Monday, March 28, 2011

Leap of Faith

As I was driving down Hazel tonight during rush hour traffic, I was reminded of the time several years back when I quit my job. We had just had Jake, who was about 2 1/2 months old at the time, Ashlee was 4, and we had just moved back from Washington. Forrest was managing a restaurant and painting houses on the side while I waited tables. It was what we had to do to make ends meet, and I knew no other way.

However, that night was different. As I struggled through traffic to make it to my shift on time, the thought hit me: "This is not worth it." There is something about going in to wait tables with (pardon me) leaky boobs that call for your baby that just feels so... unnatural. My kids needed me, I needed them, and now as a mother of two I decided it was time to take this parenting business seriously... right then and there. I veered off my path, looped back over the freeway, and headed back up towards home. My manager would get a call from me later that night- I could not even afford a two week notice.

It was a leap of faith, and I still remember the invigorating feeling I had taking it. Something deep inside of me said, "This is right." I did not know where I would go from there, what we would do, or what Forrest's reaction would be, but I knew that I was not supposed to continue on to work that night. I had a much greater calling to be home with my kids, and that was right.

As I was reliving this tonight, it got me thinking how much of parenting requires a leap of faith. One of the hardest things for me to hear is, "I would love to have more kids, but we just can't afford it." Since when does money supersede the miracles of God? It's been my experience that God has a pattern- He makes the call, then opens the door. Sometimes faith requires us to go where there is no light, and trust that the light will follow. It is not His plan for us to see all that is before us, otherwise, where is the demonstration of our faith?

Forrest will often say that if it were not for the kids that we have, he would not have the work that he does. We are both well aware of the blessings that have come into our lives from heeding the call to raise God's children. The scriptures make it clear that "Children are an heritage of the Lord," and who in this day would deny an inheritance? We have had our share of trials in raising five children on a limited income, but we can both attest to that fact that doors do open. And when I hear my children compare notes about how many kisses they're going to give Anthony when he comes out, I know we've done something right.

This concept can also be carried over into other venues we've taken such as homebirth and homeschooling. I still remember the night that I lie in bed reading the scriptures, and one scripture in particular resonated the fact that homebirth was right for us. You know when you know. Then there was the time I prayed for help with a specific problem with one of my children and homeschooling was the answer. Although it made no sense at the time and I could not see the way, it has grown into something much bigger and better than I ever could've imagined or created with my own plan and intentions. And the fleeting moment of fear with my first homebirth was quickly enveloped with the warm realization that this was the way God intended my births to be. Similarly, it is growing and evolving into something much bigger and better than I ever could've imagined. It all started with an inspired leap of faith.

No one will ever spend their last moments wondering about the balance in their checking account, or wishing that they would've made more money. They will call in their loved ones. Why, then, should we not "put (our) trust in that spirit which leadeth to do good," follow our hearts, and heed every call that requires a leap of faith? There is a much greater plan than our own.

Buttermilk Quinoa Pancakes

Interested in trying a new grain? How about quinoa.

Quinoa is rare in that it is a complete plant protein (making it perfect for vegetarians) and contains many trace minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and lysine. It can be purchased in the bulk foods section at most grocery stores (I prefer Bel-Air) for relatively inexpensive. It is a versatile grain and can be used in breads, salads, and pastas, but one of our favorite uses for it is in buttermilk quinoa pancakes.
I was given this recipe by Nikki, who discovered it in her marvelous cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This would make a wonderful addition to anyone's cookbook collection, not just vegetarians.
The kids love these, and Ashlee requested them this morning. One bite and I was glad she did. Recipe is as follows:

Buttermilk Quinoa Pancakes

1 c. water
1/2 c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
(this will yield about 1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa, enough for the recipe)

*Boil water, add quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer 15 mins. until all liquid is absorbed.

For the pancakes:

1 c. white flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or any ratio of your choice)
1-3 Tbs. sugar
dash salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
dash nutmeg
dash cinnamon

2 eggs
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
3 Tbs. butter, melted
splash vanilla
1 to 1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa

Combine dry ingredients.

Whisk wet ingredients, add to dry (do not overmix.)

Gently fold in cooked quinoa.

Cook on ungreased hot griddle until golden brown.

Serve with pure maple syrup.

Thanks again for sharing this recipe Nikki. It has become a favorite!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The End of my Twenty-Somethings

Here's to the end of my twenties... weeks that is. This Thursday I will be 30 weeks pregnant. This is when the countdown really begins.
I couldn't escape my last pregnancy without getting in one of the classic "heart" pictures.
And for your viewing pleasure, some random pics Jacob snapped of me in the kitchen today (I told him he needs to hold the camera steady next time.)

I know it's early in the game, but for a third trimester I have had none of the aches and pains typically associated with this stage. I keep waiting for the low back and hip pain to set in like it has in pregnancies past. With a little over two months to "grow" it could happen, but I'm holding out for not. Little Anthony is a strong boy and makes his presence known. We can't wait to meet him.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet the Midwives

I just came across this on One Heart Village and it was too good not to share; the story of my midwives. It's almost too sacred to want to share, but as I read it I can't help but feel that this is wisdom I want more women to hear. Their words are just overflowing with inspiration. See for yourself...

