Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year We Canceled Christmas

Okay, we didn't quite cancel it - more like postpone. (But "canceled" makes for a better title. Literary license, y'all.)

So... Christmas.


Well, I can say that we're not dead. (Yet.) We're not in jail, deported, or on our way to Australia. (Yet.)

But all the same, this has been quite a week.

I won't go into all the details. (I have a weak stomach, and you probably do too.) But Christmas week contained one scary-traumatic incident for our family, three injuries (two of them serious), and one round of stomach flu that felled every single one of us.

Merry Christmas!

Here's how Christmas Eve normally looks for us:
  • Cooking
  • Church
  • Driving to look at lights
  • Tamales
  • Reading the Christmas story and putting candles in the window

Here's how Christmas Eve looked this year!
  • 11:30 p.m. I started throwing up.
  • 12:00 a.m. The 9yo started throwing up.
  • 4:00 a.m. Visiting houseguest #1 started throwing up.
  • 5:00 a.m. The 1yo started throwing up.
  • 8:00 a.m. Visiting houseguest #2 started throwing up.
  • 12:00 p.m. The 6yo started throwing up.

The only people not included in the above were the 3yo, who had brought the bug home two days prior (and who started throwing up on the way home from the doctor's office while we were dealing with one of the aforementioned injuries) and was done throwing up, and my husband, who didn't start throwing up till Christmas Day.

Our other two guests, who were staying at a hotel in town, prudently headed for home (12 hours after arriving), heeding our gentle admonitions: "Flee! Flee for your lives!"

Thus, Christmas was canceled. At the time, I was too sick to care, or even really notice. We officially rescheduled it for the following day (we were still feeling pretty awful, but our houseguests had to leave the next day) and officially mandated that everyone ignore reality and realign with our household dates.

"No! Don't say Merry Christmas! Today is NOT Christmas! It's Christmas Eve!"

We ended up serving a very simplified Christmas dinner that took us about 20 minutes to put together (ham, harvest potato casserole, peas with mushrooms, orange jello salad), and the children enjoyed unwrapping the presents that I'd - thankfully! - wrapped earlier in the month.

Even in the midst of a really nasty stomach virus, God's grace was evident in the storm. I was so thankful, for example, that the baby slept through the worst of my stomach bug - so that by the time she was ill herself, I was physically able to care for her (which I wouldn't have been an hour or so earlier).

Additionally, my husband stayed well while the rest of the house was ill, and was able to clean up messes, serve Gatorade and applesauce, change diapers, and do endless loads of laundry. He said that he came out of the experience with a whole new appreciation of my role at home. *Smile.*

Secondly, this Christmas was a great lesson in the benefit of fulfilling Christmas obligations (i.e. shopping and wrapping gifts) early in the month. If I'd tried to do what I did last year - i.e. wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve - none of it would have happened. As it was, I was able to pull out the box of wrapped gifts that had been ready for some time and simply hand it to my husband and son to put under the tree That was lovely.

(Ditto for Christmas cards and handing out Christmas treats to the neighbors. Early is good. Things that I left till the last minute - like baking Christmas cookies - didn't get done this year, though I still have hopes for next week.)

Lastly, an odd thing happened.

Usually during the Christmas season, and especially during Christmas week, I indulge in the heinous habit of driving myself (and the family) batty with long, overly organized, self-imposed to-do lists. I really can go nuts with this. It's my personal despair-inducing self-destructive behavior.

This year, I had those lists all ready to fill in. But they're still blank. With all of the crises we had this week, I simply didn't have time to prepare them. Every time I thought, "Okay, things are calming down, maybe now I can get back to normal (and making my to-do lists)," another emergency or crisis would hit.

But oddly enough, we still had a lovely Christmas. Even without my rustling volumes of neatly tabled hour-by-hour to-do lists.

The lesson isn't too hard to learn here. Busyness doesn't mean a happier or better Christmas.

Why do I keep having to learn this lesson?

Hopefully I can keep this year's lesson fresh in mind during coming years and let myself relax during the holiday season, instead of the usual frenzied madness of stressed-out "Dear Lord, I can't wait for this horrible time to be OVER!" Christmas insanity.

Lessons learned this week:

(1) Earlier is better for Christmas shopping, wrapping, cookies, and cards.
(2) Simpler is almost always better for the holidays.
(3) God's grace is present even in the midst of emergencies and stomach flu.

Right now, I'm thankful that we're all still alive, and I'm praying that the near-constant state of emergency and illness is drawing to a close for our family.

