Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Brave or Dependent

Our family is such an anomaly that when we go out we're sitting ducks for all kinds of comments. Most are positive, a few not so much and a very few downright nasty. People ask us all kind of questions that I consider to be rude just because we had more than two children. I kid you not - the comments started way back when we added #3 to our family. Two we find hilarious are "Are they all yours?" (No, it's too easy to go shopping with one child so I rounded up some neighbourhood children to challenge myself) or "How old is the oldest?" (asked to find out if we're having one every year. One day I will tell them my oldest is seven after I tell them I have eight children). The comment I can never understand though is - "You are so brave".
How exactly am I brave? Brave to go through pregnancy, labour and birth eight times? Brave to face countless sleep interruptions? Brave to deal with potty training over and over? Brave to make forty pancakes only to see them disappear in ten minutes? Brave to face numerous teenagers? Brave to realize cookies only make sense in double or triple batches? Brave to have bags and bags of various-sized clothes stored up? I truly don't know exactly what they mean, but I have to admit to not feeling brave. I love motherhood from the moment I see that little pink line on the pregnancy test until - well, I'm still enjoying it and I now have two teenagers in the house (because my oldest is nearly 15 not 7). Yes, I face things in multiples that most mothers don't, but I feel blessed beyond measure and dependant.
Dependant? you ask. Yes. When my eleven-year-old son is angry with my seven-year-old daughter how do I deal with that? I pray. I set them down on the couch together and leave them to think for a few minutes. Then we talk. When one of my teenagers seems upset but won't tell me why, I pray. When my toddler is having a morning of continuous meltdowns, I pray. Then I pull him close, cuddle and maybe read a book or sing some silly songs - working to reconnect with him and help him calm down. When my first baby had croup and we had no idea what it was and we were rushing to the hospital, believe me, we prayed. When I've faced countless cuts (one needing stitches), scrapes and bruises, I've prayed. When a school lesson that seems so simple to me is causing more problems than I think it's worth, I pray (and then I usually call my mom ☺). One way or another we get the lesson learned eventually.
Do you see the theme? Motherhood has taught me that I can't do it on my own. My greatest help is the Lord. I'm not brave. I'm dependent on the Lord every day to make the right decisions. I still don't always get it right, but that's okay too because God's grace covers all. Sometimes I have to apologize to my children. They know Mommy doesn't always get it right or have it all together, but they do know that I love them. Sometimes I cry - on my own or with my children. Sometimes I laugh because I'd rather do that than cry. Occasionally I yell - refer back to my statement about apologizing.

Depending on the Lord is never a bad thing. In fact, when I do remember to pray I find my life is so much easier. I still try to do it on my own sometimes, but I'm learning. God is good all the time.
Have people said silly things to you about your family? How do you deal with whatever your children throw your way?

Monday, 29 July 2013

My First Giveaway

I promised this a few posts ago, but for one reason and another I didn't get this ready. I'm sorry, but I'm ready now.
To celebrate having made it to the 50 posts mark (I'm actually up to 62) I made a crocheted corner bookmark. I'm excited to have come so far. I was so nervous when I first started - who would be interested in what I have to say? But it's been fun and I've learned a lot. Since I've spent a good deal of time celebrating reading I thought a bookmark would make a nice giveaway.

So if you would like to win this bookmark here's what you need to do. First, leave a comment and tell me what your favourite post has been. For a second chance to win, share about this giveaway on Facebook leaving another comment telling me you did so. On Saturday I will randomly select one winner (after my daughter shows me how☺).

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Library Time Week 7

A busy, happy week at home. This afternoon there was a nice summer afternoon rain. I looked out the back window and my seven-year-old daughter was in the children's "tree house" looking at the rain and singing. The joys of a carefree childhood. One of the greatest joys is being able to read endlessly. I miss that, but I still manage to get my reading in.
This week I read The Betrayal by E. Phillips Oppenheim. Once again I was not disappointed.
14-year-old daughter - The Elusive Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
13-year-old son - The Assault by Bryan Faulkner (a library prize)
11-year-old son - same as his brother - see above
9-year-old daughter - The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy - She bought this for herself from the clearance table at our local bookstore. She's following in her older sister's footsteps.
7-year-old daughter - Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
5-year-old son - Franklin's Blanket and he mastered Lesson One of our phonics course
2-year-old son - Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans and Katie and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton. Admittedly we only made it through half of both of these before his attention wandered. His sister also read Farm Animals to him.
We had fun reading. Old favourites and new favourites. What did you read this week?

