Saturday, December 8, 2012

Quickie Candy Cane Project

I love a project that contains ingredients that you already have on hand.  This is a great way to remind kids that Christmas is about the birth of Christ!  

 Before we started our work in the kitchen, we read The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg.  It went over the characteristics of the candy and what they represent.
  • The "J" shape that stands for Jesus
  • The shape (when upright) is a shepherd's staff, the first people to find out about the birth of Jesus.
  • The red representing that "by His stripes we are healed".
  • The white representing how Christ can wash us clean from sin.
  • How, like the candy, the story of Christ's birth and redemptive work should be shared with everyone.

We melted a 1/2 c of chocolate chips in the microwave.  (I checked their progress every 30 seconds until they were melted.)  Dip your candy in, tap off the excess chocolate, decorate, and enjoy with cocoa once the chocolate sets.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cranberry Corn Bread

I got the general idea for this bread from a recipe on my go-to website for recipes (, but modified it quite a bit because I didn't want to add a cup of white sugar and a ton of butter!  The bread came out almost like a dessert.  It was very moist.  If you wanted it more "crumby" (totally not a word) I would try reducing the amount of milk by a few more tablespoons.  Remember, you need to make some other adjustments to your recipe if you're going to substitute oil for butter or agave nectar for sugar. has good guidelines for these types of substitutions.  Here's my recipe with the modifications already made for you:

1/4 c butter, softened
2 1/2 Tbs oil
2/3 c agave nectar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 c cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c buttermilk
1 c cranberries, halved

In a bowl, mix together the butter, oil and agave nectar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.  Add to the agave nectar mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Fold in cranberries.  Transfer to a greased 9-in square baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Serve warm.  Yield: 9-12 servings.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Decking the Halls and Other Shenanigans

 The first year decorating a new house is always a challenge.  Our house is cozier than the last, so my goal was to use many of my favorite decorations without overwhelming our space.  I'm not sure if I succeeded, but I gave it a good try : )  

This clock plays music and the train moves each hour.  My older two run into the office each time it starts.

 I treasure the old-timey ornaments from my grandma.  This funky tree helps me display some that would otherwise get lost on our over-filled Christmas tree.

 I love nativity scenes

A wintertime bird on her nest

 The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

 I thought the artwork that usually anchors the mantle was too busy with all the rest of the decorations, but I couldn't leave the wall blank b/c the previous homeowners left big holes where their tv mount had been.  I found a nativity scene online, printed it, and put it in an old frame.  It's not completely centered over the mantle, which bugs me, but it's way better than looking at holes, right?  

 Our centerpiece needs to be narrow since my boys are a bit boisterous at mealtime.

 I love a tiered stand for displaying pieces that would otherwise clutter the countertop.  The bottom bowls hold fruit, peppermint candy corn, and tea.

 An old muffin tin houses potpourri and candles.  Cranberry Chutney from Yankee Candle is my favorite holiday scent.

 My boys are forever jangling these metal ornaments as they go up and down the stairs, but oh well!  We'll say it's a "holiday sound".

 A friendly snowman graces our closet door.

 A door bucket welcomes winter guests.

 The older boys share a tree in their room.  They'd have it lit all day every day if they had their way.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chicken and Barley Soup

I made chicken and barley soup for my mom and aunt who came for lunch the other day.  We all really enjoyed it.  I got the basic recipe from Gooseberry Patch's Quick and Easy Autumn Cookbook.  Below is the recipe with my changes.

1/2 c. onion chopped
2 c. carrot, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 t. olive oil
30 oz vegetable broth
1 c. quick cooking barley, uncooked
2 c. water
salt &  pepper to taste
2 c. cooked chicken, cubed

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute onion and garlic in oil for about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and continue to cook until the onion is tender.  Add broth, barley, water and seasonings.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes, until the veggies are tender.  Add chicken and heat through.  (At this point, I threw the soup in my Crock Pot on the warm setting and let it warm for a few hours before my guests arrived.)  If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water.  Serve with crusty bread. Yum!

Serves 6-8

Friday, September 21, 2012

Science Fun for Rowdy Youngsters

What a big blogging slacker I've been!  We've had a bunch of life changes including a new baby, a new town, and a new home!  Whew!
  I've semi-caught my breath, and we're back to homeschooling for our second year.  Today we used aluminum foil to make molds of objects in our homes.  My 2-year-old and I worked together, and I had my almost-five-year-old go off on his own.  We each guessed what objects the other team had used.  They enjoyed playing with the foil and making guesses based on the odd shapes we came up with.

