mom) as to how quickly the work is done. In other words, "Here is what has to be done today. When you are done, you are free to go. YOU will determine whether you're here for half an hour or all day."

I later heard about checklists again when we were privileged to hear Heidi St. John at the homeschool convention this past summer. She writes more about checklists on this blog post - check it out!

Mrs. St. John starts using checklists for her children when they hit second grade. I determined to do the same (this is when children can often do part of their work independently), but I eventually caved to my own eagerness and started doing it for our son in kindergarten. He does not work independently - I do almost everything with him, but the checklist idea helps so much! Showing him exactly what has to be done and encouraging him to work through it has been a big improvement on our old system.

Another benefit of this system is that it keeps me off the computer. Seriously! Before, whenever we did anything, I would want to run to the computer to document it in our old record-keeping system. Then, fifteen minutes later, I would discover that I was surfing blogs and browsing Facebook, having completely forgotten my original purpose for having come to the computer. Bad, bad, bad. This way, I print off a set of sheets at the beginning of the week and carry it around with me in my homeschool notebook. When we do something, I check it off (with appropriate notes). When we do something extra, I write it down. All away from the computer!

None of this is strictly necessary, as we live in a homeschool-friendly state that does require record-keeping (which is awesome). However, I am a record-keeper by nature. I want a record of what we've done both for my own satisfaction and for my child's future needs (though elementary records are seldom ever needed), as well as for family, to be able to show to other families who ask, and to have just in case they are ever needed.

I make changes to these sheets on a weekly basis, as new ideas arise and as I test and refine them. Below is our most recent version.

We start with family Bible and poetry time, which includes Bible reading, Proverbs reading, Bible memory, catechism, prayer, and poetry reading. For the kindergartener, I then do phonics (reading lessons), math, and handwriting, as well as crafts, science experiments, and LOTS of reading aloud (history/literature/science), plus one notebooking page per week. Within the next year or two I will add the following: composition, formal language arts, spelling, and silent reading. History/literature and science are currently done informally (mostly through science experiments, reading, field trips, etc.), and how those subjects will be handled in coming years is still up in the air.

Here you go!






A scanned copy of recent filled-out checklists is below (a slightly older version than what we're currently using). The first page is student-specific; the second and third pages would cover all of our children (which right now is just one, but I'm planning for the future when we will have more students). The blurry parts are where I have attempted (unsuccessfully) to obscure personal details.



Do any of you out there use checklists for your homeschooled students? Feel free to pass on any great tips!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Oops, Dropped the Ball on That One!

As I journey further into family life and parenting, I find that it all really is like "spinning plates." Have you all noticed the same thing? I work really hard to get one "plate" spinning (child discipline! reading time! housework! organization! marriage!) and then realize that I've meanwhile really neglected another plate - so I run over to start that plate spinning, and the cycle repeats.

Lately, I've realized that I have seriously neglected one "plate" - or rather, not so much "neglected" as "put back into the cupboard and forgot it existed." That plate is... hospitality. The practice of inviting others to share our home and our time and our space. Though I love having other people over for food and fellowship, I realized that it has not just been a matter of days... weeks... or even months since we've had people over. It's been a matter of years.

Oops.

How on earth did this happen? How did I drop the ball that badly, especially in an area that is biblically mandated, and which I so enjoy?

Well, I think that it had something to do with the birth of our second child. Life has simply become so hectic since then that I have just been... spinning plates. Trying desperately to keep up with the laundry, dishes, meals, child care, home education, housework, you name it - most extras have gone out the window. Just ask me when the last time was that I did something wild and carefree like "get a haircut" or "go out alone with my husband." Yes, both of those can also be measured in years. Hospitality has gone the same way.

Additionally, while DH is far more social than I, he is someone who simply doesn't think consciously about intentionally inviting people over. All of the initiative has to come from me - so when I drop the ball, it doesn't get picked up.

Things definitely need to change. We need the fellowship, and we all enjoy the practice of hospitality (when we don't FORGET it for two or three years). So this is certainly something that needs to go on my to-do list!

Of course, right now we are all sick - and in the middle of the Christmas holidays - so this is not something that I can jump on tomorrow. But it is an area of my life that definitely needs work (like so many others).

I would love to hear from you all - how do you make hospitality a regular part of your family life? I could use some pointers here, ladies!

Have a great night, everyone!

A random after-dinner picture. Because they're cute! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Making Up For the Sins of a Stale Gingerbread House

Today I fulfilled my promise to make gingerbread men (okay, teddy bears... that's the closest thing I have!) to make up for the fact that the gingerbread house we made yesterday was so stale that it couldn't be eaten. Ick. 

Of course, the 6yo's one interest was in licking the frosting bowl. 

Licking the bowl...

Still licking the bowl....
He finally capitulated (under threat of death) and unwillingly decorated one cookie.



And then went right back to...

What, you already guessed?
 I tell you, cooking projects with this child are a major effort. He has only a smidgen of interest in actually helping - he just wants to consume all the tastiest ingredients. Still, I press on.

But despite all that, I am having so much fun this Christmas season! I have put major effort into planning cooking projects and crafts, and I think we're all enjoying it. Homeschooling has been so good for me - it has forced me to grow and develop in ways that are not natural for me (such as the above), and the results are so much fun (not to mention being good for all of us!).