Friday, 26 July 2013

Chia Seeds and Octopus

This week after posting on Facebook about wanting to try chia seed recipes my sister-in-law sent me this recipe. I tried the chocolate version right away and most of us liked it. I had mine with berries and some whip cream. I made the recipe just as it said since it was my first time. Next time, though, I'm going to tweak it so that it is more friendly for my diet. I always like finding chocolate recipes that I can eat guilt-free. ☺ Chia seeds are incredibly healthy. Who knew that all the time we were making "ch-ch-ch-chia" pets we should have been eating the seeds? Check out this post to see some of the health benefits of eating chia.

Our baby cut his second tooth and is becoming very insistent about eating when we do. He loves anything and everything we give him. None of my children have been too picky. Then again, I haven't really given them opportunity to be picky. I think I'm pickier than my children. Their dad loves seafood and has cultivated this love in all of our children. Once when we were at a wedding reception with a buffet someone came to me and said, "Uh, your children are all standing around the seafood salad picking out the octopus." At that point I felt like saying they weren't my children for more than one reason.
Have you tried a new recipe that you liked this week? or just made an old-favourite?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Vitamin B2 - Riboflavin

Looking at another B vitamin today - Vitamin B2 also known as riboflavin. B2 is another coenzymes. If you don't know what that is check out my post for vitamin B1 here.
Riboflavin is stored in our muscles and is necessary for physical activity. It is also important to the health of our eyes, skin, nails and hair. It's easy to pick it up from our foods so you shouldn't have a problem getting what you need.
According to healthaliciousness.com the foods containing B2 should be easy to add to your diet. Start with Marmite (yeast extract spread), liver, dried herbs/spices/peppers, almonds, dry roasted soybeans, cheese (Roquefort, Brie, Limburger), wheat bran, fish (mackerel, Atlantic salmon, trout), sesame seeds, and sun-dried tomatoes. I keep seeing some foods come up more than once on these top ten lists. I think I'm going to work harder at adding more of these into our diet. Eating a varied whole foods diet makes it so much easier to keep from becoming deficient in any nutrient that our bodies need.
The information about Vitamin B1 comes from the Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, Alive Publishing Group, 1997.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

A Summer Wreath

For years I've had a goal of having a wreath for our door for every season. About twelve years ago I made one for Thanksgiving and that's as far as I made it with that goal. Well, about a month ago I made one for Canada Day, and today I made one for the summer.

I had fun making this wreath today. It's fairly simple, but I took pictures of the process in case you want to duplicate it. The original idea came from here. However, I made quite a few of my own tweaks.

I've been looking for a Styrofoam wreath for a couple of weeks. Finally I decided I would have to make the base. I recently found out that my second son has been saving up toilet paper tube and has quite a stash so I asked if I could have a few. I started squeezing and twisting them together until I had a reasonable circle shape. I figured it didn't have to be perfect since it's not going to be seen much.

Next I needed to cover it with some fabric so that the parts that peek out here and there don't look like a toilet paper tube. I went with a darker gray because of the colours in the paper that I had chosen. I cut the fabric into two inch strips using my pinking shears rotary cutting blade and started twisting it around the frame hot gluing the ends down.

Then I set to work making pinwheels. It would have been nicer if I had some double-sided paper, but I used what I had. I made one pinwheel from a ten by ten piece of paper and ten pinwheels from five by five papers. Then I glued a button in the middle of each - I love using buttons to decorate with.

Next it was just a matter of playing around with how I wanted to arrange them on the wreath. I hot glued them in place and added some ribbon for hanging it on the door.

Nice but it felt unfinished. So I went to the computer and designed a flower in my Creative Memories programme and put a verse on it. I printed it on scrapbook paper and made a stem and leaf. I attached it to the wreath - just what it needed.