Fun with an avacado

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Must-haves for Baby and Mama

Okay, so there's nothing you actually HAVE to have, but these items have been very helpful to our family during those precious early years of our boys' lives.  Most of the items have been recommended to me by other moms.  I spent hours picking their brains about all things baby.

Favorite Baby Books:
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp (great ideas for sleep and soothing a fussy baby)
  • The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg (the basics of her technique and an overview of scheduling/baby routine)
  • The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg (if you like her techniques, this book offers very specific advice for most sleep/eating/scheduling problems)
  • The Vaccine Book by Sears (we follow his alternate shot schedule)

For a Good Night's Sleep:
  • Swaddling blankets - The Miracle Blanket or Aden and Anias swaddling blankets
  • White Noise - You can easily use a radio tuned to static or a fan.  Our little guys liked white noise so much for sleeping that we invested in a white noise machine by Marpac similar to this one.  We now own two.

Nursing Items:
  • Bamboobies - yes, an incredibly embarrassing name, but these are great breast pads that don't show through your shirt.
  • Nursing Cover - like the ones from Baby au Lait or the Modest Mom

For Your Mental Health:
I've loved being involved in my local Mothers of Preschoolers group (MOPS).  It's for any mom of a newborn through preschool age.  Childcare is usually provided on-site.  It's great to be able to get out a couple of times a month and talk with other mamas.  

Our Home Birth

  I'm sorry if this post is a bit foggy.  I wanted to write about our home birth before I forget the details!  Our sweet Joey is about 2 weeks old now, so it's time I got crackin', right?
  Just a little background information to start: our first two boys were born in the hospital and nurse midwives attended both births.  Our oldest son was born in a German hospital, which was an interesting and good experience.  Our second sweet boy was born here in the States.  It was also a fairly good experience, however I absolutely felt like the nurses were rushing my labor along.  I was told to walk for two hours to dilate more, otherwise I'd be sent home.  (Traveling by car to the hospital is one of the most stressful parts of the birth for me, so I took them seriously and did as I was told.)  I did indeed keep "on schedule", but I was extremely tired out by the time my son was born.
  I started out my 3rd pregnancy under the care of the same hospital and a nurse midwife, but started seriously considering a home birth about 2 months before Joey was due.  I had read a number of books about home birth, watched some great documentaries about our modern obstetrical practices, and have three friends who have had great outcomes with home births.  When I researched even more, I found out that the data does support the fact that in a low-risk pregnancy, home birth attended by an experienced midwife is just as safe and sometimes safer than a hospital birth.
  I started talking to my husband about it and showed him some of the statistics.  He told me he'd think and pray on it.  After a week or so and many conversations later, he agreed that we should attempt a home birth, even though our insurance wouldn't cover any of the cost.  We found an excellent midwife, Yolanda Visser, who runs Birth Song Midwifery in Grand Rapids.  She's attended well over 2,400 births, and she's an absolute champion as a midwife, in my opinion.
  Because I had come so far in my pregnancy under the hospital system, I continued to see the nurse midwife, so that if I needed to be transferred to the hospital or if I was told late in pregnancy that I was not a good candidate anymore for home birth, that there would be no issue of "continuity of care".  The nurse midwife knew I was considering a home birth, and she had agreed that I would be a good candidate for it.  At her request, because of hospital and insurance issues, I was never able to tell her outright that I was planning a home birth.  
  I was very pleased with my prenatal care with Yolanda.  My appointments were usually an hour long, and she spent a lot of time making sure my nutrition was on track.  She switched my prenatal vitamins to a food-based vitamin and added fish oil, evening primrose oil, and raspberry leaf tea to my daily regimen.  She treated me like a human being with a normal life situation on my hands, instead of someone who was ill.  I really appreciated that.
  When the day finally came, I was more than ready to not be pregnant anymore!  Contractions started around 4:30 am, but I didn't feel like the baby was dropping much.  I was in contact with Yolanda all day by phone, as she monitored my progress.  I had been cleaning most of the day to get ready to show our house, which is for sale.  We actually left the house and went out to dinner while I was having contractions so that the house could be shown.  (Why waste a clean house, right?!).  By the time we got home and put the older boys to bed, I thought it was time for Yolanda to start making her way to our house.  The baby was dropping and the contractions were coming faster and harder.  Around that time, we also called our moms to come and be at the house in case our boys woke up.
  By the time Yolanda arrived at 11pm, my contractions were coming one on top of another.  I attribute the brevity of my active labor time (4 hours) to the raspberry leaf tea and being on my feet all day.  Man-oh-man, I somehow thought labor at home would be easier, but it was still extremely intense.   Going through contractions on my hands and knees on the floor worked the best for me this time around.  There's no way in the world you'd ever find me on a hospital room floor, but at home I could choose to be wherever I wanted.  My husband was a huge help to me during my labor.  He was incredibly supportive and encouraging.  I asked him later if this birth was different for him than the first two, and he said he felt more involved in the process at home.  He was very pleased with the whole experience.
  By 11:30 my water had broken, and it was time to push.  At 11:47pm, Joseph took his first breath and let out a tremendous yell.  I had been praying before he was born that he'd let us know right away that he was healthy and well.  That prayer was answered!  He is by far our loudest screamer (which is a feat if you know my oldest son).
  Within a few minutes, we invited our moms into the room.  It was a really special time for both of them.  My mom has since told me that it's one of the highlights of her life.  We all saw Joey's newborn examination as Yolanda told us each factor she was looking for.  It was interesting for me to watch because for the other two births, the boys were always taken away to be weighed and checked.  Mr. Joey was 9 pounds at birth!  We were shocked at his size!  In keeping with his enthusiasm for eating, he latched on almost immediately and started nursing.
  A few minutes later, my husband got our boys up to meet their brother.  Our oldest son had been so insanely excited about the whole pregnancy; we knew it would be a great moment for him.  He said "hi" and immediately leaned over and hugged him.  Our 2-year-old son surprised us by taking delight in his new baby brother.  We attribute most of this to his meeting Joey right away and in the comfort of our home.  My husband and I didn't leave for the hospital and then come back a few days later with a new sibling, which we knew would have greatly bothered our sensitive little guy.
  Yolanda stayed with us for about an hour and then left us with our newest addition!  It was wonderful to go to sleep in our own bed, without nurses coming in and waking us up many times.  When I woke up very early in the morning, I just went downstairs and got myself a drink and some fruit.  How nice to not have to wait for the hospital's cafeteria to open!  Later on, we enjoyed a feast prepared by my mom and just hung out as a family.  It was a wonderful experience for all of us, thank God!  We had prayed earnestly for a healthy labor, deliver, and baby, and He answered all of our prayers.

