Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grace for Days That Don't Go as Planned

I'm having one of those "mom's in need of mercy" weeks--you know, the ones where you feel like you're doing just about everything wrong when it comes to your kids. Too much nagging, too much scolding, too little laughter, too few smiles. I'm trying to see myself as they see me, and I wonder: do they feel like I'm just one grouchy mother? I don't intend for the days to be like this.

After a rather rough start to an "official" homeschooling day (which ended up being just a phonics and handwriting lesson) that did not come anywhere close to being the happy, fun, excited time of learning and togetherness I envisioned, I read this post by Elizabeth Foss. It said exactly what I felt.

Even if you don't homeschool, I encourage you to read it. It encourages all mothers with children at home.

May you be blessed as I was.

Read it here:

The First Day Never Goes As Planned

Ever had one of those days?

Monday, August 29, 2011

How the Cash Envelope System Can Work with Chores

Our cash envelope system continues to work well for us, helping us discipline and track our spending and save in various areas. With the system, as you probably know, you put a certain amount of money in each envelope, spending it as needed. But the goal is to spend as little as possible in order to save as much as possible and see that money grow.

I think the same principle can work in our homes in reverse. Let me explain.

Instead of putting money in envelopes, you'll put a list of chores--written on index cards--in six envelopes, one for each day of the week (I suggest taking the Sabbath off for rest). Whereas with the cash envelopes where you'll aim to move through the money as slowly as possible, with the envelope chore card system, you'll aim to "spend" them (or move through them) as quickly as possible each day.

How to make this work, practically speaking? First, think through what needs to be done in your home on a weekly basis. Write these chores down on a sheet of paper. Note how often they need to be done. (For example, with boys, I need to do at least a quick clean of our bathroom every day or every few days. With laundry, I have to do at least two loads a day to stay on top of it. Then I have to put those away each day.) If you need ideas of what should be done weekly, I've found these books helpful: Confessions of a Happily Organized Family and Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. (Check if your library has one or both, or do an Internet search on suggested weekly cleaning chores).

Then look over your list and transfer the chores to index cards (one chore per card). Divide those up as evenly as possible into the envelopes. Don't spend too much time figuring out if you'd rather mop on Monday or on Wednesday, dust and vacuum on Tuesday or Friday--although, if you know a certain day of the week is particularly busy for you, put fewer chores in that day's envelope.

With little children, you could draw pictures on the index cards to illustrate the chore. If they're capable of doing it, they can "spend" that card. One of my boys, in particular, loves getting in our cash envelopes (and really loves finding the bigger bills). So now he can have an envelope system I don't mind him digging through. Maybe if he does a good job, he can earn some money from a cash envelope--just not as large of a bill as he would hope for (a one, not a one with two zeroes.) :)

I think we'll make some chore envelopes in the morning, complete with pictures. I'm thinking three to five chores each day is a good start. (We can always build from there as needed). Then we'll aim to work through them as quickly as possible for the day.

Menu Plan Monday

Our baby is almost three weeks old now, and I feel a little more up to making some meals. But the key is they have to be super easy and fairly quick. So those are the kind of meals on the menu this week.
  • Oatmeal, cantaloupe
  • French toast, strawberries
  • Granola and milk or yogurt, blueberries
  • Farmer's breakfast casserole
  • Cream of wheat, OJ
  • Pancakes, eggs, bacon, juice (standard Saturday breakfast)
  • Sandwiches, veggies and dip
  • Use up last of McDonald's summer reading coupons
  • Broccoli-cheese quiche, fruit
  • Bbq chicken sandwiches (from leftover chicken, shredded) and some kind of fruit or vegetable
  • Taco salad (using leftover taco meat)
  • Kids' pick
  • Mesquite smoked spareribs (husband grilling), Corn on the cob, fruit salad
  • BBQ chicken in the crockpot, red skin potatoes, coleslaw or cabbage ramen salad, biscuits
  • Tacos
  • Mexican chicken casserole, salad
  • Sloppy joes, oven fries, mandarin oranges
  • Steak, baked potatoes, salad
To bake:
  • Banana bread
  • Bran muffins
  • a cake for a dessert one night (just in that mood)
  • Healthy strawberry shortcake
See more meal ideas at Menu Plan Monday

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When It Rains, It Pours

So I was planning on posting a little on our labor story, since our little girl was born two weeks ago today. That's the happy news. But, just as I was feeling like things were starting to settle in a little bit, my husband all but cut off one of his fingers on Monday afternoon. The funny thing is (not that anything about that is funny), I was just thinking to myself how I didn't feel ready to take all four kids out anywhere altogether yet. I just didn't feel that brave.