I'll close with a few pictures. (We don't have many, as our picture-taker, i.e. my husband, only lasted a few minutes out of bed on our "Christmas" morning.)

(Actually, I find that I had only two pictures from Christmas morning, so I'm going to pad this with a couple of pictures from earlier in the month.)

A paper doll Nativity set sent to us by family members:

You know this wasn't Christmas, because my husband is sitting upright and isn't throwing up.

The two pictures of our actual Christmas morning:

This year's Christmas gifts were a big hit. This was a huge triumph for me, because finding gifts is not my strong point!

Some of the children' favorites were their Revolutionary War hats and (adult-size) tool belts, a rocks and minerals identification book, boots and a tape measure for the 3yo, and a set of sorting cupcakes for the littles from Learning Resources.

All in all, Christmas this year was wonderful. (Though I pray it doesn't repeat itself like this too often.)

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Friday, December 18, 2015

How I Prepare for Pregnancy

In our modern culture of fast food and instant health care, we have a lot of advantages. But we also have a lot of disadvantages. Namely, we're not living as we should, food-wise and lifestyle-wise, and our health suffers.

One of the areas in which we have floundered (badly!) is the area of pre-conception nutritional preparation for the childbearing years.

In traditional societies, couples about to be married often went through a time of preparation, eating specific cultural super-foods in order to nourish and build up the body preparatory to marriage and subsequent pregnancies. And in many traditional societies, it was customary to give women of childbearing age extra-nourishing foods - such as raw organ meats, which are a super-food all by themselves.

However, those days are - alas! - far gone in America. If you go to a doctor today and tell him that you are about to be married and ask what you should do to prepare for possible pregnancy, you will get the same answer in virtually every doctor's office - "Oh, um, take a prenatal vitamin." *

That's it.

And that, my friends, is not good enough.

Pregnancy and childbirth are an incredibly stressful time for a woman's body. A pregnant woman is growing an entirely new body for the little soul she is nurturing! While a prenatal vitamin might be a good start, it's not going to cut it for helping a woman through the incredible stresses of pregnancy, especially repeat pregnancies, especially repeat difficult pregnancies. **

Additionally, for those of us who experience extremely difficult pregnancies due to strong NVP or hyperemesis, pre-conception nutrition is our only shot at giving baby a good start - because once pregnancy begins, good nutrition has to go out the window in favor of survival.

This is where I start inserting random pictures into this post in order to get more clicks.
Sorry, folks, you'll have to live through it. 

There are several other factors to consider as well:

(1) Our bodies in the modern world are being blasted with additional stressors in the form of pesticides, altered DNA sequences through GMO foods, artificial hormones in meat and dairy, artificially altered fatty acid profiles of the animal fats we consume (through poor feeding practices), and industrial toxins through environmental contamination - to name a few.

(2) Most of us have long-term damage in the form of impaired insulin regulation from the unhealthy carb overload we've experienced in this country since the bad diet advice of the mid-1900's (fat is bad! eat more sugar!) became virtually institutionalized and culturally normed. Many of us are dealing with systemic inflammation, chronic disease, and other issues stemming from that same diet (high sugar with loads of pro-inflammatory vegetable oils and a deficiency of healthy fats) that most of us were raised with.

(3) Most modern foods are less nutritious than they were a hundred years ago due to soil-depleting farming practices and selective breeding programs that favored size and yield, while leaving flavor and nutrition in the dust. So even if we eat healthy foods like broccoli, that broccoli does not have the same level of micro-nutrients that broccoli had in the early 1900's. That's a problem.

(4) The modern American diet has canceled out lots of super-foods that previous generations relished, making us even unhealthier than we were before. Examples: bone broth, lacto-fermented foods, organ meats, meat with skin, gelatin, seaweed.

Thus, if you're about to be married (or are already married!) and want to be open to God's gift of children.... Sister, you've got some work to do if you want to be ready. 

Those of us who have experienced hyperemesis gravidarum - or other hardcore pregnancy problems - know how incredibly taxing pregnancy can be when our bodies are maxed out and suffering under terrible duress. In those cases, preconception preparation is even more important.

With that in mind, I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you about what I am doing for preconception preparation for pregnancy. Unfortunately, I have no guarantees of what will or will not work to prevent recurrent HG. All I can do is read, research, apply what I've learned, and pray for the best outcome possible.

