Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Tip for the Day

My 'food' book is my lifesaver lately. I don't really know what to call it other than 'food book'. It's just a spiral notebook with 3 sections that has become one of my best friends.

About a month and a half ago I took a few days and gathered all of my 'go-to' recipes and all of the other ones that I throw in occasionally and even some new ones I'd found that I wanted to try. I then organized them in my recipe box by category, mains: beef, chicken, meatless; desserts; sides; sauces, breads, etc.
Then I decided what to use those 3 sections for in my book:
* Section 1 has my permanent daily schedules written out - it will eventually be one page for each day of the week M-F, but for now it's 2 day's/page b/c my schedule will be changing near the end of May because I will no longer be babysitting and I didn't want to waste the extra pages in the book (I include my food prep. time in my schedule so I thought the best place for it would be in my food book).
* Section 2 has lists of EVERY meal that I make (not recipes, just what they are). It's broken down just like my recipe box - by type and each type is on a different page.
* Section 3 has my menu plans in it. I just write each week out and once I've filled up the page (front and back), move on to the next page.
So, on the weekend when I am getting ready to do my meal planning for the following week, the only thing I need to get out is my notebook. Everything is right there in one place and I can just pick and choose from Section 2 (the list of foods) what I want to put together for each meal. I typically plan 2 weeks at a time because I only do my major meal grocery shopping every other week, then I just pop in for fresh fruits/veggies, or minor things we need on the off week.
Then after I've written out my 2 weeks worth of menus, I take it one day at a time and go thru the menu/recipe and my fridge and pantry and write down anything I'm out of that is needed to make that meal and then do the same with the next day and so on. Then I go thru and add things to my list that we typically use every week (snacks for the kids, basic kid friendly things I like to keep on hand in case one of them hasn't been feeling well and isn't up to eating what I've prepared and any lunch items I need to get the kids and I through those 2 weeks since Michael takes leftovers to work).
Doing this has cut a tremendous amount off of my monthly grocery spending. So much that we're probably going to lower our budget since I know I can come in WAY under what I originally had budgeted. We'll put that money toward the final debt that we're paying off.
For more wonderful kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Kitchen Tip Tuesday post.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - 4/28/08

Here it is time for another menu. Where does time go?

I had an easy food week this past week because Michael has been gone and it's not an easy task to prepare dinner with a 4 yr. old and 23 month old 'helping' so I decided to make kid friendly meals that were easy and wouldn't cause much fuss! It was a success!

I changed things up a bit, but made everything I had planned (just on different days).

A couple of weeks ago I read some tips on non-soggy french toast so I decided tonight's dinner of breakfast would be french toast. I don't remember where I read these tips or I would link to them, but the main tip was to add about 1 Tbsp. of flour to your batter mix (I use about 2 cups of milk and 1 egg). The other tip wasn't 'soggy' related but it was to whirl the batter in the blender for a few seconds to incorporate all the egg because we all know there's nothing worse than soggy french toast with egg cooked on the outside of it!! This worked a charm, no egg bits on the toast. The flour worked pretty well, only I think I had the heat too high so it was still a tad soggy on the inside but nice and crispy on the outside. Next time I'll just cook it slower...

Enough of my french toast ramblings and on to this weeks plan.

Michael won't be home until Friday evening and I haven't been to the grocery store (except for some fresh fruit) since a week before he left. Tomorrow would normally be my grocery shopping day but I am NOT taking my kids with me. They turn into someone else's children when I take them to the grocery store. Most other places (even shopping at the mall) they behave really well, there's just something about boys and grocery stores.... So, this week is all about using what I already have.

Monday - Maccaroni and stewed tomatoes (actually it's whole wheat penne and canned organic stewed tomatoes)

Tuesday - Frozen pizza with toaster oven tots

Wednesday - French toast (using the 'cook-it-slower' method mentioned above!)

Thursday - Philly cheesesteak with sauteed peppers and onions (I have a small bag of the veggies already cut and frozen) and grated mozarella. There's only enough of this for ONE so the kids will either have pb&j since I have an extra loaf of bread in the freezer or some canned soup.....

Friday - Stir Fry (moved from 2 weeks ago)

Saturday - I'm taking the day off.

Sunday - Shepherd's pie [note to self - don't forget the corn this time!! :-)]

I wish I could show you a picture of how bare my pantry and freezer are to show you what I had to work with planning this menu...... But alas, Michael has the camera (and the old one really did die this week) since he's in lovely DC.

For more wonderful menus, be sure to visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Loot!

This is my 'loot' from my outing this morning. The boys and I went to the Just Between Friends semi-annual consignment sale and did really well.

Here's what we got:
~ For Jacob:
*Arizona brand (JCPenney) short sleve button down
* Black Polo Ralph Lauren Jeans (retail new for between $39-$55)
~ For Eli:
* Sonoma Brand (Target) button down and matching t-shirt
* Faded Glory (Walmart) button down and matching t-shirt
* Faded Glory denim shorts
* Sonoma navy nylon shorts
* Gap blue jeans (retail new for $39.50)
~ 2 gallon size ziplocs of Mr. Potato head stuff (5 potatoes -2 large and 3 small - and at least 20 pieces)

Everything we got is in WONDERFUL condition and barely looks like it was ever worn. Do you want to know how much I paid for all this great stuff?