Happy Sabbath, all! I shall be, once again, at home with a sick family instead of at church. But we will enjoy the Lord's day anyhow!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Getting Over a MAN Cold

These past two weeks, we have had a M.A.N. (Mean And Nasty) Cold going through our house, and the fun still continues! I am going on two full weeks of being sick (though am feeling better), and we now have victims two, three, and four meandering through the fun of this virus. With the three illnesses we've had go through the house over the past four weeks, I haven't been to church in goodness knows how long - or to any of the Christmas events that we've had to cancel. 

However, we're still having fun. Though the virus is a long-lasting one, only a few days of it are truly nasty, so we've been having a ton of fun at home. Gingerbread houses, cookies, crafts, Christmas music - the whole shebang. We've been having fun, even though we've been snivelling and housebound!

The Chublet's favorite activity - sitting in someone's lap while listening to music. 



I cheated - this was an extra from last year. It smelled decidedly stale. *Gag* So we're going to make proper gingerbread men tomorrow to make up for that gaffe. 

While I was typing just now, the 6yo came in and said, "Oh, is that a picture of Grandma?" No, child, that's me. Thanks for the encouragement. "Oh, well, it looks like Grandma."

Ah well, we have to come to it some day - we all look like our mothers.

On that cheery note, good night, y'all!

Books, Real Books, and a Close Call With a Trash Can

This week, I mistakenly ordered a library book which turned out to be from a (*shudder*)... a children's educational series.

Why on earth do they publish these things?

Of course, if they didn't, we wouldn't be able to learn things like....



Mmmmm.

I won't say where I would normally place books like this...

Wait, how did this picture get in here? 

... but in the meantime (and especially since my instinctual plan of action would result in some rather stiff library fines), I've just stuck that book right back into the "library returns" box.

Thankfully, the same order of books also contained an excellent book - an illustrated "Little House" excerpt book telling the story of Almanzo's birthday. Oddly enough, it tells exactly the same information (that winter is cold and that people wear coats and gloves in winter), but in place of deadly-dull informational writing, it uses excellent art work, vocabulary, historical and cultural information, and an interesting (and true!) story line that has become childhood memory for countless millions of children.



The more I see of children's books, the more in favor I become of "real books" education. Real books (that is, non-textbooks), teach so much more effectively and pleasurably than textbooks. I am learning so many great things about real-books education, and I see every day how much children absorb from vast amounts of reading good-quality books. Today our 6yo sat spell-bound for "Saint George and the Dragon" (an excellent source of art, language, vocabulary, and medieval mythology) - and what's more, asked to have it again! Reading a dry list of facts about medieval culture would not have held nearly the same amount of interest (if any).

I'm still working on developing my own history curriculum reading real books, but there are already many excellent curricula on the market that utilize real-books education (such as Sonlight). But whether you are a homeschooler or your children attend public or private school, real books are such a great method of education (or educational enrichment) for any family. I can't get enough!

Have a great night, everyone!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Working for My New Bosses

Nope, I haven't taken a job.... but I do have a boss. Possibly two or three of them.

Can you guess who they are?

My new bosses are... my future daughters-in-law. Wow, that sounds weird to say. Really weird, and somewhat alarming. In other words, some day I will be a mother-in-law. Boy, that is intimidating. 

But more importantly than that scary snippet is the fact that at some point, my husband and I will be called to account for how we parent our sons. 

Why?

Because for every parental failing that we let go uncorrected... for every pattern of sin that we let flourish unchecked in our boys... for every untaught skill that we leave unremedied - our daughters-in-law will pay. They will pay in emotional turmoil, in tears, in family strife, in having to live with the faults that we didn't deal with in our parenting journey. 

We have eighteen years with each boy. With our eldest (age six), one third of that time is over. One third of the job we have to do is done, however well or however badly we have done it. But regardless of the quality of our work, time continues on - and whenever each of our boys takes a bride, the truth of our work will out - and the test will come as to how good of a citizen, husband, and father our boys will make.

God, this is one job that I don't want to mess up.

I want our boys to be excellent citizens who make a difference, and to be godly husbands and fathers who lead and direct their families biblically and with excellence. 

Yet I feel so completely and totally inadequate. If I started listing my parenting failings, we'd be here all night. Though I have put blood, sweat, and tears into this parenting gig (massive amounts of all of the above, as a matter of fact), the job that I've done so far feels like... well, like I have so very far to go. And like I have done so poorly, despite my efforts and my prayers. 

If we get to the end of the parenting journey and produce adult sons anything like what we want, it will be by the grace of God alone. 

But I will keep trying. I will keep praying and begging God for guidance and strength. I will fight the good fight. Because it's worth it. It's one fight in life which is truly worth it. After all, it's our God-given job! 

And furthermore, my bosses will have something to say (in another twenty years or so) if I blow it! 

Can you believe that some day these babies will be HUSBANDS?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In Love With "Loving the Little Years"

This week I have finished my second read-through of Rachel Jankovic's "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches." I cannot say how much I enjoy this book!

"Loving the Little Years" is a small book - not a huge reference tome. And it's not a traditional "mothering young children" parenting book - i.e. the type that says "for misbehavior A, apply solution B." Rather, it is an examination of the various challenges faced by mothers of young children, and an examination of how our own attitudes and spiritual growth can have such a powerful impact on our parenting.