My pre-conception protocol focuses on the following areas:

  1. Overall macronutrient ratios
  2. Nutritional super-foods
  3. Probiotic foods
  4. Supplements

I will update my official pre-conception pregnancy protocol next month, and that post always includes detail-work like brands and places to purchase. But for now, here's an easy and conversational description of the different things that I'm doing to prepare my body for possible pregnancy.

* We've all heard about the magnesium/morning sickness connection. Magnesium is my friend! I take an oral supplement, plus an occasional glass of Natural Calm. I also use a magnesium oil spray. Additionally, I schedule a weekly Epsom salts bath - but that almost never happens (being that it requires half an hour of uninterrupted free time - HA).

* One of the most important factors of my preparation is working on gut health through the use of lacto-fermented foods. Lacto-fermented foods can also be termed probiotic foods, being that they are fermented foods that are teeming with friendly bacteria and/or yeasts. Adding these foods to my diet made a huge improvement in how I feel! Unfortunately, these foods have been all but eliminated from the American diet. And if you buy the modern forms of such foods, like the "pickles" and "sauerkraut" from the store, they are neither lactofermented nor probiotic, and are useless from a health standpoint. The lacto-fermented foods that I include in my repertoire are raw pickles, raw sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, and yogurt.

* Another item on my list is focusing on super-healthy fats in my diet. This means nixing fake fats (margarine and synthetic shortening), minimizing unhealthy industrial seed oils (cottonseed, corn, canola, soy/vegetable) and using lots of saturated animal fats (from meat and butter), coconut oil and coconut milk, and nuts and avocados. I also take a fish oil supplement in liquid form.

* One thing I'm really bad about is drinking enough water. My normal habit is to forget to drink anything all day, and then realize sometime mid-evening that I am burning with thirst. When I took a day to measure how much water I was drinking, I found that it was less than half the recommended amount for my current weight! Yikes! So now I strive to drink more water (I've only made it to the recommended amount once). I also add lemon juice to my water, which is liver-cleansing and alkaline as well. Most people recommend adding apple cider vinegar to water, which I would do except for the fact that I loathe the taste. But if you can make it work, it's a good option.

* My favorite brand of dessicated liver is Radiant Life. But it's quite pricey, and so I came up with a cheaper alternative - namely, eating raw liver! Yes, really. (Stop gagging, it's not that bad. Really.) I cut up raw, organic, grass-fed liver and freeze it in pieces, then thaw one each day, cut it up with kitchen sheers, and swallow it whole (like a pill, with water). I'm really excited about this, and I can feel how good it makes me feel. Right now, as I'm out of liver, I'm feeling the stress! I can't wait to buy more.
In case you should be crazy enough to try this, do not, under any circumstances, attempt to swallow a piece of frozen liver. Don't ask me how I know, but I can tell you that I'm surprised I survived the experience. Let it thaw first. 

* A few months ago, while reading (on nutrition, what else?) I discovered that Brazil nuts are high in selenium - so high, in fact, that eating two Brazil nuts a day is the same as taking a selenium supplement. Okay, why not? Americans are deficient in selenium (surprise!), and it's an essential micronutrient. Nuts are also a great source of other micronutrients, so it's a win-win scenario.

* Also a month or two back, I read about the health benefits of blackstrap molasses. While the carbs may not jive with a very-low-carb diet, I justify it by the mineral content awesomeness. Hey, and it's super-yummy, especially when you're sugar-deprived.

* One of my favorite health books is The Wahl Protocol. The author, Dr. Wahl, recommends eating the following amounts of vegetables daily: 3 cups of greens, 3 cups of sulfur vegetables (that is, onions and cruciferous vegetables), and 3 cups of dark-colored vegetables. While I never reach those levels of awesomeness, that is my goal, and I'm working toward it. When I remember it (which is almost never) I try to make spinach and coconut milk smoothies to get in extra raw greens.

* I do my best to use bone broth often, and I also add gelatin to any hot liquids I'm drinking. Bone broth is incredibly healthful, and it's so easy to make. Just put a chicken carcass (after you've baked it and eaten the meat) into the crockpot with water, peppercorns, and some carrot-celery-onion (I keep a container in the freezer for leftover bits of those vegetables so that they're always available and never wasted). Then cook for 24-48 hours, cool, strain, and freeze! Our only problem is that we go through it too quickly!

* I'm trying to add dried seaweed to our diet, also per the Wahl Protocol. This one's been trickier, but I'm working on it. On my to-do list is nutritional yeast, another nutritional powerhouse.

