Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Good Reason to Vacuum Under The Bed

In last week's Parade insert in the Sunday newspaper, Dr. Oz shared some advice about getting a good night's sleep. One of the main ways to get allergies at bay is to minimize dust in the home and particularly, in and under the bed. Did you know that dust mites are "microscopic arachnids that feed on human skin"? Yuck, yuck, yuck! They are a major trigger for asthma and allergies. He writes that these bugs "like to make their home in beds because of the steady supply of food." So the older the mattress, the more likely that mites are spending the night under the covers with you, feasting on your flesh.

This information was enough to give me a good reason to vacuum thoroughly under the bed this weekend. I think I took out an entire arachnid colony. At least, I sure hope I did! It's also a good reason to wash sheets weekly (or biweekly for pretty clean kids) in hot water.

I'm normally quite laid-back about things and a little dust doesn't bother me, but under and around the bed...let's just say my attack on the flesh-eating arachnids is on!

(By the way, Dr. Oz recommends replacing mattresses that are older than five to seven years, and buying mite-resistant casings for mattresses newer than that).

Menu Plan Monday: Bountiful Baskets Ideas

Have you heard of Bountiful Baskets? It's wonderful way to feed your family fresh produce without breaking the bank. For $15, you get several in-season vegetables and fruits. You can also add onto your co-op order delicious bread ($12 for five loaves of nine-grain or organic Omega-3 Whole grain, which is made with honey, sunflower and flax seeds and of course whole wheat. It's delicious!), and themed packs. This week, I ordered an Asian pack and a Tropical pack. The Asian pack (for $8.50) included: 2 packs on green onions, onions and garlic, celery, ginger root, bok choy, Napa cabbage, fresh mint, snow peas, and six whole water chestnuts. The tropical pack ($10.50) came with a coconut, a pineapple, a plantain, fresh basil, limes, kiwi fruit, two vanilla beans, and two mangoes. The conventional pack ($15) included oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, apples, green beans, three red peppers and two green peppers, asparagus, onions, baby red potatoes, cabbage, and romaine lettuce.

Even though I consider myself a frugal shopper, I could never buy that much produce (or that kind of produce) for those prices. Plus, because I shop according to price, buying mostly what is on sale, I would probably never buy a coconut or bok choy and certainly not fresh herbs (except for cilantro and parsley, which are fairly cheap) on any given week because the price would eat up too much of my grocery budget. So we get to try things we wouldn't normally buy, and we are all healthier for it. It's fun!

Since I have a large amount of produce to use up in a short period of time, I am menu planning around my produce and any meat I still have in the freezer (plus a few protein items on sale at the store). Bountiful Baskets allows you to eat healthier, and save money. At our produce pick-up, the ladies in line next to me were commenting how much they've seen their grocery bills drop since ordering their baskets. Really, if you've eating more whole foods, and you're picking up your produce on the weekend, there is very little you need to get from the store (except for more whole foods ingredients to round out your meals, such as rice, meat/protein, dairy, etc.). Any time you can stay out of the store, you're instantly saving money (see this post and this one for more on this subject).

So here are some ideas for how I will be using all this wonderful produce this week (and into next):

(The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (Better Homes & Gardens Plaid) has fabulous recipes for using the vegetables)
 Breakfast Ideas:
 Lunch Ideas:
  • Chicken pasta salad (cook tri-colored rotini, drain and rinse with cold water, add Italian dressing, feta cheese, tomatoes, diced chicken, and any other veggies you'd like--cucumbers, olives, etc.)
  • BLT's on whole-grain bread
  • dinner leftovers most every day :)
  • or...use some dinner ideas for lunch ideas (stir-frys, etc).  
Dessert ideas:
One thing I'd love some help on, though--

Does anyone have any other ideas on how to use fresh mint?