Psalm 139:13-15

New International Version (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being;(A)
    you knit me together(B) in my mother’s womb.(C)
14 I praise you(D) because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,(E)
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made(F) in the secret place,
    when I was woven together(G) in the depths of the earth.(H)

Welcome to the clan!
 Newborn exam

9 pounds!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blogging Flunky!

Wow,  it's been a really long time since I've posted anything.  I wish I had more time to post cool projects, fun ideas, etc, but life has been extremely busy lately!  With 2 crazy sons running around and one due in a little over a month, our life has shifted to "survival mode" for now.  Here are our goals for the next few weeks!

  1. Keep the house in a semi-clean state
  2. Feed children : )
  3. Finish our first year of homeschool
  4. End strong on some volunteer opportunities that I'll need to throttle back on for the next few months
  5. Finish out the month with my personal training clients.  Exercising with them is my sanity-saving adult time!
  6. Start packing for our upcoming move (whenever that will be!)
  7. Keep teaching my kids to be kind to one another and to let them know that they are absolutely loved and cherished, no matter how many babies come along.
So am I excused from not faithfully blogging lately?  

What does your survival mode look like?  I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fabulous Mess

 The other day my kids were being wild and crazy.  We had 30 minutes until lunchtime and I was about at my wits end with them.  I realized that they were being a hand full not because they're naughty, but because they were bored.  I put on some music, grabbed some finger paints, and their moods (and mine) improved immensely!
Putting my 2-year-old in his highchair and taping the paper down to the tray helped contain the mess.  

Creation of Man - quick craft idea

Genesis 2:7

New International Version (NIV)
7 Then the LORD God formed a man[a] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

My 4-year-old is learning about the creation of man, and I found this idea in his preschool curriculum.  We simply drew a stick man, traced him in glue, took the paper outside, and poured dirt over the top to form our dusty Adam.  My son loves dirt, so he was immediately on board with the idea.  We were able to use the project to talk about how great our Creator is and how although man is created in God's image, we still need to be humble.  Hopefully the dirt/dust will remind him (and me) of this! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Okay, okay, so this doesn't look exactly like a shamrock, but my kids liked this holiday-themed breakfast.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monkeys! (and Monkey Bite Recipe)

 To supplement our study on monkeys, we modified this chocolate covered banana recipe and made them into "Monkey Bites".  We cut up 2 bananas into about 2" slices, placed toothpicks in the middle and froze them until they were  hard.