What do you think? Do you decorate your front door?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

I'm So Spoiled

This morning I was reflecting on how much my life has changed in the last twenty years. When I was in my mid-twenties and wanting so badly to be married, and my mom said, "You have no idea what your life will look like in another ten years" she was so right.
Ten years later I was married with several children. Twenty years later we're closing in on sixteen years of marriage, and we have eight children. Not only that my husband became a pastor one year after we married. Growing up in a pastor's home and in spite of seeing the troubles, I knew that if God allowed it I wanted to be a pastor's wife someday.
Seven years ago after my fifth baby (who was my third daughter) was born I called a friend to tell her the good news. She knew we had been praying for another daughter and said, "Jen, you are so spoiled." She's right. God has given me all the dreams I dreamed as a girl growing up...
  • a godly husband who is also a pastor; he's also a wonderful, loving husband and father
  • the opportunity to experience pregnancy, labour, birth and breastfeeding - not once but EIGHT times
  • living close to my parents so my children can have a close relationship with them
  • the experience of living in the country for 3 1/2 years - maybe someday I'll get that one again
  • being able to homeschool my children
These are just my big blessings. God blesses me in innumerable small ways every day. This song pretty much says it all for what I'm feeling right now...
God's been good to give us so many blessings - undeserving that's what we are
We ought to thank Him, love and praise Him - a little bit more today, a whole lot more tomorrow.
Today I tried all day to find time to write this all out. I wish it could have been done sooner, but the reasons why it didn't happen - they're all good with beautiful faces.
How has God blessed you?
I'm linking to "Gratituesday" at HeavenlyHomemakers.com.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Homeschooling Elementary

This week I'm going to be doing a lot of work to get organized for school. The neat thing is that I've done this for so long that a lot of the work has been done already. The bulk of my time will be spent organizing my daughter's high school classes which I'll talk about another day.

For the elementary grades I use Rod and Staff textbooks and workbooks almost exclusively. These books are very thorough and well laid out. I do admit that I no longer buy the spelling workbooks. I just use the lists from the teacher's manuals. From those lists we do various exercises to help them remember how to spell the words. I just personally found that the exercises were a lot of work without a noticeable difference in my children's spelling abilities so we've gone to something simpler.

As I said Rod and Staff books are very thorough. I do not feel obligated especially in math and grammar to do every problem/exercise for every lesson. I usually assign somewhere between one-third and one-half of the exercises depending on how much I think my child needs to do to master the lesson. Then if they get 85% or higher they are finished. Anything lower and they have to do corrections. If they are still struggling - and this usually happens most often with math - we go over the lesson again and there are fresh exercises for them to try since we didn't do them all in the beginning.

There is also a ton of worksheets you can get on any subject from the internet. I particularly like the Enchanted Learning website. There is a $20 annual fee that I think is well worth it. I designed a world geography course for Junior High using worksheets from this site. I also use a lot of worksheets from them for my Grade 2 Canadian Geography. This is a hybrid course that I put together from a similar course my mom did.

Teaching lots of grades can be challenging but several years ago I stumbled on a plan that makes it easier. Someone gave me three boxes of homework books. These are spiral bound books that when you open up to a two-page spread have a place for every subject for the week. Once my children reach Grade 3 (at which point their reading is very well established) they get one of these books. At the beginning of the week I fill in each child's assignments for every subject for the week. Now they can work their way through each day handing in assignments as they finish them. I don't mind if they want to get up early and do all their work before breakfast. This has never happened, but sometimes they will get one or two of the "easier" subjects out of the way. If they don't understand something then they come to me for help. Otherwise, I can give my time to those who are still learning to read or to helping a toddler clean up a mess he just made or to changing a diaper. A homeschool mom is never bored or wondering what she should do next. ☺

I hope this has been a help to you. If you have any questions please contact me healthypreservation (at) hotmail (dot) com.
first day of school 2011 - everything is neat and tidy and fresh