(more menu planning ideas at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The MomHeart Conference: Encouragement, Rejuvenation, Inspiration

I just returned from Sally Clarkson's MomHeart Conference in Denver. Attending a conference focused solely on encouraging women in motherhood rejuvenated, inspired, and encouraged me. First, simply being around other moms who are all going through the same stuff reminded me that we are not alone. I am not the only mom struggling to figure out how to handle housework, homeschooling, and a baby. At the nursing moms table where I sat, that seemed to be one of the biggest issues we as moms of multiples are working through right now.

One of the messages of the conference was that when we are alone in our homes, we can feel isolated--like we are the only ones struggling with some big issues, such as discouragement. But when we are in fellowship with other women, we realize we are not alone. We can share our burdens, pray for each other, and receive much needed encouragement to make it through the week.

Not only was it encouraging, the conference was also inspiring. The heart of the conference focused on building a family culture and training our children to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. What does this look like? Mainly, figuring out who God created your family to be, and intentionally doing the things that affirm your family's unique identity and calling in this world. We fill our child's hearts, souls and minds by "feeding them the best," as Sally said--the best literature, the best music, the best art (and the best times around the table too). (See this post of mine for more on intentionally creating an intoxicating family atmosphere). Hearing all the stories and ideas for creating a home filled with love and encouragement inspired me.

Listening to the talks certainly rejuvenated my spirits. It was like warm rays of sunshine shining down upon my soul. There are certainly areas where I can do better in my mothering, such as encouraging my children more and more. The conference also drove that home. Sally shared that if we are harsh with our children, yet teach that God is love, they will not have a reference for understanding what that looks like. On the other hand, if we are patient with them, instruct gently, tolerate their childishness without losing our cool, cuddle up with them and read them stories, give them lots of hugs and kisses, and make time to make them feel like the most special children in the world, then they will better understand God's love and purposes for them, because they see it in action in our hearts toward them every single day.

It's a high calling. We don't achieve any of this in our own strength, but only through the power of Christ working in us. We absolutely need to make time for prayer and fellowship with our Father every single day if we want to come anywhere close to  being the wives and mothers He wants us to be (and we want to be). As Sally said, we can't give out what we aren't first taking it. She stressed the importance of daily quiet times. She also shared in all these noble pursuits, we live between ideals and reality. How true that is.

As the conference closed, I felt great...empowered to be the most fabulous mother of all time for my children. Then we got home and the boys started fighting like little wolf pups, the baby who is teething fussed most of the day, Play-Doh from creative pursuits spread everywhere, milk spilled not once but twice and spread like a river all over the kitchen floor, and as I tried to read aloud from a good book, the boys were most interested in being rowdy than listening. The laundry is still in the the middle of the kitchen floor.

Though moments like that (or a series of them) threaten to rob my joy and steal my peace, I am trying to remember everything I learned and the inspiration I took away. This is the stuff these little years are made of. They pass quickly. Let's shape our hearts with, in Sally's words, goodness, truth, and beauty. In turn, we can shape our childrens' hearts out of the outflow of our hearts with gentleness, grace, forgiveness, as we train them in gracious manners, language, and courtesies, always learning how to overcome evil with good. (My friend blogged about it here as well; a great post).

Because it boost my spirits so much, I would like to encourage you to consider attending a MomHeart conference (or any other conference near you focused on empowering you to be a great mom). There are two upcoming MomHeart conferences in California and Texas. There are also Above Rubies retreats across the country (under the teaching of Nancy Campbell). Just as professionals attend conferences to stay on top of their skills and learn cutting-edge techniques for their trades, doesn't it make sense to find a conference to help you excel in your field of motherhood? Give it a try. I think you'll be so glad you did!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Frugal Friday: Check the Ad

Our grocery store circulars arrive every Wednesday along with our community newspaper (as long as our young carrier actually leaves a paper at our house that week!). I love to flip through and see what's on sale and look for those really great buys (if there are any that week).

On my last few shopping trips, I've realized how important it is to look at the ad before (or at least during) shopping. While stickers on the shelves should reflect sale prices, sometimes they do not. For example, I went to Target a few weeks ago to pick up Camelbak Kids Water Bottles--advertised to be 20% off.  Yet, when I found the items in the store, there was nothing there to indicate that they were on sale. Had I just been shopping through the aisles, I would have totally missed the sale (and probably never would have bought the items).