$42 and that includes my $2 entry fee! One pair of those jeans alone would cost that new (not that I would EVER buy jeans new from Gap or a department store that sells Polo.....). What a steal! It averages out to $4.20 per item, which is a bit much, but considering the two great pairs of jeans I got (that will last through next winter because I bought them a little big for both boys), I think I got a great deal!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh my spelt bread heaven!

I made homeade bread for the first time today. Well, that's not true really, I've made quick breads before, but never real bread (you know the kind that actually have yeast rather than baking soda/powder and salt and you have to knead them and let them rise, etc)!

The bread I made was spelt bread and I used this recipe. Let me just say that it was super easy and much quicker than I thought it would be. Since I don't have a bread machine I thought it would take ages to do all the kneading and rising, etc. But I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.

It's actually suppose to be baked in two 9" pans, but I had one 9" and one 8" and the 8" one puffed out the top and was really tall (that's it in the photo)!

This is the yummiest bread I have ever tasted and it's totally 100% healthy!! The spelt makes it so light and fluffy and the taste is perfect. Because I live at high altitude (6,500') I had to alter it just a little and ended up using around 5 1/4 cups of flour rather than 4 1/2, but if you live at high altitude you already know that you must add more flour (or less liquid) to make baked good work properly.....

Why am I making homemade bread? For two reasons:
1) It's way cheaper and this recipe made more than a commercial loaf of bread. I figured it up to be $1.70 for this recipe and the commercial (non-hydrogenated, non-high fructose corn syrup) loaves costs $3.17. Yikes, that's a savings of 54% per loaf!
2) Eli was recently diagnosed with asthma (he currently has pneumonia to go along with it) and now that I actually know what has caused all of his lung issues (croup as many as 10 times and RSV at least once, but I think 2x) since he was little I am going to start combatting the illness 'holistically.' Right now he is using a nebulizer with steroids to get his lungs back to normal since he's been really sick and I really don't want him on medicine for the rest of his life when asthma can be directly related to diet. He also has severe eczema which is also directly related to food sensitivities. Wheat is a huge contributing factor for both ailments (along with dairy, soy and sugar). We already don't do soy products for various other reasons, so I'm going to start testing him for sensitivities to those other items listed. I'm going to completely cut out everything on the BAD list (over a period of time - not gung-ho because they might revolt and not eat at all if I did that!) and see how he does and then we'll add things back one at a time every couple of weeks to see if I can determine what his sensitivities are. The eczema will probably be easier to figure out, the lung issues may take more time. Or this may be a permanent dietary change for all of us.

So, I tried the spelt bread recipe today to see if we would like it and if it would be a viable option for a wheat alternative. I also made homemade pizza yesterday with a spelt crust and homemade sauce and it was sooooo yummy. I really like the flavor of spelt, have I already mentioned that!? We will also be experimenting with non-wheat pastas and I bought rice crackers today and the boys really liked them. As far as sugar goes, I already use stevia some and another organic non-refined sugar so I think we'll just have to get accustomed to the stevia (contrary to what the research says, I DO think it has a bitter aftertaste....) and start using that as a sugar replacement. The dairy will be the hardest for Eli (I don't mind so much for myself because I only tolerate cow's milk in my cereal and have been on a dairy free diet before and milk and cheese alternatives are fine with me). Eli loves cow's milk and cheese, etc, however, I've known for a while that he had some sort of dairy sensitivity because he drinks lactose free milk. We'll probably switch him to almond milk (YUMMY!!!!) or rice milk with alternate cheese as well. We've also added a calcium supplement to the boys' regimine since we won't be taking in as much dairy. They now get a probiotic, multi vit., whole food supplement, calcium and cod liver oil daily.

Any suggestions from anyone who has cured/controlled their own or their child's asthma by diet alone would be greatly appreciated. I already have one friend who has done this with her 2 children and walked another friend thru it and all have been symptom free for over a year now! Not even a sniffle or winter cold for the first friend's kids (don't know about the other friend).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Holy Nalgene Bottles, Batman!

Ok, so it's not as bad as I make it sound. Really, I only had 3 pieces of really bad plastic in my entire kitchen but those three pieces were all 3 of my water bottles that I take to the gym each week...... and I found no other plastics (tupperware type stuff and drinking cups included) that was on the AVOID list (except for the entire stash of Avent baby bottles that Jacob and Eli drank out of for the first 8-9 months of their lives [I didn't actually check the bottles because they are in the crawl space, but on the link I provided below, they are listed as a #7, you can bet I'll be checking that out as soon as I can get into the crawl space]). Tell me, what good is it feeding your children breastmilk if the bottle you're feeding them with could be poisoning them. Good thing I'm not going to be working out of the house with this one and don't have to worry about bottles.... If I do, I'll invest in some new ones that are safe - or maybe even the glass ones.

Here's the scoop: Avoid plastics #3, 6 & 7 and if I'm not mistaken, 7 is the worst (the one with high levels of BPA). Everything else is suppose to be ok. So take a guess as to which one ALL of my culprits were, yep, #7.

I found this link that was really helpful in determining a few of my items that didn't have numbers on them.

~*~Edit on 4/24: Stephanie at Keeper of the Home wrote a wonderful post today giving some more information on BPA and possibly being able to return your #7 plastics for a full refund!

My first Kitchen Tip Tuesday


This is what the 'hub/command center' of our house looks like. This is one corner of my kitchen counter that is reserved for running the household. Yes, we have a desk/office, but it's in another room. The kitchen is where we enter/leave the house (through the garage) so it just makes sense for me (and I'm too organized to let it get messy) that I keep everything near where we enter/leave the house.