I found myself laughing through this book - firstly because I, like Jankovic, now consider taking out the trash to be "a destination." (Yes, I have arrived at that point.) I love her descriptions (like that one) of "motherhood in the trenches." There's nothing light and easy and flowery about mothering young children! It may be joyful, but it is also hard, heart-wrenching work that can bring you to tears on a regular basis. It is hard work, and is full of moments like those Jankovic describes so aptly (as a mom of five young ones, she should know!).

Secondly, I found myself laughing a bit self-consciously as Jankovic time after time (after time) pinpointed my sins and shortcomings as a mother. Oh, goodness - she really knows me! She nailed me! Jankovic has a unique ability to shine her words like a powerful searchlight into her readers' hearts - she really showed me the areas where my sin is holding back my parenting ability or my relationship with my children, or where my attitude really stinks and needs to be improved. Some of these things I have partly recognized, and some were a complete surprise. All were things that I need to work on, and I am so glad that a woman of such discernment and wisdom was able to speak into my life to let me see where I need work!

 I'm not going to post quotes, because I would end up quoting the whole book. But needless to say, I highly recommend this book! I have numerous parenting books, many of which I love, and this little gem is truly one for the collection - a keeper. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Taking Advantage of Other Bloggers' Creativity!

A month or two back, I made the commitment to include at least one craft per week into our homeschool curriculum. This is somewhat of a challenge for me, being that I am not particularly crafty myself, and our son does not tend to be into crafts either. (But we're going to do them anyway, by gum!)

However, my task has been made much easier by all you wonderful bloggers out there who post such wonderful, fun, and easy crafts! This morning we did a craft by The Happy Home Fairy - lighted Christmas trees! So easy, no need to buy extra materials, and fun, too! The 6yo even enjoyed it, which is the crown of all craft achievements - he didn't have to get his hands messy (he hates sticky hands, for whatever reasons), and it included lots of violent hole-punching. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thanks for the idea!

Hop over to the blog to see detailed directions, but in brief: Cut out Christmas tree shape, punch holes, use a glue stick to cover holes with different colors of tissue paper...



Then turn around...

 

 ... and put over an area that will receive light - and voila! Christmas tree with lights! Love it.

It looks better in person, but you get the idea! 
Happy Christmas crafting, everyone! Feel free to post more wonderful easy Christmas crafts to continue saving me all the work of searching for them!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Picture of Diet and Hormones

I wanted to take a moment to revisit this article over at Mark's Daily Apple (my favorite nutrition blog!). Every Friday, Mark posts a "success story" of someone whose health has been transformed through the use of the primal diet. This particular story is told by a woman who started as a health-problem-ridden vegan who transferred over to the Primal Blueprint Diet (note: the Primal Diet is basically the same as the Paleo Diet), and then used a very-low-carb diet to deal with some hormonal issues.

Trot on over to read the full story (it's not long), as well as the comments, but here's the brief version:

As a vegan, she says...
"At the age of 10, I decided to become a vegetarian.... I dove right in and after seven years went whole-hog vegan. Six years later, at the age of 23, I was diagnosed with an immune deficiency, had stopped menstruating, struggled with bloating and constipation, low energy, no libido, and anxiety. At 5’7″ and 135 pounds, I was by no means overweight, but I carried all of it in my belly and had very little muscular definition. The doctors I had seen (and there were many), told me the immune deficiency was incurable and they didn’t know the reason for my amenorrhea."
Transferring over to the Primal/Paleo diet...
"I started seeing an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, and the first time I met with both of them the first thing they commented on was my diet. “Maybe you should eat meat” ... I found local farms and farmers markets, and read a LOT about nutrition. Eventually I was led to The Primal Blueprint and it was exactly what I had been looking for.... It took two years of paleo to curb my regular upper-respiratory infections, but the past four years, I’ve only gotten sick twice!"
And then onto the very-low-carb diet:
"Two years ago, after seeing a kinesiologist who suggested I drop all carbohydrates and sugars to accelerate the healing process, I went zero carb. I dropped underweight, to 113 pounds, because I still wasn’t menstruating and didn’t have hormonal balance. My energy had gone through the roof, though, and my anxiety was no longer overwhelming! Then BAM, after six months of zero carb, my hormones balanced over night – my period started, I gained 25 pounds, grew a bum, went up two cup sizes, my hair curled (seriously!), and my libido came back full-force. Suddenly I was a woman. It was terrifying!" (emphasis mine)
 Anyhow, my friends, all of this long quoting has a point. (Really? Yes!) As you all know, I am researching (with myself as guinea pig) the very low carb diet to find out whether or not it can be used for HG prevention. The verdict is still up in the air, though initial results looked promising. In the above case, however, where the VLC diet was also used to heal hormonal issues (and I think we all suspect that HG might be a hormonal issue, at least in part), the hormonal healing process took six months. It wasn't an overnight thing.

Thus, my conclusion would be that the VLC diet, if it has any effect on HG prevention, should probably be used a good while in advance of conception for optimal effectiveness. It's not just a case of "get pregnant, get sick, go on the diet and feel better." Nope, I'm suspecting that it takes planning and preparation, the more the better.

What do you all think? Ideas? Thoughts? Things to throw?

Have a great night, all!

Material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical care or advice. Please consult your healthcare provider before undertaking any changes to your pregnancy healthcare. Under no circumstances, shall the author be liable under any theory of recovery for any damages arising out of or in any manner connected with the use of information or documents from the site.

Food, Food Everywhere!

Sometimes people ask me, "So, what have you been doing lately?" My most sophisticated response lately has been a blank stare and a response of, "Errr... I'm not sure... Just stuff, I guess." Can anyone relate?