* With my last pregnancy, I had very good luck using the Very Low Carb Diet to avoid hyperemesis. However, I have not been able to keep up that diet long-term. Right now I am working on a lower-carb Trim Healthy Mama style diet. Each mama will have to decide for herself what type of macronutrient ratio works for her during the childbearing years.

* I also take a number of supplements:

  • Turmeric (anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial)
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Multi-vitamin
  • Zinc

* I also spend time reading (and reading, and reading) on the subject of nutrition. Every book teaches me more! And every book helps me to make more connections. While almost none of the books I read talks directly about morning sickness, I am starting to understand the human body and the underlying causative factors of chronic illness. I highly recommend that any mama interested in health or NVP-prevention start investing time and energy in reading health-related books. (See my growing list here.)

* I have a whole different list of supplements that I take during the last trimester of pregnancy to prepare for birth and postpartum, but I won't go into that here. See my supplement list for that information.

* There's also work of a practical nature that I do to prepare for pregnancy:

  • Scripture memorization - Pregnancy is frightening for post-HG mamas. Having Scripture readily available to meditate on is very helpful. 
  • Decluttering - Stuff = a nightmare mess, especially when one is too sick to do anything about it. Fewer toys = much better. 
  • Training of children - Pregnancy is my litmus test of how well I'm disciplining the children, because usually I'm too tired to enforce much of anything during pregnancy. I need to take advantage of between-pregnancy times to make sure I teach and train as well as possible. 
  • Exercise - Another one where I'm pretty bad on consistency. Lately I've been getting back into more barre exercises, which has been lovely, so that's a better bet for me than straight "exercise for exercise's sake."

As you can see, this is a lot of work! And there's really so much more to be done.

But the question really comes down to this... Does it work? Yes, it sounds nice on paper. But does it make a difference?

Yes, it does. A huge, amazing difference.

I have been through pregnancy (full-term, that is) four times. As I've gradually incorporated these supplements and dietary choies, my pregnancies have gotten easier. My last pregnancy was even non-hyperemetic and drug-free. Things like afterpains - which are supposed to worsen with each pregnancy - have become more and more manageable. My births have gotten better (less bleeding, less time with afterpains, shorter recovery times), my postpartum times have gotten easier, everything has improved.

There are no guarantees, of course. And I cannot make any promises for the future. I could have a very difficult next pregnancy (though I pray not). But I have come to see that prenatal and pregnancy nutrition is absolutely vital to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum outcomes.

Additionally, whether or not a supplement and lifestyle regimen "works" to achieve a certain goal (such as avoiding hyperemesis), it cannot but be helpful to build up a body's strength, health, and nutrient stores before undergoing the rigors and stresses of pregnancy. A woman's body will have better outcomes for herself and her babies when her body is well-prepared.

If you're working on your preconception or prenatal nutrition, I would love to hear what you have learned! Please tell me in the comments!

(Really. I mean it. Leave me a comment, and make my day.)

* A similar situation faces already pregnant women in America. In virtually every doctor's office there will be absolutely zero dietary advice given to pregnant mamas (and what is given won't be very good). The only time a pregnant woman receives dietary advice in the American obstetrical system is when she is (1) gaining weight faster than her doctor likes, or (2) tests positive for gestational diabetes. But in virtually all other cases, she will be told, "Oh, don't worry about it. The baby will get what it needs from your body." Again, not good enough. In cases of severe NVP, a pregnant mama can do nothing about her diet, and she doesn't need the stress of being told "You need to eat for your baby!" But in cases where a mama has the ability to eat, there are definite pregnancy super-foods that can be a huge blessing to her body and her baby's developing body.

** One thought that came to mind while researching this subject was that the cavalier nature with which the modern medical establishment treats pre-conception and prenatal nutrition may stem partly from the smaller size of modern families. In past ages, when childbearing and breastfeeding were often constant throughout the fertile years, consequences were far more drastic when a mother neglected nutrition - for example, the old country saying that a woman would "gain a child, lose a tooth." This might be furthering the negative trend of neglecting pre-conception and prenatal health.

Sharing at Modest Monday Link-up!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Around Here Lately, December 2015

Merry Christmas, dear friends!

Last month my husband and the two boys attended our local chuck wagon cook-off. They had a wonderful time!

Originally I had planned to go too. But for the second time in three months, as we loaded the van, my husband said, "Um, does this one feel hot to you?" Cue another three weeks of an illness that just left the home. For some odd reason, this time around I was the only one not felled by the bug.