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Library Time Week 6

Another prize in our library reading club - our 11-year-old son was given a 128-piece Lego set. We went to a puppet show at the library this week which three of our children enjoyed. The others were a bit old so went on the lookout for books to take home. So on to what we've been reading...
I've been reading a couple of biographies - The Girl in the Italian Bakery by Kenneth Tingle. It's an autobiography of a man who grew up in my dad's hometown (kind of cool). Also, Unspoken Abandonment by Bryan A. Wood, an American soldier who spent part of 2003 in Afghanistan. The book is about his time there and what it took for him to recover from everything he experienced while there.
14-year-old daughter - Pimpernel and Rosemary by Emmuska Orczy. This one she took from Project Gutenberg Australia.
13-year-old son - Cannons of the Comstock by Brock and Bodie Thoene
11-year-old son - A Street Through Time by DK Publishing
9-year-old daughter - Little House in the Big Woods. I told you she loved these books. She re-reads them a lot.
7-year-old daughter - Marie-Claire by Kathy Stinson
5-year-old son - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
2-year-old son - The Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer

I hope we have piqued your interest and you'll find something here you want to read.

What have you been reading this week?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Reading and Feeding

This has been an incredibly hot week. Thankfully it rained tonight and things have started to cool down. The noise and busyness of having the children inside all week was starting to get to me this morning. I was so thankful that I had a phonics lesson with my five-year-old son to work on. After a few weeks of truly concentrated time from Mommy he has really taken off with the alphabet - to the point where next week we're going to move on from the alphabet to putting sounds together for three letter words. I know he's going to be so excited. I'm excited for him. Although not my favourite thing to do, it is incredibly rewarding to teach your child to read.
My squash has started to take over my garden. I'm going to look for a way to tame it a little. :) Everything else is growing well too. It is fun to watch. Soon we'll be eating beans from our own garden.
On Wednesday evening I went to our local La Leche League meeting. If you don't know this is a breastfeeding support group. I was telling them that my baby has enthusiastically started to eat everything I will put in his mouth. I've never had one this young (six months) who wants to eat everything I do. I was so happy to hear that according to new research I can feed it what I/he like, particularly as our family has no food allergies. I have yet to offer a food to Jonah that he refuses. He especially loves the hot brown rice cereal that we sometimes make for a bedtime snack for the family. For $2 I can have a healthy snack for our entire family and now Jonah is sharing this love.

right after trying his first solids - not sure but he came back for more

How was your week? Hot or otherwise?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Teaching Littles

It's that time of year when my thoughts start to turn to the next school year. I've had about a month off of school and it's been fun - sewing, gardening, visiting with family. I was feeling burned out from school, but the break has started to renew me. I'm starting to look forward to next year and the work we will do.
Today I'm going to talk about what I use to teach my preschoolers and kindergarteners. I'll talk about the other children later.
I was so excited to start teaching my oldest daughter that when she was two I started using a colouring book she was given about numbers and doing a page every day as well as going through a set of alphabet cards. It took us 10-15 minutes and we were both happy.
Most of our curriculum for junior high on down comes from a Mennonite company called Rod and Staff Publishers. They are not on the internet themselves although if you do a search on their name you will find companies that sell their products online. You could also call them at 606-522-4348 and they will send you a catalogue. The quality of their products, I believe, is second to none - very thorough and high quality.
Now I generally wait until our children are 3 or 3 1/2. By then they WANT to do school like their older siblings so I have a set of four books that I use and they all love. It's their schoolwork and they take it very seriously. We do one page every day. They don't quite last a school year, but by then they are ready for the next set that I order. In these books they learn how to draw a straight line, begin learning the concept of left to right eye movement on a page, count to number 5, cutting and pasting (a huge favourite), trace curved lines, etc. It takes us about 15-20 minutes.
Set of 4 Preschool Activity Workbooks
The next set of books I use for their K-4 work. It builds on what they've already learned and adds more numbers, the alphabet, sequencing, more cutting and pasting practice, how to print their name, logical thought (Don't all four year olds need help with this?). I don't use the brown book that you see in this set simply because whatever we're doing for Bible study for the big children we make it so the little ones can join in.
This company has now come out with some more books to continue this series. We love this addition. These books continue to build on what they know. Each book is themed on a different climate. All the exercises involve the animals, insects, and plants of that climate. We do a 2-3 pages per day in these books plus continue to learn the alphabet by going through a set of cards once per day. This takes about 30-40 minutes per day.
   Preschool - Set of 6 ABC Series workbooks + GHIJ