Before I go to bed I also have a look at the calendar and to do's for the next day to make sure I'm remembering everything for the next day (and to prevent forgetting early appointments!).

So basically, everything gets dumped here during the day (mail, Jacob's school papers, any papers I receive from appts., etc.). I try to keep it organized during the day, but that's not always a possibility given the sometimes hectic nature of my day. So, at the end of the day everything is sorted and dealt with. Once I come downstairs in the morning after my shower, the only time I go up is to put the kids down for naps or when I'm putting away laundry (and I never remember to take anything with me to put away) so when I go up to go to bed every night, I take anything that needs to be put away with me.

I do plan on eventually moving everything over to a better space in my kitchen (the top shelf of the bakers rack). This is a perfect spot for all of my 'running the house' stuff, but I want to get a sorter to hang on the wall and have yet to remember to go to the right store to look for one when I'm ALONE (ie - NO KIDS talking my head off while I'm trying to think)!

You can find other great kitchen tips at Tammy's site.

kitchen tip tuesday

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - 4/21/08

We had a bit of a change in our menu for this past week.... The meatloaf and sides I made on Monday night ended up making TONS of leftovers. I went ahead and made the nachos I had planned on Tuesday because those are a huge hit with the kids, but decided to defer Wednesday's stir fry to another week. Instead on Wednesday we ate left over meatloaf again (we also ate it for lunch on Tuesday!!). Then after I posted last weeks plan, I remembered we had a church even tonight that we would be eating at, so tonight's meal was skipped as well.
Turns out I probably wouldn't have cooked anyway because Eli is sick again and has been in much need of mommy-time and lots of cuddles. He had what we thought was a cold, that has turned into something horrendous - he's had the cough of the century - complete with gagging himself into vomiting because he just can't stop coughing. He's also had a fever of between 101.5 and 103 for FIVE days..... So, it's been a wee bit hectic around here with trying to keep up with everything and Jacob and give Eli the extra attention he has needed.
This weeks menu consists of very kid-friendly foods. Michael is leaving tomorrow morning at 0-dark-thirty for a TDY (military) and will be gone until Friday next week. So, rather than cook entire meals that make leftovers, I've decided to just prepare simple meals that don't require any prep. work and that I know the kids will eat - something happens to them when Michael is gone and they just become totally different kids - if you have a husband that travels you will completely understand that.

Monday - Grilled cheese sandwiches made with 100% whole wheat bread - with tomato soup added for me

Tuesday - Chicken nachos (with leftover chicken that I froze from last week's nachos)

Wednesday - Pancakes with 100% pure maple syrup

Thursday - Pizza - I might try a new recipe for homemade spelt dough I found and make my own sauce - this will completely depend on how the day has gone and how the children are behaving - otherwise I have a few store bought ones in the freezer!!

Friday - grilled cheese again

Saturday - Tacos (seasoned ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, homemade sour cream with sauteed peppers and onions on mine) on 100% whole wheat tortillas
Sunday - Lasagna - it's a store bought frozen one - but I know it will make lots of leftovers and the kids LOVE it!

PS - Michael will be in the DC area and I wonder if there's anywhere that he MUST see - other than the obvious places (Wash. monument and mall, Downtown DC, he might even be able to get into the Pentagon since he's active duty AF, Baltimore, etc.). I've also requested he go by and take photos of Charm City Cakes (aka Ace of Cakes on Food Network) when he's in Baltimore though I'm still working on finding the address for him!!
Check in at I'm an Organizing Junkie's site to find more wonderful recipes for the coming week.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


The other day, Tuesday, to be exact, I wasn't in a very nice mood in the evening. I was rude to Michael at least once and he called me on it, but I neglected to change my attitude. I went on about my evening (it was close to bedtime) never getting any nicer and Michael decided he would just go to bed without really even saying much to me..... I got it, it really affected me that he would do that. What he did was probably the best way to handle me at that moment in time and God has really been doing a number on me since then.

For example, I decided later on to get into my Bible - I've been lacking in this area lately and that is probably part of my problem (not making time for God's Word) - and opened up to my daily Proverb and what do I find? Proverbs 15:1 - A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger. Yikes.... that was written just for me.

I've realized, after much prayer and reflection, that I haven't been very nice lately (probably a couple of months). Not just to Michael, but to the kids as well. This is absolutely unacceptable. I don't want my children to learn bad attitudes and not-nice behavior from me. I also don't want them learn that it's ok for a wife to criticize or disrespect her husband. The way I have been behaving is shameful. I am teaching (though inadvertently) my children how to disrespect others and they are also not being nice to Michael and I or each other. I believe that approximately 90% of this is due to me. I am the one who is with them the majority of the time and the one they learn most of their behaviors from.

How can I expect first time obedience from Jacob if I then proceed to yell at him or have a nasty tone in my voice when correcting? How can I expect Eli not to touch something (though he's been disciplined 100 times for the same thing) when I am yelling at him not to do it? I do not want my children to be scared into obedience, but rather choose obedience because it is the Godly thing to do. I am not being obedient to my calling as a mother if I am not choosing to lead my children in loving, respectful choices. I am also not being a Godly wife if I am constantly challenging the things my husband says, speaking to him disrespectfully and not trying beyond measure to make sure he's happy.

Jacob's birth story

HUGE warning - if you're squeamish, you should move on. The actual act of child birth is not necessarily a 'pretty' sight in the first place, and let me just say that Jacob's birth was anything but normal....