 Life as a wife and mommy of three is keeping me busy almost around the clock. If I'm not doing something productive (like right now), then I sure ought to be. It's an endless round of caring for children, cleaning up messes, doing laundry, reading books, changing diapers, preparing lessons, keeping homeschool records, teaching, etc. etc. etc. And it never ever ends - it just starts all over again.

 But it came to mind recently that a greater than usual proportion of my time these days is being spent in one area - FOOD. Preparing, serving, planning, preserving, feeding, cleaning up. A huge part of my life right now is revolving around food, and it feels a little bit crazy.

 Don't get me wrong - I know that a huge proportion of any mother's time is going to be spent in the kitchen. That's how life has always been since the beginning of time, and it's not a bad thing - in fact, it's a wonderful thing! The kitchen is the heart of the home, and that's awesome. I just seem to be spending close to "every waking moment" in the food business, rather than just a basic majority of my time, and I'm wondering if I need to change something.

The problem - or the source of the issue, at least - is that right now, almost all of us are eating different things. The baby is breastfeeding and eating baby food. The 3yo with special needs is eating a very odd combination of baby food and table food that has to be made up at every meal. The 6yo is eating normal food, though we still deal with picky-eating issues with him. I should say that this is not okay with me (for me, it's a hill to die on), so we are still working heavily with him about eating without complaint and with a good attitude (otherwise, he will complain about every food on the table). So he eats the same thing that we are having for dinner, like it or not, unless it is super-spicy (which is rare), though I do usually let him have finger foods or more kid-friendly things for lunch (macaroni and cheese, etc.). DH eats what I eat, for the most part, which is the very-low-carb diet, with some variety thrown in for him (beans, rice, etc.).

So, my life in the kitchen looks something like this:

- Breastfeeding the baby.

- Producing massive amounts of baby food to freeze.

- Making three separate meals of baby food per day for the baby.

- Making three separate meals of textured baby food for the 3yo.

- Making my own breakfast (eggs, eggs, eggs) and a separate breakfast for the family (oatmeal, etc.).

- Heating leftovers for lunch for DH and I, and making a kid-friendly lunch for the 6yo.

- Making dinner and adding separate side dishes for the rest of the family.

- Besides this is yogurt-making, making desserts for the rest of the family, food preservation (freezing), and working on advance meal prep.

It doesn't look like a lot (and I realize that I'm whining here!), but what it adds up to is meals that take several hours a piece, plus other prep time - and it's eating up my days!

Most of it, however, is rather unavoidable. The 3yo simply cannot eat table food yet. (I tried on Thanksgiving, and we ended up with a massive vomiting spell - it was gruesome). The baby can't eat table food, and I do have to make a lot of my food separately because the VLC diet is so restrictive.

The only thing that I have thought of is following the practice of a local friend, who makes a big dinner every night and then serves the leftovers for lunch the next day - every day. Talk about efficiency!! I love it. The only catch is knowing that I'll have to fight the food fight with the 6yo twice a day rather than once a day, though I daresay it would calm down if I really buckled down and got serious about it. (Maybe then I'd be able to serve my kids sauteed chard for breakfast like she does... right now I'm exhausted just thinking about the resistance I'd get.)

Anyhow, do you all have any suggestions? I think it may just be a phase of life - I need to get accustomed to spending most of my time in the kitchen and just get busy. Speaking of which.... I'd better get back to it!

(I am thankful to report that as of last night I am finally starting to feel a wee bit better, which is such a blessing! Even though my voice sounds like that of a diseased and dying frog, that's better than no voice at all!)

Love to all!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Using Advent Opportunities

One thing that I really love about home education is the constant stream of opportunities to incorporate learning into real life. The opportunities are endless!

For example, cooking really is a wonderful way for young children to learn math! I thought that was impossible when I first heard it - after all, don't you know that math can only be learned from worksheets?? But it is true! Cooking is wonderful for teaching order, ordinal numbers, fractions, doubling and halving, etc. - not to mention reading practice. There are so many possibilities!

One real-life learning activity that I'm doing right now is our "Elf on the Shelf" Advent activity! I must admit that I have never looked up "Elf on the Shelf" to find out exactly what it is, but I heard about it randomly and thought it sounded like fun, so for the past few years we have had our December morning elf hunts to find where I have hidden our "elf." This year, I've added a hand-written note for our son to read (reading practice!) as well as a new Christmas book every day, courtesy of our collection and our local library (more real-books education!). Such an easy way to incorporate more learning into a fun Advent activity. 

With home education the possibilities are truly infinite. I love all that I am learning - and that our children are learning. As one speaker at the homeschool convention said this year, "Look around! Be amazed!" The world is an amazing place, and there are so many things to learn - and ways to learn them. I love it.

Okay, so it's a gingerbread man rather than an elf. He has identity issues. 

Note the creative name we gave our "elf," not to mention my stylish backdrop for my photography efforts! 


Saturday, December 8, 2012

In Which I Do Some Seriously Random Musing

I am currently at home while my husband gets to go do something really fun without me, due to the fact that this week's cold has left me almost completely voiceless (not to mention stuffy and partially deaf). With that in mind, I figured I'd waste a few minutes musing, in a very uneducated and uninformed manner, on a subject which has fascinated and puzzled me for several years.