 K-5 gets a little more serious. Our work can take up to an hour to get done, but we don't do that all at once. It usually takes 2-3 sessions with breaks to get through that hour of work. We really get down to the business of learning to read. By now they generally know the names of all their letters and the sounds they make. I have changed my reading curriculum. I now use a reading programme that my mom wrote for learning to read using the King James Bible as the textbook. My children love this because they get their own Bible and we colour words in it as they learn. The textbook can be purchased directly from my mom (416-445-1611) or you can order the CD of the textbook here. My mom has also made a set of alphabet cards to go with the book. These are the cards we now use for learning the alphabet.
I Can Read My Bible: Learning to Read Using Only the KJB
We also do more concentrated work in math. By the end of kindergarten they will be able to count to 999 (if you want ☺) add and subtract, count by 2's, 5's and 10's, work with pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters and know a little about cups, pints, quarts, etc. There is also a set of extra practice sheets in case you need more work in a certain area. I have done everything from making them do almost every sheet to just doing it on an "as needed" basis. This is a very good math foundation.
Of course, with all of this we do lots of reading. It's so fun now to watch my older children read to their younger siblings. All of my children love to read and/or be read to. I think being read to is something we never outgrow enjoying - think audio books - adults love it too.
If you have any questions about what to teach your little one, I hope this has helped. Please contact me if you have any further questions.
What do you plan on teaching your little ones this year?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Storing Memories

I do a lot of storing in our home and preserving - fruits, vegetables, pictures, fabric for future projects, dry goods. This week we are storing up memories. After more than five years my sister and her family were able to come visit us. My two younger daughters have been soaking up games, giggles, play time, secrets with my sister's two oldest daughters. It is so wonderful to see my sister and her family. I grew up in a close family - something distance and time cannot break. So this post is short because we're enjoying our visit and stretching every minute to it's max because this visit will soon be over. When they're gone then the preserving will start with pictures scrapbooked and journaled. All these precious moments to be enjoyed over and over again as we wait for the next time we get to see each other.

What are your favourite memories with your family?

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Little House in the Big Woods

When I was a very little girl my parents gave me Little House in the Big Woods. I LOVED that book and read it over and over. About a year later I was in the store with my dad and saw that it was only the first book of a whole set. I dearly wanted that set but knew better than to ask. However, my parents being the wonderful parents they are read my mind and bought it for me soon afterwards.
I loved those books and wore out two sets before I reached 20. I still love them. I've read most of them to my children who also love them. My children have them hard cover now - good thing because they're re-reading them as much as I did. My nine-year-old daughter is quite the expert on Laura's life.
I loved the lifestyle they embodied. Of course, as a little girl I romanticized the whole pioneer woman idea. I wished I could have been one having no idea of the amount of work those amazing women did. Now as an adult there are many reasons why I'm glad I'm not - electricity and modern medicine being two of them.
The other day though I realized that I do do many of things I so admired Ma and other pioneer women I read about doing. So I thought it might be fun to make a list to see how many skills I now have that I wanted to learn when I was a little girl thinking/pretending I was a pioneer woman. Here it is in no particular order. I can...
bake - bread in particular
make jam
knit and crochet