Second thing - I've not written this post to please others. I've written this for ME. After all, I do use this blog as my journal and that's exactly what this post is meant to be. I've never sat down and written this story out because, well, there are SO many emotions that have had to be worked thru and sometimes just thinking back to his birth is difficult for me. So, if you're in for the long haul of this post, you might want to go grab a cup of tea before you begin reading because it's sure to be a long one.

My pregnancy with Jacob was fairly uneventful. A little nausea and exhaustion in the beginning, a painful sciatica during the mid-months and a sleepless last few weeks were really all I had to complain of. Nothing of note really. The only thing I look back on and feel that I could have changed was the 53lbs I gained!! I had the first-pregnancy-syndrome that many get. You know the one where you think you have the right to eat whatever, whenever you'd like because you are eating for two now........ I was also working full time and I think that played into eating more convenience foods than I probably would have otherwise.

Michael and I took the childbirth classes that the hospital offered and I felt extremely confident going into this. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain and felt that I would fare pretty well. I decided on no epidural (due to a family history of complications) and because it's just my nature, knew there'd be no way to convince me otherwise - even in the midst transition.

My due date was January 9, 2004. I went in on January 12th, very early, to be induced since he was measuring a little big and I was sooooo uncomfortable. The nurses got me all prepped - and one even tried to convince me that I wanted the epidural as an option - UGH - but I held firm. The pitocin was started around 6:30 am (I was already dilated a little so I didn't need any cervical treatment) and I began contracting pretty quickly. Although I had no idea I was contracting because at that point I couldn't feel any of them, but the monitor said otherwise.

When the dr. came in on his morning rounds he decided to break my water. Sidebar - I'm not really sure why I let him do this, but maybe I just didn't know any different. Then in a minute or two I remember saying "oh, so that's what a contraction feels like!" After that they got quite intense and gradually got stronger - as they are suppose to. I don't really remember a whole lot of what went on during the labor other than changing positions a lot, having Michael put on some classical music, not being able to get out of bed because they had put a scalp monitor on Jacob's head and had inserted an internal contraction monitor in my uterus (another "why did I let them do that?"), and being VERY uncomfortable. But because I was taking things one contraction at a time I was dealing just fine.

I got the urge to push at about 2:30pm (8 hours into labor), so the nurse was called and sure enough, I was fully dilated!! But Jacob was still at a -3 station (meaning his head wasn't fully engaged) so it was probably going to take a while to get him moved down. After about an hour of pushing the dr. came in to check on things and discovered that Jacob had actually turned his head to a transverse position. Basically instead of being on his belly with his head straight, he was on his belly with his head turned to one side. This made it extremely difficult for him to 'fit' properly and that was causing the delay in him dropping. After another hour or so of very creative pushing positions trying to get him to turn back on his own with no luck, the dr. decided it was time to try to manually turn him using forceps.

My nightmare began at that very moment because the dr. told me I would need to have an epidural because it would be an extremely painful procedure. OK.... I continued pushing until the anesthesiologist arrived and then had to manage to somehow NOT push while I was getting the epidural. Epidurals are not instant, they take a few minutes to work, so while I was 'numbing up' the dr. got everything ready. But something just wasn't right. I developed horrible pain (that I had not had prior to the epidural) just to the left of center at about bladder level. Stabbing pain and no one was doing anything to me for me to feel this kind of pain. Meanwhile I'm still contracting and still have the urge to push and can also still feel my left side pretty well. They gave me another dose of the epidural meds and he even adjusted the catheter in my spine a little to see if maybe it went in too far or something. Still no relief, but onward we must press.... So, the dr. decides that even though I have this "window" of pain, he's going to do the forceps turn anyway. He slides them in, turns Jacob's head, removes them and I feel Jacob 'flip' right back. Turns out, he had turned completely on his side, not just turned his head.... "I'll give this one more try" he says. And the same thing happened........... By now, I'm totally exhausted because I had already been pushing for 2 hours before this epidural/forceps thing and when he says that he just doesn't think it's going to work and I'll need a c-section I'm eager to just get it all over with and have a healthy baby.

The anesthesiologist gives me one more dose of epidural meds and they prep. me for the surgery. Michael gets in his cute little paper outfit complete with booties, hat and mask and is told to wait until they come get him. They take me down the hall and wheel me into the brightest room I've ever been in. Then the anesth. does this little thing to my skin - the only way I can describe it (because I couldn't see what he was doing) is like a pin prick. He made lots of little pricks with something sharp over the area where the incision would be - to see if I could feel anything - and he gives the all clear, that the outer layers of my skin are numb..... Sidebar - this seems like a huge problem to me - just because the surface of my skin seems numb technically doesn't mean anything under it is (remember, I still have pain). They get everything all ready and the dr. comes in to begin the surgery.

He begins cutting and cauterizing and is going from his left to right (started on my right). When he crosses midline I begin the feel the searing pain of him cutting me and the intense heat from the cauterizing tool. I let out a YELP of somesort and in a breathless (in tremendous pain) sort of way tell him that I can feel what he's doing.... He responds with something to the extent of am I sure it's pain and not just pressure? HELLO everything was fine until you crossed over to the area where all the trouble was to begin with..... Everything stops and I get ANOTHER dose of epidural (cause the first 3 didn't work, so let's try one more just for good measure!) and when that didn't work, I was given several shots of local anesthetic to actually numb the nerves in that specific area. FINALLY some relief......