I came down with the bug day after I wrote this post. Boo. But yay for vitamin C therapy! Which reminds me that I have a post written on vitamin C therapy that I never got around to publishing. I'll have to dig it out! Soon. Really.

A few pictures:

The next week our little lady celebrated her first birthday - sick! We had a quiet celebration. I decided to make homemade cinnamon rolls for a birthday breakfast, which were delicious (a bit too delicious, never mind how I know). When birthday cake time rolled around, we all agreed that we didn't need to cut into yet another sweet item, so we put the cake in the freezer for another day and had cinnamon roll birthday cake instead.

Our annual Lepkuchen Day was this past Saturday! We always enjoy this so much. This year I left some of the dough in the freezer rather than baking it all (it keeps forever!). That way I didn't have to find something to do with all the cookies, and I saved an hour of baking.

And look what some sweet friends ordered for me! A special made-to-order Lepkuchen Day apron! Is this wonderful, or what??

I won't use it as often as my other aprons, because I am very hard on aprons. (I wear them around the clock and wash them almost every day.) I want this one to last! It will remain a precious memento of very special friends and a very special holiday.


Also last month I finally got around to making our "Diet of Worms" cake for Reformation Day (weeks after the event). This was my idea of a sick joke (Luther on trial, etc.), but I think it's going to become an annual tradition - it was a huge hit. Next year I hope to find an all-natural version, or even develop my own.

Either way, it was delicious!


Thanksgiving rolled around before I knew it!

We did a small Thankfulness Tree activity. The last time we did this, I made a huge paper tree on our wall (which fell down approximately three thousand times a day), had us put on new leaves daily, and was ready to scream by the time it was all over.

This year, I made a tiny 8x11 tree and did the activity over four days only (as opposed to the whole month of November). So much easier! And a lot more enjoyable.

A few pictures from Thanksgiving weekend:

And our eldest's prize find of Thanksgiving weekend - a tarantula!

He was thrilled.

Speaking of our eldest, the 9yo is growing like a rabid moose. He's also eating like a wolfhound, and the changes I'm seeing are monthly if not weekly. Wow. I find myself in newly unfamiliar territory with a child who now wears my socks, borrows my shoes, and is far too heavy for me to even think about picking up any more. I'm thankful that I've insisted on rules of no wrestling with mama, because at this point, I think I'd lose any sort of physical tussle.

Mentally, though, the 9yo is still very much a child. I wonder when that will start to change too.


In our history studies, we recently arrived at the American Revolution. Our history book only devotes one week to the revolution, which simply isn't good enough. Thankfully it was perfect timing for us to spend our six-week Christmas break immersing ourselves in the topic, which we are thoroughly enjoying. There is so much good material on this subject!

(This puts us behind in our history schedule, meaning that we will be working on the end of SOTW Year 3 at the beginning of next year, instead of starting Year 4 at the beginning of the year. But it's worth it.)

Here is an impromptu (totally uncoached) Boston Tea Party reenactment by the 9yo and the 3yo. They kept it up for a good half an hour, until the box was reduced to bits. Shouts of "Liberty!" and "No taxation without representation!" provided endless amusement for my husband and myself.

In our Cantering the Country studies, we finally finished up the state of California. So much fun! What a fun state to study. I learned more from our two months of study than I did living in the state for twenty-plus years!

Speaking of California, we are keeping the residents of San Bernardino in our prayers, as I'm sure you all are. Both my husband and I have long-term ties to that city, as well as family still living there.


Now that Thanksgiving is past, it's time for Christmas! We have our Advent wreath up, our decorations up, and will start our Advent calendar on Tuesday.

For anyone who doesn't care for scraping oodles of candle wax off of the table every night (such as Yours Truly), jar candles are the way to go for the Advent wreath.

I celebrated the beginning of the season by taking down last year's Christmas cards! Here is what our wall has looked like all year (until this past weekend):

A few years back, we started the tradition of leaving Christmas cards up for an entire year. This has been a lovely idea! We are able to enjoy cards and pictures all year, instead of just for the month of December, and it also aids us in family conversations when we mention friends or family - if the children have a hard time remembering who is who, we can oftentimes just point to a picture on the wall! We treasure these cards.

Today I received our first Christmas card, so it's time to start fresh. I also need to get moving on my own Christmas cards!


And finally, we celebrated National Clean Out Your Freezer Day by.... cleaning out the freezer.