hang my laundry outside
dehydrate produce (although I will admit to using an electric dehydrator which is almost foolproof)
make my own sauces like spaghetti sauce
make my own chicken/beef/vegetable stocks
grind my own grains (Again, I use an electric mill. We did use a hand-powered one for a long time though. My children worked off a lot energy helping me grind wheat.)
use cloth diapers, but I don't wash them by hand ☺
have home births
nurse my babies
make my own hand lotion
make ice cream
I'll probably think of a few more while nursing my baby in the middle of the night. Here are a few skills I still want to learn. How to...
make soap
make candles
make jerky
smock - I really want to learn this one
milk a cow/goat and then make my own cheese
When we lived in the country we had a wood cookstove that we used to heat our main floor and that I did most of my cooking on. I loved that stove and leaving it behind was one of my biggest regrets when we moved. The first spring we lived in the country my husband had to cut a big limb off a maple tree. We noticed sap running out of the tree at that point so we hung a five gallon bucket and caught the sap. Then we cooked it down on our wood stove. We took it down to a couple of thin quarts of syrup. It had a bit of an earthy undertone. I loved it. I felt so Ma-ish. We also had chickens for a while, and the children loved collecting eggs - like a treasure hunt.
My list has encouraged me. I really am living my girlhood dream - a house full of children and many skills for making our home a home that Ma would have been comfortable in.
What were your childhood dreams? Have you attained or at least partially attained them.
By the way, this is my 50th post. I can't believe it. I promised a small book-related giveaway at #50, but I have to admit to not having it ready because I've been sewing quilts like crazy in anticipation of a visit from my nieces. I just finished them and my nieces love them. So now I can work on my giveaway prize. Stay tuned and hopefully I'll be announcing it before the weekend.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Library Time Week 5

We've had our first week at the library reading club and already my oldest daughter has won a prize. She didn't like any of the books they were offering so they gave her a gift card to a bookstore where she promptly went and bought two hardbacked classics off the clearance table. Well, on to our reading list.
Myself - I currently have two books on the go. Raising Cubby by John Elder Robison. This is the story of a father with Asperger's (a form of autism) raising a son with Asperger's. This Life is in Your Hands by Melissa Coleman. The author's parents were some of the first "back-to-the-land" people in the late 60's and early 70's. These books are both super interesting to me. I love reading how people overcome the difficulties they havve in their lives.

14-year-old daughter - Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

13-year-old son - lots of Louis L'Amour

11-year-old son - The Lego Book published by DK, a favourite publisher with us

9-year-old daughter - Our Canadian Girl Emily by Julie Lawson

7-year-old daughter - Madeline, The Three Little Pigs, a Snoopy comic book

5-year-old son - Franklin's Picture Dictionary, Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski and What Do You Say, Dear by Sesyle Joslin

2-year-old son - Again by John Prater

What has been your reading pleasure this week?

Friday, 5 July 2013

Homemade What?

This has been a momentous week for us. Our baby has his first tooth, and we "officially" started him on solids. We'd been giving him tiny, tiny nibbles here and there, but this week we actually bought some organic applesauce for him. I also made him some homemade "cheerios". Yep, you read that correctly - cheerios. Now in all fairness they don't look like the little o's everyone knows and loves. They're more like tiny little blobs. They are made from oatmeal though and they fall apart easily in the mouth which is why they get to be called cheerios.
I like to give my babies as little commercial baby food as possible. Sometimes the little jars are convenient and easy so we get them, but mostly I try to just give them baby-friendly versions of what we eat. A lot of times I just finely mush up whatever we're having and feed that. I like for them to get used to different textures as well as the taste of the foods we enjoy as a family.
None of our children are picky eaters. I don't know if it's because I'm a little unconventional when it comes to feeding them, but they all have healthy and wide-ranging appetites. My husband tends to be even more eager than me to introduce them to the foods he loves, offering them tastes off his plate even sooner than I would.
Anyway, back to the cheerios. I can't remember how I stumbled on the recipe for it, but if you want to try it you can find it here. It's not something you could pour in a bowl and eat with milk. I think it would just fall apart, but they are the perfect size and texture for little fingers and mouths. We like to crumble Jonah's into his applesauce to give it a little more umph. Otherwise, I break it up and feed it to him because he's not quite into transferring food from a bowl to his mouth yet - soon, though, very soon. Like the originals they're not very sweet.
I've been doing a lot of sewing and scrapbooking this week too. I love both of these hobbies, and I love that both of these hobbies benefit others.
My five-year-old son has been working very hard to learn his alphabet, and I'm happy to report that he is on the cusp of being able to read. It is so exciting. This confirms something I suspected for a few months now. He only needed my total undivided attention to master this skill. Since the older children finished school we've been doing his letters for 20-30 minutes a day with various games, cards and handwriting exercises. He will be my sixth child to teach to read, and I think my most rewarding because it feels like we've had to work so hard at it. Very soon he'll be doing more than just reading pictures.
"reading" to his baby brother
How was your week? I hope it was a joyous one.