The procedure resumes and they deliver Jacob's head, but then there's trouble delivering his shoulders. So, a nurse lays across the top portion of my belly and begins pushing toward my feet and then another nurse is around the bottom area of my belly pushing toward my chest. Turns out they were trying to 'pop' him out withouth causing any damage to the incision. This was incredibly painful and I couldn't breathe very well because of all the force being applied to my body. But, in just a minute or so (though it seemed like 10) his shoulders slipped right through and then the dr. lifted him out (by this point I was already crying from the extreme amount of pain I was experiencing) - 6:28 pm. He cried and gurgled, etc. and the dr. said "here, look quick" because you're going to sleep so we can fix you up without any more pain..... Goodnight. Sidebar - my medical records say that he was delivered with 'moderate difficulty'!! What a joke!

I woke up from the general anesthesia in recovery and immediately asked two things 1) what time is it? and 2) how big is he? It was a whole TWO HOURS later when I finally woke up and Jacob weighed in at 9lb 15oz, 23.5" long and a head circumference of 15.5". Yep, a toddler right there in our midst!! I couldn't even hold him when I first woke up because they had him in the warmer with a thermometer thing strapped to him. I had to wait for the nurse to come back and get him for me. I have to say though, they did wait to bathe him (just wiped him off) until after I had held and tried to nurse him.

Jacob ended up being very healthy, we spent an extra day in the hospital because of jaundice, but no other complications, just BIG. I, on the other hand, had a terrible recovery - the extra day in the hospital was actually very nice. Because of the intense amount of trauma I experienced, it took me weeks to be able to come off the pain meds and be able to move around adequately.

While I am extremely thankful that both of us are healthy and have no lasting effects (physically) from this birth, I am at the same time very mournful of this birth. This is in no way the way it was originally intended to be. I grieve the childbirth I lost and am saddened by the way things ended up happening. I experienced severe problems with nursing - probably a combination of the pain I was in and delayed nursing due to having been under general anesthesia and my milk did not come in for a full SIX DAYS. I also had what I now believe to be some sort of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - different than post partum depression - though I was never diagnosed. Compound on this the fact that we lived 1,100 miles from my family and Michael deployed to Kuwait when Jacob was only 6 weeks old for 4.5 months and you have yourself a new mom who has just experienced a horrible birth, with no help at home, very few friends (and all of them work full time) - though the friends I had were incredible!!, no breaks and I was working from home at that point. This also means there was no one around to tell the dr. I was having these problems and no one that saw me consistently enough to even be able to tell something was wrong.

All I have to say is God is amazing! I never could have made it through such a trying time without Him leading the way. Amazingly, through all this, my faith never waivered. I do remember asking "why me?" I've since learned to say "why not me?" I do not and may not ever know why this happened to me, but I do know that it has been a tremendous learning experience. I've also learned that things don't always go as planned - even if you are in a right place with God. He will never let me go through something that I cannot handle, even though at the time it may seem that way. I cannot tell you how 'I' got thru this season because I didn't, He did. He also put some amazing friends in my path and the knowledge of what to do differently the next time and the ability to have true sympathy for people who have been thru traumatic situations in their lives.

Tune in in a few weeks for the next segment in the child birth sagas.... Eli's birth story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pint size helpers!

It's amazing what little ones actually beg you to let them help with. Yesterday I was sweeping the kitchen floor and Eli started yelling at me "help you!!", "I do it!!" until I let him in on the fun! If you don't make housework seem like a chore, they don't really know they're doing work! It does take longer to get things done with little ones underfoot, but I must say, it's much more rewarding!

Here is another from today of Eli helping me vacuum. He is really doing it too, it's turned on and everything!

And big boys get to help with bigger jobs, like cleaning the toilet and doing all the dusting in the living room. He thinks it's so cool to help me out with my cleaning duties, I love it!

And let's not forget that big boys also get to help out in the kitchen with yummy jobs like making smoothies!!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mother's Necklace

I have added a new custom necklace to my jewelry website and would love for you to come check it out.

Here are the details:

Are you looking for that special piece of jewelry for your mom, wife or a grandmother? Well, look no further.

This custom Mother's necklace is just what you need! With swarovski crystals representing each birthstone and an optional center swarovski crystal heart, that special mom in your life is sure to feel special being able to display her children's birthstones prominently!

* Up to 10 individual birthstones per necklace - contact me for pricing if more than 10 stones are needed.
* Optional swarovski crystal heart.
* 18" chain
* Please let me know the following when you place your order:
~ How many stones
~ The month of each birth (not colors - only birth month)
~ Would you like the heart or not?


Menu Plan Monday - 4/14/08

Last week's menu went very well. We tried a new recipe on Monday and really liked it! It was chicken and quinoa stew! Yummy. The only thing I did that made it a bit too sweet was when I replaced the white wine with apple cider vinegar, I put a little to much vinegar in. I could have put just a splash and it would have been fine. Overall though, it was nice and yummy!!

I ended up not making dinner last night (meatloaf w/roasted potatoes) because the baseball game that Michael was suppose to take Jacob to on Friday night was cancelled and their tickets were transferred to a Sunday afternoon game that went until almost 7:00 so they ate hotdogs at the ballpark - BLECK. I also ended up taking Eli to Denver for the afternoon because his shoes finally came in at Nordstrom. No, I wouldn't typically buy a toddlers shoes at such an expensive place, so read this previous post to find out why.
Anywho, it's time for my menu again:

Monday - Meatloaf with roasted potatoes and green beans (carried over from Sunday)

Tuesday - Homemade chicken nachos

Wednesday - Stir Fry veggies with steak and a special treat of organic mac and cheese for the kids

Thursday - Spaghetti with side salad

Friday -

Saturday lunch - leftover chicken stew that I froze

Sunday - Breakfast

If you want to join in the fun of menu planning, visit the other Laura's site.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cloth diapers - making the switch

In a previous post, I mentioned how we were doing our small part to help the environment and go 'green' in whatever ways we could manage right now.... well, I finally made the decision, did all my homework and discussed with Michael and we have officially decided to switch to cloth diapers.