The same thing happened to me at Safeway, although I can't remember what it was now that I was buying--just that it was a great buy in the ad and not marked on the shelf. This caused me to double check the ad to make sure the item I wanted to be was indeed on sale.

Another benefit to checking the ad is that some of the grocery store circulars contain coupons that you can use, usually along with a manufacturer coupon. But when you find Prego spaghetti sauce on the shelf, for example, although there may be a tag advertising the sale price, there will not be a tag screaming, "Grab the ad! On page four, there's a coupon for me, for an even better price!"

Lately, our Smith's (Kroger-affiliate) store has been advertising in the weekly circulars additional digital coupons available on items. But you won't find this information by the product in the store. It's only in the ad.

Looking through your grocery ads each week only takes a few minutes. The pay-off is it allows you to gain valuable, money-saving information. Don't go to check out without them!

(linked to Frugal Friday).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All My Children

More out of necessity than desire, I loaded up all the kids and went to Walmart last week to get some groceries and household supplies. This was my first trip to the grocery store with all four of my children. The trip actually went surprisingly well (much better than this one)--in large part due to the fact that my husband and I have really been cracking down on training and first-time obedience. There just isn't leeway now for them to have, um, "freedom of expression" in the store. For things to go smoothly (and for me to stay relatively pleasant), they need to stay right next to me. (More on all of this in another post).

When we reached checkout, the cashier asked increduously, "Are these all your children?"

After runnning some come-back lines in my head ("No, I rented them for the day", "No, I found them in the toy section. They're very real looking, aren't they? Do you want to scan their UPC?", or "No, I don't know whose they are. They just came up and started following me through the store."), I answered his question without any comeback. "Yep, they're all mine." I think four children is more on the small end of large families, so I was surprised he would ask that, but oh well!

Even though more than two children per family may not be all that popular (or smiled upon) in culture today, I thought it would be fun to look at other famous large families, both past and present. (I was asked to do a devotion for a baby shower a few weeks ago, and this is what I did).
  • Ben Franklin—one of 17 children 
  • Mel Gibson—fathered 8 children (7 with his wife, one with his then-girlfriend)
  • Author Danielle Steel--7 children, and she would write during the night so she did not need to take away family time for her work
  • Sen. Rick Santorum—7 children
  • The Von Trapp family-- 10
  • George H.W. and Barbara Bush family—6
  • George Washington--one of 13
  • Susanna Wesley (mother of Charles Wesley and John Wesley)—19 (many died during childhood)
  • Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie—6 children
  • Comedian Eddie Murphy—8 children
  • Actress Jane Seymour—6
  • Actor Kirk Cameron—6
  • Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth (the "Cheaper by the Dozen" family)—12
  • Celine Dion—youngest of 14
  • Actor Mark Walhburg—youngest of 9
  • Jim Bob & Michelle Dugar—19
  • Justice Antonin Scalia—9 (5 boys, four girls)
  • Joseph and Rose Kennedy (parents of J.F.K.) 9 (4 boys, 5 girls)
Of course, there are many others. I am blessed to live in a community where many families have embraced the biblical view of children and have many children. When your friends also have lots of kids, you don't feel so alone. It feels like the norm!
“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,

The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed…” (Psalm 127:3-5, NASB)

The bottom line, whether you have one or ten, is that you are blessed and you need not be ashamed!

(linked to Raising Homemakers)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Two Weeks' Worth of Menu Plans

I have two weeks of menu plans today. It's especially helpful on my end to have extra ideas to pull from, since the roast I bought and cooked for dinner Sunday night had a hidden blood clot running through the middle of it, which was terribly disgusting. Yuck. Out goes my original plan to use leftover roast beef in the first few meals of this week. (However, I'm going to take it back to the store and get a new roast, so those meals may work yet).