So.... let's talk hyperemesis gravidarum (I know, new subject, huh?). When I look around, it seems that this condition is fairly common. I know I'm biased, since I'm an HG blogger, but it seems like most people at least know someone who has experienced it. I think I once counted up people or friends/relatives-of-people at our church who had experienced HG, and I came up with something like ten. That's a lot for a tiny church of maybe 100 people! And those were just the ones I knew of off-hand - I did not interview anyone for further information.

Nowadays, medicine is available to control all but the worst cases of hyperemesis. That is, although it still happens, most hyperemetic women are not going to die.

But here's the thing - if we didn't have the drugs treating hyperemetic women, many HG mamas would die. I'm not one of them, but I know several women personally who probably would not be here today if they had not had modern pharmaceutical help and/or hospitalization to get them through hyperemesis.

True, no?

But here's the big question. The really big question.

Where is hyperemesis in the annals of history?

In other words, where are all the recorded deaths in history showing the thousands of women who died of hyperemesis before there was treatment for it?

That's the thing. There aren't any. There simply are no (or not many) gravestones or genealogical studies showing all the hundreds of grandmothers and great-grandmothers who died of hyperemesis. But today, there would be (if we did not have the drugs available to treat it). 

So.... what's the story here?

There is one person whose death I have heard associated with hyperemesis, and that is Charlotte Bronte. Bronte is said to have died from tuberculosis, but some believe that her death was occasioned by hyperemesis. Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
"Charlotte became pregnant soon after the marriage but her health declined rapidly and according to Gaskell, she was attacked by "sensations of perpetual nausea and ever-recurring faintness." Charlotte died with her unborn child on 31 March 1855, aged 38. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but many biographers suggest she may have died from dehydration and malnourishment, caused by excessive vomiting from severe morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum. There is evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus which she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Brontë household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her."
I have always thought it rather odd that no one could tell the difference between tuberculosis and hyperemesis, because they seem as different symptomatically as night and day. ("Madame, we cannot tell if your husband died from chicken pox or a gunshot to the head. The symptoms are so hard to tell apart!" etc.) However, it's hard to tell only reading the historical accounts.

But here's the thing - even if Charlotte Bronte did die of hyperemesis, that is one possible case in all of recorded history (unless anyone else knows of more - and even then, they're still rare). That still doesn't solve the mystery of why hyperemesis is so prevalent today.

Misdiagnosis and underreporting are always possibilities, though they would only be a partial explanation even if this is the case.

Does anyone have any ideas?

I have always believed that hyperemesis, like almost all other diseases, has both a genetic component (the genetic susceptibility) and an environmental component. For example, if you do some research on the history of cancer, you will find that primitive cultures almost always had a nearly nonexistent cancer rate. When Western foods (preserved foods, white flour, sugar, etc.) were introduced, cancer rates began to skyrocket (ditto for industrial chemicals). Today, cancer rates are extremely high - almost everyone I know who has died of recent years has succumbed to some kind of cancer. For us in America, high cancer rates are "the new normal." But that doesn't mean that it has always been that way - it just means that we're used to it. (Ditto for numerous other diseases - see this article for more info.)

Could it be the same with hyperemesis?

I am not, repeat not, saying that hyperemesis (or cancer, or any other condition) is anyone's fault. Far from it. We are all exposed to disease-causing toxins and conditions (electromagnetic waves, poor sleep patterns, stress, you name it), and those things take their toll on our bodies. Every known chronic and degenerative condition (and other countries, of course) - from metabolic conditions, to lupus, to gut disorders (Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, IBS, etc.), to cancer, etc. -  is on the rise in America due to toxin exposure and other modern factors. Is it possible that the high number of women experiencing debilitating or life-threatening nausea and vomiting of pregnancy could in some way fall under the same category?

I ask this for two reasons: (1) the lack of evidence I see for widespread hyperemesis gravidarum in history, and (2) the fact that it is not normal for pregnancy to be lethal (or debilitating) to a healthy woman. For a hyperemetic woman, an unmedicated pregnancy can be a death sentence. That is a pathological state, not a variation of normal.

Could it be gut health? Could it be the crazy number of hormone-simulating or stimulating chemicals (birth control, makeup, toiletries, cosmetics, factory-meat) that are screwing with our hormones? Could it be.... any number of things that I don't even know of?

This is just food for thought - or really, the invitation to tell me what you think, or what questions you have. This is an enigma, a mystery, that I have not been able to comprehend fully, but I thought I'd at least write out my questions and my thoughts so that you ladies could comment. If you feel like telling me that I'm an idiot who doesn't know what I'm talking about, please refrain - I know that I am writing with very partial knowledge.

But I'd love to hear your thoughts!

So much of the research today seems to focus on "finding the cure." I know that finding cures for various illnesses is important - but equally important is investigating the causative environmental triggers and factors that are causing the disease. I would like to see research of that kind for hyperemesis!

Anyone wondering why I'm blogging so much today - well, that's what happens when one can't talk! It comes out through the fingers - I'm oozing the words that I can't say in speech right now.

Cheers, all! Bring on the comments!

Finally, a Good Use for Shredded Wheat

Of course, the real question is - does anyone actually eat shredded wheat? And if so, why?

But in the meantime, while those epic questions go unanswered by the ages, I have found a wonderful use for the stuff!

Actually, it was found many years ago, because I did this craft as a child (and still have it!) - and it's super-easy!  Of course, our 6yo still didn't like doing it (he is not a crafty kind o' guy), but by golly we did it anyway. Why? Because good homeschooling mothers do crafts, by gum! That's why! 