Let me start off by saying that if you think of cloth diapering as the way it was when we were babies (messy, stinky, leaky, plastic pants that had tight elastic bands, etc.) you are very wrong. Cloth diapering has come so far in the last probably 10 years, it's absolutely amazing to look at what's out there. Try doing a google search for cloth diapers and you'll be inundated with all kinds of options (I'll discuss those a little further down) and price ranges and maybe even a local diaper service in your area! I know when I first got my idea a few months ago, I didn't know where to begin when researching. So I just started by looking at the different kinds of diapers available and then from there started researching pricing options and from there finally decided what was right for us.

We were going to just wait until the baby arrives because we were hoping to have Eli potty trained by then, but we've encountered a diaper rash issue (since the virus) and I've also come to the realization - after putting Eli in cloth training pants for a whole day (to let his bum air out a bit) - that he is absolutely NOT interested in the toilet. He'll go every now and then (as in, maybe once a week), but mostly just sits there for ages and then goes as soon as you put his diaper back on! He also will tell you after he's gone in his diaper but refuses to go on the potty. It's not a big deal to us since each kid is different (Jacob was 100% potty trained just after his 2nd b-day...) and really you can't force them to do it until they decide they're ready. So, I decided I was tired of buying disposables and am ready to go ahead and make the switch. And since I'm going to go ahead and buy toddler size diapers and covers now, I won't have to buy them when the new one reaches that size.

To put it all into writing for everyone, here's what we're doing:

We will be using prefolds and water proof covers. This is by far the most cost effective cloth solution and seems like it will work best for us.

There are tons of options ranging from prefolds to All-In-Ones (AIO's) - with MANY different options in between (fitteds, pocket diapers, diaper services, and patterns available to make your own). All in ones would be ideal if you had the money to spend up front for 30 or so of the newborn size, then 30 or so of the medium and the same for large. All in ones can go for as much as $15 EACH. So that's a total of $450 just for enough diapers to get you to around 8 months of age.... and so on. That's not including liners, inserts/doublers (for extra nighttime protection). Let's just say, that's way too much for us (and cost wise would have more of an impact on us than disposables), though I would love to be able to use that option, it just doesn't seem worth it for us.

Here's how much we're spending on the toddler size prefolds and covers:

*24 prefolds @ $36/dozen = $72
* 5 Bummis Super Brite covers @ $11.50/each = $57.50
** Totalling $129.50 (which will get us thru until Eli is potty trained)

I also spent a while calculating the cost of disposables used to age 2 (I think Eli would have been in them longer than that - probably an extra 6 mo.). Here's what I came up with (for Eli - this would be different for each child):

* Ages birth-6mo. - an average of 12 diapers per day = 84 diapers/wk. = 2184 diapers
* Ages 6-12 mo. - an average of 8 diapers per day = 56 diapers/wk. = 1456 diapers
* Ages 12-18 mo. - an average of 5 diapers per day = 35 diapers/wk. = 910 diapers
* Ages 18-24 mo. - an average of 5 diapers per day = 35 diapers/wk. = 910 diapers
**Grand total of diapers for birth-24 mo. = 5460 diapers

I even took it a step further and calculated the cost of a diaper in each size - 1 thru 6 - of Huggies... I know I'm a little cooky, but I really wanted to see cost wise, exactly how cost-effective this would be for us.

I won't bore you on how I came up with these calculations, but here is the break down:

* Size 1-2 @ $.15 each
* Size 3 @ $.20 each
* Size 4 @ $.22 each
* Size 5 @ $.26 each
* Size 6 @ $.31 each

We would have used appx. 2112 size 1-2; 752 size 3; 752 size 4; 910 size 5; 934 size 6.
The total spent on these for Eli since birth is $1,151.38. Now, I know that doesn't seem like a lot broken down over the course of 2 years, but it really equals $47.97 per month on diapers alone.

So, if I take the total amount I will spend on cloth diapers and covers and add in $5 per month for the extra energy I'm using for 3 loads of laundry evey week it comes to $508.50.

* 1151.38 - total on disposables
* 508.50 - total on cloth
** $642.88 savings for 2 years of cloth diapering.
*** $26.79/month of savings

Oh yeah, that $508.50 is the TOTAL we will spend on cloth diapers - even if we have more children. Good quality cloth diapers last MANY years as long as they are taken care of properly. So, there's $642.88 in savings ahead for this baby (due in September), but then there would be an additional $1,151.38 in savings per additional child if we were to have any more.

~ Did you know that disposable diapers make up 30% of non-biodegradable material in landfills today? Hmmm, something to think about!!

I ordered my diapers and covers this morning (and they'll be in next Friday) so check back in a couple of weeks for an update on how it's going with the switchover and Eli!! Should be interesting. He has always hated diapers anyway!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

16 week update and daily INJECTION...