Also this week, I picked up my very first Bountiful Baskets order and love it! I ordered a 20-pound box of Cara Cara oranges, so needless to say, we will be eating and juicing lots of oranges in the next few weeks.

Here are the ideas, listed by category:

  • Peanut-butter baked oatmeal and fruit
  • Blueberry muffins, smoothies
  • Swedish pancakes
  • Chocolate Malt-o-Meal with a teaspoonful of peanut butter mixed into each bowl with milk (my kids would love to eat this for every meal, I think)
  • Cereal, bananas, juice
  • Overnight French Toast
  • Whole-wheat pancakes, orange juice
  • Oatmeal, brown sugar, dates, walnuts; fruit bowls (bananas, oranges, kiwi, pineapple)
  • Scrambled eggs with sauteed peppers, onions, maybe mushrooms if I can sneak them in;)
  • Orange Julius, banana bread from master mix
  • Choc. Malt-o-Meal again in week 2 (see note above) :)
  • Fried eggs, toast, oranges
  • Overnight caramel rolls
  • Ham sandwiches, celery sticks, oranges
  • Tuna noodle casserole, peaches
  • Popcorn chicken, macaroni and cheese, apple slices
  • Sloppy joes, corn, fruit salad
  • White Chicken chili, tortillas, salad
  • BBQ Beef sandwiches, sweet potato fries
  • Dinner Leftovers
  • Avocado-Chicken salad sandwiches from roasted chicken, apple slices
  • PB & J sandwiches, veggies
  • Chili-cheese dip and chips
  • Beef and Rice enchiladas, lettuce, tomato, avocado
  • Hamburgers, fries, jello salad
  • Beef fajitas with avocado, pineapple
  • Crockpot potato soup, pull-apart herb rolls
  • Roast Chicken, Avocado-citrus salad, Oven-Roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts--halved--from Bountiful Baskets, maybe even the mushrooms. Just cut up the veggies, put in a big bowl, drizzle olive oil and sea salt, maybe some pepper and any herbs you'd like (basil?), and put on a baking sheet in the oven. Roast at about 400 for 10-15 minutes (just watch carefully).
  • Homemade pizza, Caesar salad
  • Beef tips (basically beef for stew), simmered in sauce recipe (water, beef broth, soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic, onion) and then add brown gravy mix (or make your own) and serve over noodles,  brussel sprouts sauteed in butter
  • (out for a few days)
See more menu planning ideas at!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Fiery Room of Hell

A few days ago, we were at a house that screamed 1950's, complete down to the thick red shag carpet in a paneled basement room.  We're talking blood red. And thick, with giant loops.

My boys--probably thinking that we went down into the depths of the earth--thought we were in hell.

One exclaimed, "Mom! Look, the fiery lake of hell!"
Which prompted another to ask, "Mom, are we in hell?"
Another son asked, "Is this the fiery room of hell?"
They enjoyed running around in and test-driving the fiery room of hell, squealing, "We're in hell! We're in hell! We're in hell!".

But then, our oldest son reasoned it out for his brothers (and for his own peace-of-mind). "No, this isn't hell. We're not going to hell, because [with a crescendo] WE BELIEVE IN JESUS!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Power of Encouragement

With small children, especially, there is so much for them to become discouraged about. They are trying to learn new things, and they often don't succeed on the first (or even the second, or third, or fifth) attempt. They frequently receive correction for childish behavior or self-centered attitudes. All of this can leave them feeling down.

That's where encouragement steps in. It is a powerful force in anyone's life. All things begin to brighten under the refreshment encouragement provides.

In Nancy Campbell's book, How to Encourage Your Children, she suggests writing the name of each one of our family members across the top of a journal page with columns below their names. Each day, aim to say at least one encouraging thing to each person. If you did, put a check by that person's name. Make it your goal for this to become second-nature.