 Melt 1/2 to 1 c. chocolate chips (we used white melting chocolate b/c we had it on hand) and dip bananas in.  (sorry this is a blurry pic!)

 Add sprinkles or whatnot while the chocolate is still soft.  Allow to harden and enjoy your "monkey bites".  

 This habitat idea is totally stolen from my friend Ann, who did a much more artistic job with her son than we did here at home!  

My son also colored a picture, and I wrote down a few simple facts about monkeys so we could review it at some point.  We sang the "No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" for good measure : )  We have 5 other animals we're going to do similar projects for.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Antsy for Spring

I was trying to be very disciplined and wait a bit longer to introduce some spring decor.  (Why, I don't really know, except I don't want to get my hopes too high too soon here in cold Michigan!).  I just couldn't wait any longer to add some brighter colors!

 A hurricane is my go-to piece for decorating.  The colors in fruit just couldn't be prettier.
If you can't read the Scrabble tiles, it says "Hope for Spring".  I thought I'd put up my Caitlin Standing Cross in preparations for Lent and Easter.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be Mine

Homemade Valentines made by my 4-year-old and me.  
They're not perfect, but they're from the heart.
Happy Valentine's Day to you!  Hope it's a sweet day for you and your family!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spring Bird's Nest

My son and I had a great time making bird's nests.  We did it as part of his schooling, since we've been learning about birds.  We got the idea from the Horizon's preschool program.  

1 c. white melting chocolate or chocolate chips
1 1/2 c. Chow Mein Noodles
Jelly Beans or M&Ms
You'll also need squares of aluminum foil to line your muffin tin.

Start by melting the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl.
Add the Chow Mein Noodles

Scoop noodle mixture into about 8 aluminum foil-lined spots in your muffin tin.  Press down the center lightly to make a nest.  Place a few jelly beans or M&Ms inside as your "eggs".  It only takes a few minutes for the chocolate to harden, and then you're ready to lift out your nests and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

3 Little Men

When my husband and I announced that our 3rd baby was a boy, some people thought that we would be disappointed.  This picture illustrates why I'm so excited to add another brother to our clan.  I hope these bubbas will be best friends (when they're not fighting, of course : )

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Setting the Tone

to see more posts like this : )

 Sometimes we mamas feel like because we're at home a lot, we don't influence many people.  The truth is, we have a huge amount of influence in our homes (and many other places). What attitudes and behaviors can we put on to help create a positive, happy home atmosphere?

                Proverbs 14:1 - "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down."  We can seek God's wisdom for molding us into the women he wants us to be each day by studying His Word.  How does the Proverbs 31 woman build her house?  How do the foolish women in mentioned in Proverbs tear theirs down? 

                James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  Ask God for wisdom at the beginning of each day!  When your toddler drops his cup on the floor for the 6th time in 1 hour, ask God for wisdom and a good attitude.  If your preschooler comes down with a bad case of "sassy mouth", ask God for wisdom before you respond to him/her.  If you're feeling bored, tired, or blue today, ask God for wisdom and strength to carry you through the day.
                God has given you a tremendous responsibility to teach your children.  Deuteronomy 11: 18-20 says "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates".  We have a limited amount of time with our wee ones.  God tells us to use every opportunity to teach them His precepts. 

                Life doesn't always go the way we want it to, does it?  A flat tire, a lost job, a broken relationship...all of these things can weigh us down and make it challenging for us to help make home a happy place.  Matthew 11:28-30 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We can bring our burdens to God through Jesus our Savior.  Set your troubles down at His feet and trust that He will guide you daily.  Life may be rough at times, but you are not walking alone.  You are walking with the King of Kings!

                Speaking of not walking alone, you have sisters in Christ here to help you!  Don't try to "do life" by yourself.  One of the reasons God gave us the body of Christ is so that we could encourage each other and bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2)!  Call your girlfriend, mom, or a wise woman in your church and ask her for encouragement.  Ask for prayer.  Ask for practical advice.  Hopefully at the end of your conversation you'll be laughing at the day's foibles.  