Yep, ladies and gents., I said injection. I mentioned in a previous post about there being a good possibility that I would need to start blood thinner injections (Lovenox) for the duration of this pregnancy - due to a DVT (blood clot) I had when Eli was about 6 weeks old. I spent some time in the hospital and was treated effectively, then had to spend the next 6 months on oral blood thinners and go in to a Nurse Practitioner EVERY week to have my "thinness" checked. So, because blood clots are extremely dangerous and sometimes even fatal, I was advised that it's better to give yourself a daily injection (can't take oral because it crosses the placenta and has a 90% chance of causing birth defects) than to risk another clot and put yourself and your unborn child at serious risk. I COMPLETELY AGREE.

Here's how it works:
Simply pinch up a huge chunk of skin on your belly, wipe with an alcohol pad to sterilize the area, pop the cap off the premeasured syringe, stab yourself and depress the plunger. Voila! Sounds so appealing, doesn't it?!! Oh, and did I mention each poke leaves a bruise (because it's a blood thinner....). So I have small dot-like bruises (maybe 1/8") all over my belly now. Absolutely beautiful!!! Oh, and one other thing, it has to be done at the same time every day - need I say cell phone alarm!

In all seriousness though, it's not really all that bad and it's totally worth it to keep us both healthy!
In other pregnancy news, I am now 16 weeks and am feeling fantastic! I haven't had difficult pregnancies anyway, but so far this one absolutely takes the cake! I had a grand total of 2 weeks of nausea and about 4 weeks of extreme exhaustion - but my body adjusted quickly and I'm feeling wonderful! Oh, and I've only gained 6lbs (as of my appointment this morning)!!! That is a HUGE change from the first two.
I go back to the dr. on May 2 and then have an ultrasound scheduled for May 7 and I'll be 20 weeks!! After checking to make sure all is well, hopefully this little one will cooperate and we'll get to find out if it's a he or a she. Yes, people, I must know. I'm a planner and since I have the option of knowing and I'm having the ultrasound anyway..... well, you get it!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How does your garden grow...

Saturday and Sunday we went to Home Depot and WalMart to get the necessary supplies for me to start our 'garden.' I don't actually have anywhere in my yard to make a real garden, so I am gardening in pots for the time being. This actually works a little better for me since I can move the pots in the summer when the sun hits different parts of my yard for longer periods during the day. Sometimes when living in the mountains (we live in Colorado Springs at 6,500 feet) it's hard to find a spot that gets the same amount of sun at the beginning of spring as it does into the summer. This is caused by the topography of the area we live - too many hills...

Here's what we got:
* 2 types of tomato seeds (cherry and a medium size better boy)
* Strawberry plants
* Variety lettuce seeds
* Soil
* Manure
* 2 12" round pots with drain pans (these will be used for the tomatoes after transplant from starters inside)
* 24" window boxes (one will be used for additional tomatoes, one for strawberries and one for lettuce)

I had been saving my commercial yogurt containers, plastic fruit cups and other small (4-6oz) plastic containers for a few weeks - to start the tomato seeds in since they can't go out yet because we could have one (or FIVE) more frost in the next few weeks. I had a total of 11 containers to use and used a box cutter and cut small drainage holes in the bottom of each.

Sunday, Jacob and I spent a couple of hours planting the tomatoes in the small containers. We put them on the drain pans for the final pots since I didn't want them draining all over my kitchen floor!

We also planted the lettuce seeds, nothing exciting to see here, just looks like a bunch of dirt. Germination is 8-14 days, so maybe in a couple of weeks we'll start to see some tiny lettuce leaves.

I bought already started strawberry plants (they were a really good price). I planted 2 containers (4 plants) in one window box, so they should start producing in about 6 weeks - one of them already had a bloom, so maybe it will be sooner!!

I hope it all goes as well as I envision it. I've grown tomatoes before and they did ok. I've also attempted cucumbers - and let's just say, I think I'm turned off to that for a few more years....

Menu Plan Monday - 4/7/08

I'm succeeding so far! I know, it's only week 2 that I've been doing Menu Plan Monday but I'm really enjoying menu planning. Plus, as I mentioned in last week's menu, it really helps the budget.

I've recently taken the time to make a list of all of my master meals (basically any meals that I prepare all the time and the family enjoys). I've categorized them by what type of entree they are (chicken, beef, no meat, bean based, etc.). This has helped me tremendously in not having to think of what meals I have to choose from when I'm planning my menu for the week. I have it all right there in front of me. I also made a list of all sides that go over well in our family. It's really nice to have it all right there in front of me in a notebook (and my recipe box to use when actually cooking) and I can basically just pick and choose my entree and sides. I try to alternate the type of protein we have - so we don't have chicken 4 days in a row. My new goal is one new recipe per week (to gain some variety). I'm finding I like my new system very much!!

As for last week's menu, I did make everything on my menu! And we even had one new recipe the lemon chicken with dried figs. I really enjoyed it, but Michael said he didn't really care for the sweet figs with the onions, cilantro, garlic and lemon juice. So, I'm sure I'll make it again, but next time I will probably leave out the figs because I'm sure the sauce will be really yummy even without the figs!

On to the menu:

* Monday: Chicken and quinoa stew (new recipe) and also this will be the first time we're trying quinoa. I have no doubt I'll like it, but we'll see about the rest of the crew!

* Tuesday: Green salad (with whatever veggies I have on hand) with chicken on top

* Wednesday: Sloppy joes served on 100% whole grain bread

* Thursday: Baked lemon pepper Tilapia with steamed veggies and rice

* Friday: No meal. Michael is taking Jacob to opening night of the local AAA baseball team with some friends. It will just be Eli and I, we'll probably eat out for a date!