Here you go - enjoy!

- Shredded wheat biscuits, the large kind (though I think small would work as well)
- White school glue
- Green food coloring
- Plastic lids (sour cream, etc.) - use a sharpie to draw out the desired shape of your wreath
- Tiny red beads (or whatever color)
- Ribbon

Mix green food coloring with glue till desired color. In another bowl, lightly mash half a shredded wheat biscuit for each wreath. Pour colored glue over and mix in well with a spoon. Heap onto the plastic lid and shape into desired wreath shape. Press beads in. Let dry. Optional - paint over with a thin coat of white glue (which will dry clear). I suppose you could also do some sort of shellac/enamel/etc. Hang with ribbon as ornament on your tree.

Love it! Enjoy!


The Ingredients of the Pudding Are Not Promising

A quick update on how my very-low-carb life is progressing!

As we speak, I am on... let's see... day 111 of the diet! Isn't that wonderful? And no cheating, either! (Except for taking communion... and tomatoes. I'm guessing that tomatoes are technically off-limits, but I'm eating them in small quantities anyhow. But other than that, no cheating!)

I was successfully able to make it through Thanksgiving on the diet as well, which was no small feat! I made zero-carb gravy and mashed cauliflower, plus a few other vegetables, and got through reasonably well! My main goal, which was to disguise my maneuvers from my sweet in-laws (this is not something I wish to discuss with family) were almost successful - alas, I was not able to hide the fact that I did not eat any of my wonderful mother-in-law's famous stuffing. Ah well, I tried!

A side-effect of the VLC diet has been that I have lost all of my extra last-baby weight! This was, of course, not my main objective, but I'm very thankful for it. The modern advice of "exercise and eat a sensible diet" has never produced one ounce of weight loss for me (though it does produce a lot of frustration!), but going VLC is very effective. Now I'm working on the extra weight that never left after babies nos. one and two!

An amusing sequel to the above is that most of my skirts have gone from "a bit too tight" to "waayyy too loose" in a short amount of time. Combine that with the fact that pulling up on mama's skirt is now baby's favorite way of getting from sitting to standing, and you'll have an idea of some of the very amusing incidents that have occurred around here - thankfully only in our house! In other words, it's time to head back to Goodwill.

I am continuing the diet with unabated enthusiasm (even though that means no Lepkuchen or Santa Lucia bread for me... boo), and will keep you all updated. One thing that HG has produced in my life is an undying thirst for knowledge on the subject of health, and I have learned so much in the past seven years! I'm very thankful for that, because my diet and my health would probably still be pretty abysmal without that.

I found this interesting story yesterday on the use of the very-low-carb diet in regulating women's hormonal issues. I always love finding evidence that what I am doing works on some level, whether or not for hyperemesis! However, since hyperemesis is most likely a hormonal issue, it does seem like it might all tie together. What do you ladies think?

My next project is.... Christmas. (Dum, dum da da dum.....)

Last week I thought that we were having a small Christmas with one side of our family only. And then.... various things happened, and now it appears that I will hosting a (for me) huge Christmas for both sides of the family. Can I say.... that I am stressed out about this? I am indeed. I dearly love both sides of our family, but I do not like mixing them. For some reason it's always horribly uncomfortable to me. Does anyone else experience this, or am I just weird? Love the family, just prefer to experience them separately.

And not only will we be mixing family this Christmas, but we will also be having one family couple over who are divorced in all but legalities, so we'll be dealing with family politics as well.

And not only that, I now must come up with a Christmas dinner that is, after you mix various needs and preferences....

- High-protein, very-low carb
- Gluten-free
- Dairy-free
- VEGAN

And that "vegan" part (from one half of the family) is going to have to mix with the other side of the family, who would consider anything without butter, cream, and bacon grease on it to be something along the lines of mortal heresy.

The ingredients of the pudding are not promising!

But we'll get through it - hopefully peacefully - most likely with a lot of side dishes. I should probably start cooking now!!

By the by, though, to tie this back... Do you ever remember making promises (during pregnancy) like I do?

"God, if you can just make me stop feeling nauseated, I will never, ever, ever complain about anything again so long as I live!"

And here I am, complaining about having to do extra cooking! Folks, it's what you call sheer hypocrisy (or forgetfulness). So I will roll up my sleeves and dig in - and come up for air sometime in January.

Here's to complicated menu-planning! Off to get started!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Taking on a New Tradition! Yum!

Today we did something that I've been wanting to do ever since I read the "Kirsten" American Girl series as a child - we made Santa Lucia bread! So much fun! 

Yes, it looks like a deformed slug, but it really is the authentic thing. 

Then came the 6yo's main goal - lighting the candles. 

The candles, by the way, are supposed to represent Lucia's lighted crown that she wore (according to legend) while delivering food to the poor. 

This child is a pyromaniac looking to happen. 

Using the opportunity for some family pics. 

And some more family pics. 
It was good, or so they say! Definitely a new family tradition - lots of fun, smelled lovely, and a wonderful family experience!

P.S. Today is actually the feast of St. Nicolas - Santa Lucia Day is next week. But it worked more conveniently for us to switch them, and so we did. Heresy, I know.

P.P.S. No, we're not Catholic - it just sounded like fun!

HG in the News

Congrats to Mimi over at "Prisoner in My Own Body" for her published article and TV-interview time! This is awesome!