I hope you're all suitably impressed.

I took a picture quickly, before the frost could start to form again. (Seriously. I don't know why I even bother with this, it is so short-lived.)


Dear readers, I hope that you are having a wonderful Christmas season! I will be around, but not often. The Christmas season is a busy one, and so is this season of life in general. There is simply so much to do. And it never ends. Just as soon as I think I might have caught up with the dishes, laundry, etc., I take a quick breath and find that it's all back again.

This is a packed season of life, and I can feel how the Lord is using it to refine my husband and me and work us further and further away from selfishness into a self-sacrificial and others-centered life.

It's hard. But it's good.

(But it's so hard.)

(But it really is good.)

And I'll have time to blog regularly in another twenty or thirty years.

This year I have purposed to maintain a peaceful Christmas season. I've definitely learned this the hard way. Christmas is "a good servant, but a bad master." It can turn from a delightful season full of wonder and worship, into a hellish nightmare of stress and lost tempers - seemingly at the drop of a hat. It really only takes a couple of overcommitted days to work that ugly transformation.

Thus, I'm being very careful with our Christmas season. I'm considering every commitment carefully, and trimming all extras. In addition, I've already finished Christmas shopping and am hoping to get Christmas cards out this week. I am trying to be mindful of my goal of maintaining peace every moment of the day.

(Does this happen? No. But it's my goal.)

My mantra is: Keep the house clean, the laundry done, and lots of good food prepared. Whatever Christmas stuff we have time to do joyfully and sanely can happen after that. All else gets the axe.

When Christmas rolls around, it pays to be brutal. (Seriously.)

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

* If anyone wonders why the dates are all over the place in the above piece, it's because I took about two months to write this post! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Something You Never Thought You'd See!

Something you never thought you'd see...

... fall leaves in Phoenix! Yes, really!

Normally we simply don't get good fall foliage colors in the valley. Our pathetically warm fall temperatures simply don't create the right environment for color development. But this fall, due to the cold snap we had in November and early December, we are getting the loveliest colors I've ever seen here. This weekend I insisted on stopping the car several times to snap a few pictures, and we're all enjoying soaking in the colors. It will be many years, most likely, before we see colors again as pretty as these.

Though my husband might not complain about that, judging by the exasperated sighs every time he heard, "Wait! Stop the car! I've got to get a picture of that one!"


And from our house:

Happy winter!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Article: Preparing for Future Pregnancies as an HG Mom

I have corresponded with Cathy from Holy Temple Under Renovation for several years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her!

Cathy is a three-time HG mum, with one non-HG pregnancy (her latest) under her belt, and she - like so many of us! - is always looking for ways to improve future pregnancy outcomes, with the goal of preventing recurrence of hyperemesis gravidarum.

I am thrilled to share her latest post:

Preparing For Future Pregnancies As A HG Mom

Her lists, which include a vast amount of both research and experience, contain tons of good ideas for post-HG mums who are looking for a better experience next time. Check out her post!

Cathy, thanks for sharing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for December 8th

8 Common Cold Cures That Actually Seem to Work - My favorite is vitamin C therapy. (Mark's Daily Apple)

Why You Should Want Your Kids to Be Bored in Church - "They may appear to be bored.  They may appear to be concentrating on their drawings instead of hearing a sermon.  But, the truth is that they are listening to every word that is being spoken." (For Every Mom)

12 Mainstream Pregnancy Lies You Likely Believe - Excellent information here. (Modern Alternative Mama)

Why Large Family Moms Won’t Tell You What It’s Really Like - Oh, how I love this! It's all so true. (Raising Arrows)

Let's pause for some ADS (Articles on Depressing Subjects)...

Women in Combat and the Undoing of Civilization - I am more disappointed than I can express in this latest top-down decision in our nation's leaders. (Denny Burk, hat tip to
See also All Combat Roles in Military Open to Women (Always Learning)
"If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women." - John Piper

The Paris Horror: Real and Explicable - Even if I didn't agree with the author's points, I would read his writing just for sheer pleasure in his razor-sharp wit. (Crisis Magazine)

And now back to happier topics...