And yet, with what happened, I got thrown in the fire, so to speak, with four kids in the emergency room (one throwing massive fits off and on); walking with four kids and crossing a busy street down to where our minivan was parked and back into ER again and then back out to the van again; restraining one of the kids, who was running into the street in front of two oncoming trucks to retrieve his bouncy ball (while holding the car seat in the other hand); hauling a car seat, my husband's bag, my heavy purse in from the parking garage up to the operating room waiting area and taking everything back out again.

I think, if I could, I would crawl in my bed and hibernate for three days.

But I can't.

I have, however, lost 20 pounds in two weeks. I suppose that's looking on the bright side. :)

So I am just another mom in need of lots and lots of God's mercy.

Some random thoughts through this time:
  • It's only money. God owns it all anyway. I just need to keep trusting in Him to provide for all of our needs at this point, especially since all the bills seem a bit overwhelming right now. But if they were manageable on our own, we wouldn't rely on the Lord as much as we would otherwise. So I suppose it's better this way. Builds trust in the character of God. Plus, as one of my friends encouraged me, just say, "Here's another bill for you, God." He'll get it paid.
  • I love this verse: "I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills...Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:9-10, 14,15).
  • (Something I forgot to say in the original post) I am so thankful for good friends and a great church family. Friends have offered to help with the boys, a good friend watched the boys while my husband was in surgery, others have brought meals or offered to down the road. For all of this, I am grateful.
  • I've heard Matthew West's song "Strong Enough" on the radio many times before. I thought it was pretty good. The other day, though, it totally met me where I was at. I'm excerpting the words and the story behind the song from his blog:
"You must, you must think I’m strong

To give me what I’m going through
Well, forgive me, forgive me if I’m wrong
But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

The song goes on to explore where our true source of strength comes from. My favorite verse from the bible holds the answer, and I sing it in the bridge of this song. Phillipians 4:13 is a verse my dad taught me when I was a kid...The bridge of the song proclaims,

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don’t have to be strong enough
Strong enough

One of the reasons I chose this song to be the next single at radio is because of the response it has during our live show on the The Story of Your Life Tour. Every single night, when we get to the part and start singing, I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH, hands begin to go up in the air all across the audience. It is as if people one by one are facing their own impossible mountains and soaking up that much needed reminder that we were never made to be strong enough to make it through life’s adversity on our own. We were made to be carried by the strength of a savior. I hope and pray this song will encourage you when your day finds you facing an impossible mountain. May you be comforted by the reminder that you’re not strong enough, and thank God you don’t have to be."--Matthew West, Strong Enough (bold mine).
So my mother's here now. Maybe I'll have a few minutes to blog. I do want to share our labor story, plus get some pictures uploaded (not of me in labor!) :). We have two book reviews--one with a giveaway, courtesy of Cannon Press. It's all in the works. Just let me get my laundry put away first... :) Thanks for being patient with me.

(Updating to say that after I posted this, I went to one of the blogs I read regularly--Heavenly Homemakers-and Laura had posted this exact song as well. She has the song with a You Tube video on her blog, if you'd like to hear it and watch the video).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Baby Update!

Maybe you guessed, since I haven't posted all week--our little girl is here, and she is really a she (although we would have felt blessed with another "he" as well)! Her name is Lauren Jane, and she was born Wednesday morning at 4:25 am. She is 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 21 inches long. We are doing well.

Remember the digital camera fiasco? We still don't have one, so we're using film. We can put the images on a CD when they're developed, so when I get some pictures, I will post some.