Thanks also to Molly for her excellent articles "An Open Letter to Her Royal Highness, Kate Middleton" and "HG 101: What It Is and How You Can Help". Excellent resources!

I am not thrilled that Duchess Catherine is suffering from hyperemesis. I have great liking and sympathy for her, and I hope that her bout is short and well-treated. However, I am thrilled that hyperemesis gravidarum is finally getting some well-deserved air time in the mainstream media. Sometimes it just takes a celebrity! I hope and pray that many HG women will be blessed by the greater public awareness of this condition. I am very well-aware that there is a good deal of internet crackering going on, i.e. comments such as "Ah, poor princess, suck it up like the rest of us who live through morning sickness" (those are the comments that get an HG mum seeing red) - but on the whole I have seen a great number of great-quality articles on the subject and a great amount of genuine sympathy and spread of good-quality information. That is awesome stuff.

Have a great night, everyone!

Excellent Post on Hyperemesis

A birth blogger that I follow, Navelgazing Midwife, posted an excellent article on hyperemesis gravidarum. Composed of snippets of testimonies from various hyperemesis mums, it is a wonderful picture of the realities of hyperemesis. Check it out, and share!

Navelgazing Midwife: Hyperemesis Gravidarum

One thing that hits me (again!) as I read this article is how "easy" I had it. My round with hyperemesis would, on the HG scale, rate "mild" or "borderline." I know nothing of the true depths of hyperemesis. My heart goes out to the mums who have been down the darkest paths of HG.

Three Is Easier Than One!

I've had an interesting thought lately, and I thought I'd see if all y'all agreed. Here it is: I find that having three children is actually easier than just one. What do you ladies think?

At first, that seems counter-intuitive. After all, three children do make more messes, make more noise, eat more food, create more dishes, produce more laundry, give me even less free time, and result in more overall chaos than does a single child. True.

But taking things in perspective, it's a matter of child-to-child change. I found having my first child to be nightmarishly difficult - the lack of privacy, of free time, of ability to order my home and my days as I wished. The adjustment was horrendously difficult for an admitted control-freak (and pathological neat-freak).

But with children numbers two and three, even though they added to the chaos and the mess and reduced my free time and household cleanliness even further, the percent difference in all of those factors was minor compared to that uber-steep learning curve of the first child - not to mention the fact that none of the skills (except bottle-feeding with our second-born's nursing issues) had to be learned for the first time.

I'd say that on a scale of zero to 100, where zero is "before kids" and 100 is "beyond insanity," my first child took me perhaps from zero to 60, and each subsequent child has only added three to five more points each. Not bad, considering.

Also, I find that with time and God's grace, I am becoming more and more accustomed to things that I simply could. not. take. before I had kids. Examples? Messes. Noise. Chaos. An unstructured schedule. Interruptions. Multiple lines of action and activity and conversation at once. All of those things that made me pull my hair out at one point, and now only make me pull on my hair rather than pulling it out. (My parenting journey is a work in progress, for sure.)

But overall, I really prefer having three children to having just one. I love the sibling interactions, the feeling of community, the feeling of being a huge pack. I love it! Having grown up as an only child (and not enjoying the experience, though I had a very nice childhood), I am reveling in having a larger (by today's standards) family and getting to enjoy all the multiple-children things that I never got to enjoy as a child.

What do you all think? Was one easier, or are multiple kidlets easier?

(Of course, none of that erases the fact that three do produce more work than one - in every way - and I should get back to that work! Right now! Later, all!)

P.S. The dead cricket is still "hibernating" on top of our freezer. He may be there for a very long time, because neither DH nor I desires to deal with the hysteria of the 6yo over a dead pet.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I'm Sorry This is So Late...

I wanted to make sure you all knew about this hyperemesis blog:

Prisoner In My Own Body

I'm ashamed to say that it's taken me so long to find and post this blog that the mama is almost done with her journey - though that's a wonderful thing for her!

I love what the author, Mimi, has to say on her intro page:
"I decided to publish this blog to... praise God “even so.” One of my favorite hymns is “It Is Well With My Soul.” And one of the most profound lines of the hymn reads “Even so, it is well with my soul.” The “even so” is certainly hard to swallow – no, impossible to swallow…but it is well with my soul because Jesus is the one who will carry me through the darkest storms of life."
(Link added by me - see link for the song and for a history of the song.)

Mimi, your spiritual maturity humbles me! Thank you for sharing!

Love the HG blogs, ladies! Every new blog and new entry raises awareness! Keep them coming!

And while we're at it, remember to keep Princess Kate in your prayers as she begins the battle with hyperemesis - royal or not, hyperemesis is one horrible experience.

When Life Hands You Packing Paper, Make a Thanksgiving Tree!

Two months ago, when DH's work belongings arrived via the post in huge boxes (he'd been working from home when his team was laid off), I immediately snatched up the packing paper that came along with them - perfect for the Thanksgiving tree that I wanted to make!