Enjoy the Holidays with Young Children - Excellent. (The Humbled Homemaker)

Superwoman Doesn't Exist - Preach it, sister. (Truth at Home)
Also, Do You Know What Causes That? - "So, really, the answer to “Do you know what causes that?” is that GOD causes that!" (Truth at Home)

Recipe Corner

This year we read a new Thanksgiving book, Cranberry Thanksgiving. It was an instant favorite! And of course, we had to try the recipe at the end for "Grandma's Favorite Cranberry Bread." It was absolutely terrific, and far better than my usual cranberry bread recipe (which I never make). We used the freshly-ripened oranges from our neighbor's tree, and I happily added several tablespoons of the zest (rather than the one teaspoon. the recipe prescribes). We also used dried cranberries instead of raisins. We highly recommend the book and the recipe!


As we are currently going through Revolutionary War history, we - of course! - had to pull out George Washington's Breakfast. (I highly recommend all of Jean Fritz's Revolutionary War books. They are awesome.)

And that, of course, meant... making George Washington's breakfast! We had previously tried the recipe in the book and found it somewhat lacking, so this time I just made fried cornmeal mush. It was awesome, and a huge hit. I think we'll be making it often. I simplified the recipe by stirring the grits (cornmeal) into boiling water instead of making a cornmeal/water paste to stir into boiling water.


This Low-Carb Baked "Potato" Soup was absolutely the best soup ever - even though I forgot the cheese! Wowza. You have to try this one.
* I used stock instead of water/bouillon, regular bacon instead of turkey bacon, and omitted all of the extra spices. 


This recipe for Dark Chocolate "Puppy Chow from The Modest Mom was an answer to prayer - literally. I love making Christmas treats for our neighbors, but our growing number of neighbors (as empty lots were built up this year) and a certain lack of time (four children, anyone?) plus extras (one neighbor is gluten-free, etc.) was making me bite my nails with "how on earth am I going to get this done??" stress.

This candy/snack is my answer for this year! I'll be making it this week.


For Reformation Day, I made Taste of Home's Dirt Cake (also known as our "Diet of Worms" cake). Healthy no, fun yes. And delicious! Next year I hope to find an all-natural recipe, but this one was easy and a ton of fun.

From the Bookshelf

Sorry, folks - no time for pictures this time. 

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street - I spend part of my free reading time catching up on all the great children's literature out there. This is my newest! I have no idea where I came across the title, but it's great so far. I was surprised to find this book of recent vintage (2008), because it reads more like an early-twentieth century, maybe an E. Nesbit or an Elizabeth Enright (possibly Edward Eager). Except for a couple of recent references, the style is of an earlier era. I love the delightful combination of new and old.

Ben and Me - Our latest history read-aloud. The tale of Ben Franklin's life, as told by his good mouse Amos. A classic and screamingly funny at the same time. During history reading time, I'm also catching the sequel...

Mr. Revere and I - Also intensely funny, written by Ben's horse! I can't wait to read more.

Sugar Nation - Some complaints about this book (language, attitude, morals), but lots of great stuff too. A detailed treatise on the connection between sugar and the currently exploding diabetes epidemic in America. The most important part of the book to me, though, was the moral of the important of parenthood done well (the author weaves the story of his diabetic father through the story). If we fail at parenthood, as the author's father has, then not much else matters.

Keeping Our Children's Hearts: Our Vital Priority - I started this book, realized that it was too insanely awesome to keep to myself, and asked my husband if we could read this book together. He agreed, so we began again last night. I am so excited about this book. To date, I have not yet met a Maxwell book that I didn't love. (See their complete listing here.)

Trim Healthy Mama Plan - Yes, I've finally taken the plunge. Having begun, I can't wait to read more! This book is screamingly funny and very well-written, and I'm already learning. Even if I don't adopt this plan, I know I'm going to learn a lot from this awesome material.

Follow-up on Previously-Mentioned Titles

George Washington's Spy - So good that I'm using it as a history read-aloud. The 9yo listens intensely and requests more. Today we read three chapters!

The Science of Skinny - So much good material! I plan on reading this one again to catch all of the new concepts.

Dear readers, have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for November 17th

Hello, everyone! I hope that you're having a wonderful week! Around here we are just good and... sick. After a week and a half, I am the last one standing while the bug circulates through our house. We're clearing our schedule and camping out at home while we wait for everyone to feel better, and in the meantime, here are a few fun things for you all! 

God's Not Really That Holy, I'm Not Really That Bad - "If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you, too, have known people like this. Over time it became clear that their faith had been a mirage. They had deceived the people around them, but they had first deceived themselves. And any time I see these people fall away I am left asking, What would have marked them as true believers? How could I have known that they really got the gospel? How could they have known that they really got the gospel?" (

Secondhand Christmas Gifts: Money-Smart or Scrooge at Heart? - See, I'm not the only one! (The Humbled Homemaker)

(Actually, I love receiving second-hand gifts. They feel like they have a history, and like they've been specially selected. Anyone else feel this way?)