In the meantime, we're resting and nursing and holding the baby. I'll be back to posting soon!

(By the way, I did get some bran muffins, banana bread and banana muffins made before labor hit. The chickens are still thawing and will probably go in the crockpot tomorrow to make Chicken Divan--eat half, freeze half, Mexican Chicken casserole and other chicken dishes).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Easy Pre-Baby Menu Plan

Officially one week until baby #4 is "supposed" to make her debut. I am thinking simple meals are on the menu. Yet I also want to have a good kitchen day (or a couple of days) to get some things prepped and ready to go. Here's what I'm thinking:

To make:
  • Bran muffins (eat and freeze some--at least that's the plan. Last time, the boys ate them all in a matter of a day--or maybe it was two?).
  • Banana bread
  • Banana Chocolate-chip muffins
  • Granola
  • Master baking mix
  • Put two whole chickens in the crockpot and shred meat. Use for:
  • Chicken Divan (freeze half)
  • Mexican chicken casserole (freeze half)
  • chicken salad sandwiches (for lunch) and other chicken dinners during the week
  • Beans in crockpot, rice, taco-style fixings and tortillas (leftovers into bean and cheese burritos for lunch the next day)
Other dinner recipes:
Breakfasts and lunches:
The goal is to aim for as easy as possible. Oatmeal, scrambled eggs and toast, cold cereal (it's just that season)...peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dinner leftovers...
Whole-wheat pancakes on Saturday
Farmer's breakfast casserole on Sunday before church

So what are some of your favorite foods to prep and freeze before a baby?

(linked to Menu Plan Monday)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

More on Milk

When I posted why I feel completely safe buying regular milk, I received a request to address the potential use of growth hormones and steroids to make cows produce milk more quickly. So I asked my good friend, who is in the dairy business, if she could please share the truth of what really happens on the dairy farm. I am posting exactly what she shared with me in the interest that it may help all of us make wise, informed consumer choices.

Milk is Milk

I will begin by stating the difference between organic raw milk and regular raw milk. The difference is none other than the price…seriously it is one of the biggest marketing scams.

Why should I have knowledge of this? First off I have lived on a dairy farm for pretty much my whole life. We are a family owned business that has been going on for several generations. This is also true for pretty much all of our neighbors as well. It is also safe to say that 90% of us dairy families drink our own raw milk—straight out of our milk tanks at the barn—and it is not organic. We have never felt any worry about the safeness of drinking our own milk…probably because we are witness to everything that goes into it. It is safe, to say the least. (On a side note: raw milk of any kind can cause digestive issues to those not acclimated to raw milk since it contains high contents of live flora and probiotics.)

One of the first scare tactics the media likes to use against regular milk is the possibility of antibiotics contaminating the milk. To put things into perspective, on our dairy we milk between 2,000-2,200 cows daily. The milk truck comes two times a day to pick up our milk from our 6000 gallon tanks. Each milk truck tests each tank of milk for antibiotics. Before the milk even makes it to the creamery, the result is clear: yes or no. If there are any antibiotics detected, the entire tank is literally dumped down the drain at the barn—nothing can be salvaged. Cows treated for various illnesses and infections with antibiotics are milked separately and none of their milk goes into the tank. There are a certain number of days before that cow is even allowed to be milked again with the rest of the herd. If however, the cow somehow manages to get mixed in with the herd before she has been cleared, the antibiotic detection test will find it in the milk. If even one cow in a herd, in our case out of 2200, has antibiotics in her milk, it will be found out and the entire tank of milk will go down the drain. So as an obvious fact, there are no antibiotics in milk.

For point number two I will address the growth hormone scare issue.