Of course, DH maintains that the tree really looks like a Thanksgiving saguaro cactus, not a tree. I think he's unfair. What it really looks like is some sort of demented four-armed ghost covered in a horrible tri-color rash. However, I never claimed to be artistic - as I think you'll all agree - and it will have to do:



We were supposed to do a Thankfulness leaf/apple every day through November, but we only remembered about half of the time (though I doubled up on a couple of days to make it look good):


Of course, what I did the rest of the month was try to restrain my fits of frustration and/or rage at the fact that the tree, use however so much tape we would, refused to stay attached to the wall. At least three times a day, it ended up looking like this (or worse):


I'd like to say the project was a smashing success. In reality, results were mixed. I had to deal with a lot of, "Ah, Mom, do we haaaaave to?" from the 6yo, which was frustrating. Child, don't you know you're supposed to express undying gratitude for putting together such an awesome family activity, not to mention evincing an utterly adorable enthusiasm for each day's new phrase of thankfulness? Apparently not. It was more along the lines of, "I don't have anything to be thankful for. Do we have to do this again?" (*Insert sound of me throttling a 6yo.*)

However, when Thanksgiving came around and we could (finally) stop putting up the thankfulness pictures, I got an unexpected crumb: "Mommy, why would we stop doing this project? We have things to be thankful for all year!" (This is where I break down into uncontrollable weeping. Thank you, Lord, finally something I did is sticking!) He has also suddenly evinced a passionate attachment to the Thanksgiving tree and will not let us put it where it ought to go (into the deepest of trash bins). Back to the masking tape we go. 

So there you have it! My uncrafty Thanksgiving. What did y'all do?  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hyperemesis Remembered

This past Sunday, I had the oddest bout of food poisoning/stomach flu that I have ever experienced. Not the most severe (the kind where you're huddled on the bathroom floor hoping to die), but definitely the oddest. And it happened like this...

As I got up to get ready for church, I was almost immediately hit with simultaneous stomach pain and overwhelming nausea. Being not unacquainted with morning nausea (it's a constant when I'm not doing the diet, pregnant or not), I ran for the kitchen and grabbed a piece of cheese to eat (my usual protocol). I immediately started feeling (mostly) better, and I started tentatively getting ready. But ten minutes later - it happened all over again. After that, I went back to bed, where the same thing kept happening. By the time the family got up, I had to tell DH, "Please get the kids some breakfast and do something with them - I'm really sick."

Then I collapsed back in bed and stayed there for the rest of the day (something that has not happened - outside of pregnancy - in a very, very long time). Every twenty to sixty minutes, I would awake to the sudden pain and nausea, eat a piece of cheese (which I started keeping next to me), feel slowly better, and then immediately fall back into an exhausted sleep until it happened again.

Very odd, no? Mild, as it were, but odd.

I noticed two interesting things (just as a side note):

First thing: I noticed that I would begin to wake up several seconds before the pain/nausea cycle started - just like a labor contraction! During my last labor, I noticed that I started sitting up and getting restless several seconds before I could notice a contraction starting - I couldn't feel it yet, but my body knew it was coming. Same thing with the stomach bug.

Second thing: I have noticed that any stomach bug has had more long-lasting effects ever since my first experience with HG, seven years ago. This round was just the same. Even though it was a one-day bug (for the most part), the residual nausea is still not completely gone, a full week later. My body is just more nausea-prone in its post-HG state - I don't know if that will last my whole life, but it is still there seven years post-HG with no sign of abating. My body just likes nausea. Weird!

When I finally rolled out of bed sometime mid-evening, and was able to wake up and survey the damages, I found exactly what any woman would find who has been out of commission for an entire day: A kitchen full of fast-food wrappers and dirty dishes, laundry piled up, messes everywhere, and a living room that looked like Sherman's army just rolled through town.

I am not in anyway criticizing my husband over this! He did a great job of keeping the kids completely occupied during the day, keeping them fed, keeping them alive - and this was the first time that he has ever had to watch three children for an extended length of time. I am extremely grateful.

This experience, however, gave me a chance to reflect anew on the stresses that HG puts on families during the course of the illness. It's not just about physical suffering and the aftereffects of hyperemesis (though that is, of course, major!!!). It's also about the spiritual and emotional stresses upon a family of having mama out of commission and unable to care for the older children and the home. Most husbands, to put it bluntly, will not be able to run a home with any amount of efficiency even approaching that of the mother's care, and both the home and the family suffer.

Here are just some of the emotional stresses that HG places on a family:

(1) The emotional stress upon a mother of having to watch her home disintegrate in order and cleanliness, with no ability to do anything about it (for me this is MAJOR).

(2) Lack of ability to discipline children properly (because acting as a disciplinarian takes massive amounts of energy and willpower).

(3) Lack of routine, structure, healthy food, cleanliness, you name it.

(4) Marital stress due to all of the above and due to the individual stresses upon the husband (now sole and unaccustomed caregiver and housekeeper) and wife (dealing with illness and the inability to run her family).

As with many chronic, long-term illnesses, HG places huge stresses on both the mother and her family. Going through just one day of a mild stomach bug gave me pause to reflect on this and to realize anew how much stress an HG family can be undergoing. It's not just the illness.

If you know an HG family - please realize this! Offer to set up a meal schedule. Show up uninvited and clean her bathrooms by force (because women almost never ask for help or willingly accept offers of help!). Help watch older children. It is all so very much needed and appreciated by HG families! I am forever grateful to the women and families who have helped us through our pregnancies with food and housecleaning help - we couldn't have done it without you all (thank you, ladies!).

Families helping other families in times of trouble are such an incredible blessing - this is a wonderful ministry and a great way to help others! And the same thing applies, of course, to helping any family going through serious illness or other life-stress.

Happy Sabbath, everyone! I'm off to deal with some cranky babies - love to you all!