* Saturday: My free day - if I need to make lunch it will be tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

* Sunday: Meatloaf with roasted potatoes and green beans

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Homemade yogurt

I made my own yogurt today and I feel so accomplished!! I was also totally astonished at how easy it was and how extremely inexpensive (I'll detail that later) it was.

I used my Super Baby Food book for guidance. In it the author, Ruth Yaron, explained in detail how she always made her own yogurt for her children - among all the other healthful things she did/does.

I bought a yogurt starter from Whole Foods rather than using premade, commercial, plain yogurt as my starter. The starter came with 6 packets of freeze dried live active cultures for $3.99. I used 2 packets in my first batch because it's one packet per quart and I used 2 quarts of milk. I will reuse my own yogurt as my starter for the next many batches (probably several months) so won't dip into my store bought supply for a while.
So, the basics of what I did are as follows:

* Scald the milk (bring it to a boil (or 185 F) SLOWLY in a stainless pot) I just stuck my candy thermometer on the side and let it slowly heat to 185

* Removed from heat - left the thermometer inside and let it cool to 115 F

* Sat the thermometer on the rack in the oven and preheated my oven to the lowest temp. it would set for (it's all digital and 170 was the lowest it would go), then turned it off and cracked the door until the temp. dropped to 120 (ideal incubation temp. is between 100-115).

* Poured a little milk into one of the jars (I just used pint -16oz- mason jars) and mixed in the two packets of starter and stirred until the starter was dissolved.

* Returned that back to the pot and mixed it all in well

* Filled each jar appx. 3/4 full and put the lids on (pretty loosely)

* Placed all jars inside a rectangle cake pan for stability then sat the pan in the oven and turned the light on.

* The oven was cooled to around 115 and stayed there for the duration of the incubation -5.5 hours- the light being left on kept it just warm enough after the initial preheat to keep it at a perfect temperature for the bacteria cultures to activate.

I know all these steps seem really complicated but really it was super easy. The only thing it required was me planning to make the yogurt on a day I would be home all day and just keeping an eye on the temp. of the oven.

It's been in the fridge since about 4:30 this afternoon cooling and I have just now tasted it for the first time and it's pretty good for a first-timer! It's a little stronger than I would normally like (but a little honey mixed in will fix that), which means I kept it a little too warm. Next time I think I'll just turn the oven light on while I'm doing all the prep and by the time I get ready to put it all in, it should be just the right temp. - no preheating and then cooling the oven. Trial and error.....
Here's the best part of making your own yogurt: I get my milk for free thru a state program for low income families (US residents will know this as WIC) and since I'm pregnant now we get so much milk that we can hardly use it all (I get 5 gallons/month, Jacob gets 2 and Eli gets 3), so essentially all it cost me to make this yogurt was $1.33 (for 1/3 of the yogurt starter pack I bought). I would normally buy organic 6oz containers of yogurt and those are $.99 EACH. So I basically saved $7.60 for 2 weeks worth of yogurt. I know it doesn't seem like a lot to some of you, but trust me, it is a lot to us - that's $15 extra/month added back to my grocery/cleaning supply/diaper budget. And because it's so much cheaper we can actually use more than we normally would - this means extra parfaits and smoothies for us. YUM!

"Are you Mormon?"

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to offend anyone or judge anyone else's beliefs. This is my family's personal belief.

I am not asking you, the reader, this question... this is actually a question I have been asked several times over the last few years. Why? Because we want more than two children!! Seriously, that is why some people ask us this question.

I was having a coversation with a mom who is my age (with children who are 3 & 1) a few months ago and she actually just came right out and said "so, does that mean you're a mormon?" We were discussing children and how Michael and I wanted more (this was before I got pregnant with the one I'm currently carrying) and that's how the conversation went.

I know it's well known that, in general, Mormons (along with a few other 'religions/denominations') typically have several children. I'm not sure if it's because they don't believe in birth control, or if they simply allow God to bless them with however many children he chooses, or for some other reason.

I don't really know a lot about very many other 'cultures', so I can't tell you what it's like in other countries, but I think there is some unspoken rule in this country that you are NOT suppose to want more than two kids. If it happens, oops, but you can never actually plan to have more than that. In my opinion, this is a terrible way of thinking. I believe God created us to "be fruitful and multiply" and following His will is #1. Trusting in God is the only way to do anything. This includes the number of children you have. God should determine that - not society, family trends, finances, etc. I belive if you truly trust God and put all things at His feet, the rest will fall into place (not to say that doesn't take a tremendous amount of faith, obedience and going-against-the-world, but isn't that what God commands anyway?)

This is not to say that I'm judging those who have decided to stop at one or two children, because that would be wrong of me. I just wish more people would prayerfully consider what God really wants for their lives and truly let God lead them in the proper direction (not just in this, but in all things).

How many children will we have? I honestly don't know. God has not given us a number. We take it one at a time and if we feel that God is leading us to have another after this one, then we will definitely do so.

PS - I only have 2 siblings, but Michael has SIX. His parents were divorced when he was very young (around 2) and they both remarried when he was also young. His mom went on to have one more child (I'm not sure of circumstances, this may have been a medical decision....because she has many times mentioned how she would have liked to have had more) and his dad went on to have FIVE more children. Michael's dad is also one of FIVE and 4 of those 5 children all have more than 2 children of their own.