                Life is short...We've all heard this, haven't we?  How many mature women have told you that your kids will "grow up so fast"?  Let's face it, when babies are screaming, dinner is burning (or not started), and you're running on empty, some of those hours can seem endless.  What if we purposed to use our time - the swift moving, the slow moving, the fabulous and the horrendous - to love God, to love our families and those around us, and to bring glory to the One who saved us?  Proverbs 90:12 "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  
  • What if we, by applying God's wisdom, giving and receiving encouragement, and trusting God to lead us through this life and into the next, could positively affect our home life and the world at large?  Wouldn't it be amazing to hear the words from Proverbs 31:28 "Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her"?  At the end of life, how dearly we want to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23) when we have been good stewards over what God has blessed us with!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Simplify Your 2012

Tips and Tricks to Simplify 2012

  Maybe it's the craziness of the holidays that causes us to crave simplicity and streamlining in January!  Maybe the new year makes us ready for a fresh start.  Perhaps we just get cabin fever because we live Michigan during the long wintertime.  Whatever the reason, here are some ideas to simplify your daily life.  Thanks to all who contributed ideas!  You are all such intelligent, resourceful women!
  • Use a shoe organizer on back of kids' doors to organize and allow them to see small toys or barbies etc. It is great to organize mittens and hats also. - Marie F.
  • I love baskets for organizing from the office & van to the kitchen & bathroom. My favorite is the divided basket usually used for utensils & plates. In the van, I have it between the driver & passenger seats with cds/ DVDs, drink, sunglasses, etc. In the bathroom cupboard, extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairspray, etc. In the office, pens, pencils, markers, tape, stapler, etc. - Teri R.
  • Always start a party (or every day if possible) with an empty dishwasher so you can load as you need to.  It also makes cleanup go much more quickly! - Kate W.
  • Create a car kit by stocking your car's trunk for winter-weather emergencies.  Include a compact shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, sand or cat litter, flares, a heavy blanket, and warm clothing. - Martha Stewart
  • Prep as much as possible for meals in advance (cut up vegetables on Sunday, plan meals). - Sue F.
  • Use liquid dish washing soap to remove grease stains on clothes. - Wanda D 
  • 4 steps to throwing a great party: 1.  Choose a party theme that you can work with.  2. Delegate tasks to save time.  3. Create unique and entertaining activities for guests.  4. Provide music and food that everyone will like. -
  • I pack lunches and school snacks the night before. I also get back packs, clothes and anything else needed for school the night before. When it is time to get ready, the kids eat, dress themselves with picked out clothing and grab their backpacks/lunches that are ready to go. Makes my mornings 100% easier. Especially with 5 kids. - Aimee B.
  • Labeled tubs for toys makes clean-up easy with little ones. We also have a rule that toys live on a certain floor to prevent mom from always running around looking for that certain item (especially with toddlers who can't get everything themselves). - Sue F.
  • Stress wise, try not to worry what other people think of your kids' behavior . There will always be people who disapprove and who knows why. They don't know your kids or what kind of day they or you have had. I always regret it when I put others opinions of me above my kids. - Kendra D.
  • Don't throw away bananas that are getting overripe.  Put them in the freezer and use them later in smoothies and banana bread. - Kate W.
  • Teach [kids] at young ages to do things themselves. [My school-age girls] pick their clothes, hair, teeth, breakfast, school bags, lunches, etc. - Lydia M.
  • How to get wax out of a votive holder: Place the votive holder in a freezer. Leave it in place for at least an hour.  Remove the votive holder from the freezer. Turn it upside down, and hit the bottom hard with the palm of your hand several times. If the wax does not pop out, use a spoon or butter knife to pry around the edges until it comes loose.  Wash the votive holder in warm, soapy water, and dry it with a soft cloth. -
  • Choose volunteer work carefully and say no! That is the hardest. - Sue F. 
  • The best thing I ever did when I was working was hire a cleaning person (instead of date nights, we used our cleaning lady to save our marriage). When I am off [from work], I hire a junior high student to play with the girls while I clean. That way, I can get it mostly done in a day and it is much more cost-effective. - Sue F.
  • If you haven't worn it in the past 2 months GET RID OF IT. If you don't use it, GET RID OF IT. No matter how cute it is IF YOU DON'T USE IT, GET RID OF IT. - Joanna R.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jumpin' January

 Okay, don't get mad, but I'm not ready to put all of my winter decorations away in favor of spring.  It's going to be winter for a long while here in Michigan, so I don't want to jump the gun : )  
My mantle is sporting some Venetian glass as well as the Framework Urn.

 A fun bird's nest my mom got at an after-Christmas sale.  Thanks mom!

 I love using Scrabble pieces to convey messages in our entryway.  My demibottle (from the Demibottle Trio) holds a wintery pick.

 I love the Aldridge Wire Cloche in the new Willow House spring catalog.  I've got a little "X" and "O" in there right now in honor of Valentne's Day.