Here's an example. Yesterday, I encouraged my son, who is learning to read. He doesn't always like it, because he thinks it's too hard sometimes. We sat curled up on the couch together, with the afternoon sun streaming through our front windows in such a pretty way. It was a special memory. While I was making dinner, I told him how I really enjoyed sitting with him in that pretty light and listening to him read. I encouraged him that he's getting better and better at it, and I am proud of him for doing hard things and not giving up. He just beamed.

I think it's important to not only praise the good things our children do, but also (and more importantly) to praise who they're becoming. When we see our children helping each other or saying kind and complimentary things to one another, lavish the praise! It will happen more and more.

As I wrote yesterday, Michelle Duggar--supermom of 19 that she is--is so big on the power of encouragement. If there's a secret weapon in a mom's arsenal to bring about good behavior and positive attitudes, she'd know, mainly through experience. I think that secret weapon is encouragement. Plus, as we look for and point out the good in our children, it helps our attitudes toward them as well--making for a happier family all around.

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thess. 5:11)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Forming Habits

With the New Year come resolutions for new habits. As parents, we not only identify areas where we can improve, but also where our children can form new habits or improve upon already existing ones, such as obeying our requests more promptly, picking up after themselves, and paying attention fully.

Although it sounds so simple, learning to pay attention is not necessarily an easy habit to acquire. Yet it is foundational to just about every other habit imaginable. Nineteenth-century educator Charlotte Mason urged parents to see to it that their children developed the habit of paying attention, for, she wrote, "no talent, no genius, is worth much without the power of attention; and this is the power which makes men or women successful in life." She recommended parents of easily distractable children help their children build the habit of attention by keeping lessons short (ten minutes or less) and interesting.

I love what author Jamie McMillen has to say about forming new habits in her book, Legendary Learning: The Famous Homeschoolers' Guide to Self-Directed Excellence:

"Creating a new habit is actually a lot of work. That's why so many people fail to do it. Like water, we all tend to follow the same easy, well-worn paths rather than exert the effort to clear a new path. But this is all the more reason to help our kids build the right papths in the first place. It takes diligence."
The diligence required to train our children to form habits that can make us so weary as moms as moms sometimes. I would love it if I could explain and demonstrate once what I expect and then have it followed exactly so ever-after. But that is not the case when it comes to training children. This calls for a loving spirit and a great deal of patience (and a new, or improved, habit of such on Mom's part!).

"We can reinforce those expectations with gentle reminders. But we will have to be consistent and follow through. It's not enough to just say, 'Please put away your paints so we can set the table,' then repeat it at regular intervals hoping that your child will comply. You will save yourself a lot of heartache if you get your child in the habit early of cleaning up her paints as soon as she is done. Do it with her every time at first. Show her how to clean the brushes and where to put her picture to dry and where to put the paint box every time. The hard part is consistency. Even if you are in the middle of preparing dinner or a phone call, you need to initiate the cleaning-up process as soon as she is done painting. Eventually your consistency will pay off and it will become a habit she can continue on her own."--Legendary Learning: The Famous Homeschoolers' Guide to Self-Directed Excellence
So when it comes to teaching our children new habits, first demonstrate in short, bite-sized chunks, what you expect. In Legendary Learning, McMillen writes about John Wooden--named "the greatest coach of all time in any sport" by ESPN. His success was credited to the fact that he ran short, intense drills followed by feedback. Explain, demonstrate, imitate, correct, repeat--that was his habit of coaching. It worked.
"Training for anything involves repition of the correct behavior. Drama, screaming, and scolding are not helpful. Consistency, modeling, and patience are the way to go. Legendary Learning: The Famous Homeschoolers' Guide to Self-Directed Excellence
I love those lines. I would add that praise is a huge motivator as well. Our children will hopefully work hard on learning and perfecting their new habits, and they will do so much better (and be so much more motivated to work harder) under our words of encouragement and praise. As I watch Michelle Duggar with her children, I never see her raise her voice or sternly correct her little ones. She is full of praise for their attempts at obedience and helpfulness. Those little nuggets motivate children in a way that criticism and harshness never will.
 (linked with the Homemaking link-up at Raising Homemakers and Works for Me Wednesday)