I have read recently a new and very surprising myth relating to dairy cows: that a growth hormone or steroid is used in raising dairy cattle. There is nothing more to say on this point other than it is absolutely not true (I am only speaking for the dairy industry, not the beef, which I do not feel as though I have knowledge in). I can only think that perhaps people are getting mixed up with the natural bst hormone that several years ago was used by many dairy farmers to increase milk production in some cows. The strange thing about the bst hormone was that it already occurs naturally in cows. This hormone is what allows a cow to produce milk. Dairy farmers simply injected more of into some of their cows that fell into a certain category of production. In fact, this bst hormone is so natural that there is no scientist in the world that could distinguish between “bst raw milk” and “organic raw milk.” This comes from over 20 years of extensive milk study. Nevertheless, several years ago, the milk board decided that because of the bad publicity bst (scare tactics!) was getting, it is now near impossible to sell milk that came from cows that had a bst injection. That is why you see most milk in grocery stores with the label of no bst . As a side note, the FDA, American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health, US Surgeon General’s Office, and the World Health Organization all have given this milk the ok, but since the paranoia and skewed facts, this type milk has been taken off the market.

Next point is the feed of dairy cattle. In a nutshell, if we humans took as good care of our diets as we dairymen take care of our cows, we would be living in one of the healthiest possible societies ever. Great care and pain is taken to see that our cows are fed the perfect diet—enough of all the essential minerals, proteins, fats, carbs, fiber, etc. Hired nutritionists are often testing cows pH balance (a common practice for cancer surviving people who attempt to control cancer by their diet), noting herd conditions, milk production, and health. All of this data they collect is then transformed into a perfect ration for the ultimate health of the cow (think spinach fruit smoothies for us). This ration is often made up mainly of wheat or corn silage and alfalfa hay along with a list of interesting commodities (no ground up meat or bones!!) to bolster the mineral, proteins, and energy a cow needs.

 I have to stop on this nutrition point to quickly point out the amazing “green-ness” of dairy farms in this respect. Most of these commodities that are added to the cows’ feed: cotton seed, almond hulls, distillers waste (bi-product of ethanol from corn), bakery waste (ground up cookies, cakes, and bread), citrus (the bruised fruit from local orchards), soy meal, and many more similar natural occurring wastes that normally would be simply disposed of in landfills are now being processed by cows to produce milk! So as stated, the cows are fed a very stellar diet that reaches all of their needs to be as healthy as possible.

Organic milk promotes that there are no pesticides in their milk…that is great…but also our “regular” milk also has zero pesticides in it! All milk, whether organically or conventionally produced, must comply with the standards set forth in the federal pasteurized milk ordinance. Milk and dairy products are among the most highly tested and regulated food in the country, therefore making it one of the top safest foods in the USA.

As stated above in the nutrition point, a dairy farmer is always very concerned about the care and well being of his cows. A fact: happy cows produce the most milk. If a cow is stressed, sickly, crowded, weak, tired, or hungry, she will not produce milk at an optimal level. A dairy farmer needs each cow to be at her best production in order to make a profit. The dairy cow is the farmer’s best asset. You cannot force an “unhappy” cow to produce milk in a profitable way. In fact, at milking time, cows are usually huddled by the gate ready and wanting to get milked. When a cow gets sick, has a hoof ailment, or birthing problem antibiotics may be used to treat her. It seems to be a bit inhumane to deny treatment to a suffering animal…but perhaps organic dairy farmers simply beef these down trodden cows. We use antibiotics sparingly as a cow may not be milked with the rest of the herd while she is on medication. In other words, antibiotics are not over used (as they are in our own human medical world). It is against federal regulations to ship milk or beef that has not properly gone through the withdrawal periods, very strict protocols are written on this by our vets and incorporated into our data base to decrease any chance of polluting the milk or beef products with antibiotics.

The care of our animals is the biggest part of our job: we can match up with most zoos on how much we spend on trying to keep our cows healthy and comfortable! One last stress on the safety of our cattle is that we (as most of our dairy farming community does as well) eat our own beef—the beef we use comes from our own herd. I can truthfully say I have never felt worried about cooking it up, and in fact, my family does not like “store bought” meat—only ours. But perhaps this is another chapter for another day. Hopefully this essay has brought to light the skewed facts and myths about milk so that next time you are in a grocery store you will feel confident in your decision about choosing regular milk as a healthy food/drink for your family.