How Long Do Homeschool Lessons Really Take? - This is truly the down-and-dirty, minute-by-minute per subject, per grade level. Pure gold here. (Raising Arrows)

What Keeps Moms From Getting Enough Rest? - Excellent points from several mamas. I agree - it's always over-commitment and lack of planning that gets me. (Jess Connell)

Shutting Down the Homeschool Fight (Before It Even Starts) - One of the best (and funniest) articles I've ever read on the subject of answering questions and challenges posed to home educating families. (Simple Homeschooling)

Remember, everyone....

If you're putting together an Operation Christmas Child shoebox, collection week began this past Monday, November 16th, and lasts through Sunday.

This is our first year making an OCC shoebox in a very long time. It was fun!

I have to admit the sorry truth. I didn't start this project with truly philanthropic motives. I really just wanted to have an antidote to the me-me-me attitude that some people's children (certainly not mine) may or may not exhibit around Christmas.

But as we progressed, we all got interested in the project, and it was a lovely time of others-focused ministry. The children had a wonderful time, and we are planning to repeat this every year.

Packing an Operation Christmas Child box can be pricey - or not! Here are some of the ways we saved money to it a bit more economical:

  • I stocked up on school supplies during July, when they're on sale here in Arizona. (Pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers).
  • I shopped at Goodwill. Items need to be like new, but that's easy to find! (Stuffed animals, hat, ball, matchbox cars).
  • I let the children add some like-new toys of their own. (LEGOs)
  • I filled in loose ends at the dollar store. (Pencil sharpeners, paper pad, candy.)


From the Recipe Box

Radishes! Radishes! Did you know that cooked radishes are a great substitute for potatoes in low-carb cooking? Yes!
I used radishes in a low-carb beef stew, and also in this wonderful hash browns recipe. I used bacon grease instead of cooking oil, and cooked them for about 20 minutes before browning. Once you get past the pink color (I just thought of them as mini red potatoes), they were delicious!

Four bunches of radishes, quartered.



From the Bookshelf

I originally thought that this book was a summary book of "sugar and health." It is, but it also has a specialty area - diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition about which I knew very little before reading this book. 

And now I know a lot!

This was a fun book. Easy to read, lots of great information. A great read for those of us who read obsessively on health, or, for the rest of the normal population, a great book for those who want to learn more about diabetes management and the treatment, reversal, and prevention of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. 

I came to this book reluctantly, as I didn't care for the title (and still don't). But it was recommended by a friend, so I decided to give it a go.

And was I glad that I did!

This was an amazing book, full of awesome food chemistry and food history. It contains a thorough review of all of the modern concerns in the "health vs. food industry" wars - fats, sugars, food additives, etc. - and the handling is both in-depth and user-friendly.

If you want to learn about food (and to avoid the myriad of problems caused by modern fake foods), this is an awesome resource.

George Washington's Spy

The basic plot: Children travel back in time to the Revolutionary War, where after getting separated, some shelter with Tory Loyalists and some join the Patriots.

This is my current reading book for our daily history reading time. It's a fascinating book that I am greatly enjoying, and am finding (so far) much better than the Magic Tree House books. I love the balanced approach of showing the good (and bad) sides of both Whig/Patriot and Tory/Loyalist forces.

This book does provide some fairly detailed less-than-pleasant historical details, including: public hangings, tar and feathering, chamber pots, medical bleeding, death, etc. - so make sure that any child to whom you give this book isn't too young or sensitive to handle the material.

This book is actually the sequel to the original "George Washington's Socks," which our library unfortunately doesn't have. I hope to find a copy of it some day!

Especially for Locals

Getting Started Homeschooling
Saturday, January 16, 2016, 10 AM - 1:30 PM

If you’re new to homeschooling or thinking about this exciting education option for your family, be sure to join us for this 3-hour seminar. AFHE board members will present three workshops including Getting Started Homeschooling, Curriculum Approaches, and Ideas for Lesson Planning and Scheduling. Lunch is included.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT: Desert Foothills Library, 480-488-2286
More information here.

This event includes some of my favorite local home education speakers. If you're new to home education or are considering it, this will be an awesome event! 


Dear readers, have a wonderful week!