Marlene's Story
Kaleem's Story

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Child Spacing

So I think I must be a little preoccupied with child spacing lately. Last night I had a dream that I got pregnant while I was pregnant, and that this new baby would be coming only a couple of short months after Anthony. In the dream I was talking to another mom and asking her how my body knew which one to deliver first, and wondering how the other baby would stay inside during labor. She just kept reassuring me that my body would know what to do, and that it would be okay. I woke up feeling fine, so my mind must have rid itself of whatever it was that was troubling my subconscious (I always try to decipher the meaning of my dreams, but that one wasn't too difficult to figure out.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Curriculum Favorites

When we first began homeschooling, I felt slightly overwhelmed by the task of choosing our curriculum. Back then Ashlee was my only student, but the responsibility of making sure that we had adequate material to cover every subject was rather daunting. As much as I love our ST, I have always felt that we could use more assistance in the way of having curriculum recommended to us. So, I am going to do what I wish someone would have done for us years ago, and that is to share some of what we have found to work. A.K.A., this is my accrued knowledge over the past several years, coming your way. All of the materials below can be found on the Rainbow Resource website.

First: Saxon Math. I knew coming into homeschooling that Saxon was a highly recommended program. My ST told me that it was the best. While I am sure there are other good math programs out there, this one has worked for us and so we stick with it. I am sure my kids are ahead of their game when it comes to math, and I give Saxon the credit. What I like is that each lesson begins with 2-3 examples highlighting the new concept to be taught, so even if it is something that is unfamiliar to you the teacher, you can walk through it with your student and learn as you go. Saxon is also a cumulative program, meaning that concepts reappear in subsequent lessons and build on each other. As I've mentioned before, the C.D.s are invaluable in terms of a self- teaching tool, and can be used by the student or parent. I use Saxon for both Ashlee and Jacob.

Does grammar instruction sound intimidating to you? Easy Grammar is the most user-friendly program we have found. Being an English major, I have always placed high emphasis on grammar and writing. However, in the wrong hands, grammar instruction can be rather dry. NOT SO with Easy Grammar. These books are so simple and straight-forward, and require very little instruction on the part of the parent. Ashlee has used this program since 3rd grade, and Jacob will start next year (*as a side note, grammar instruction is not recommended until at least 2nd grade, as it is rather abstract to students any younger than this.)
Okay, science. Rainbow Resource offers much in the way of science curriculum, however, a majority of it is religious based. This is wonderful, aside from the fact that a state charter can not fund religious-based curriculum (no surprise there,) so science is an area where we always need to get a little creative in terms of piecing it together. What I have found to be most effective is to glance over the CA state standards, then choose a theme for each student. I then get the books from the library or order them individually through Rainbow. Right now we happen to be in marine biology, and I found this wonderful series titled Exploring the Oceans for Ashlee. Each book covers a different part of the ocean, starting with the tidal zone, then going on to the sunlight zone, midnight zone, sea floor, etc. We read them together then discuss. They are so interesting, I wouldn't let her do science without me!
This is another great science curriculum I came across for Ashlee back in 4th grade. It is called Real Science-4-Kids level I, and covers Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Each lesson has about 4-6 pages explaining a new theory or concept, followed by an experiment. We would do one lesson a week over two days; one day for the reading, one day for the experiment. We tried to move up to Real Science level II this year, but found it to be too challenging. I think we'll revisit the series in the next year or two.

For Jacob: The Usborne Complete First Book of Nature. Let me just say I love Usborne books. Rainbow has plenty of them, but they are a worthy investment to have in your home library as well. This book covers everything from birds, to butterflies, moths and caterpillars, spiders and snakes, you name it. I started this with Jacob in Kindergarten, and our lessons consisted of reading a few pages, discussing what we read, then concluded with Jacob writing a few sentences about what interested him along with an illustration. Again, very interesting for both student and parent.

Geography is another one of those subjects that can be relatively dry, but with the World Geography and You series, lessons are broken down into 3-5 page manageable chapters that conclude with 1-2 pages of multiple choice and short-answer questions. Each chapter highlights a different region in the world, and talks about its climate, population, resources, landforms, problems, future outlook, and so-forth. This is another subject I read with Ashlee, as most of it I feel I am learning for the first time!

Ahhh, history. If you are like most students, history was a slew of names and dates without meaning. In The Story of the World, Susan Wise Bauer breaks world history down into easy-to-read, engaging, digestible stories that (gulp) incorporate religion! However, it is done in such a way that no religious biast is obvious (although we know she is a strong Christian.) She starts with the Nomads, then moves on to Egyptian tombs, The Chinese Empire, and so forth, all the while covering stories like Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, God Speaking to Abraham, and many other monumental stories in our world's history. However, it is done tactfully and non-biast, which is why this book can stand as an objective text and will still be covered by state funding. Each story is like a springboard, and any one chapter can turn into an entire unit study if you wish to go to the library and expand your research. We have all 4 volumes on our shelf and intend to use them for the duration of our homeschool career. Again, this is another curl-up-on-the-couch and read together book.

Spelling Workout has been our trusty spelling curriculum for 4 years; not much more to say than that.

This is the book where Ashlee gets all of her daily writing prompts (which I get so much enjoyment out of reading each day.) I loved writing prompts as a kid, and I really think it gives students an opportunity to engage their imaginations and write about whatever they choose. It's the one subject where they have a lot of room for creativity.
Again, when Mom is an English major, you can expect an emphasis on writing. I'd say without compromise that writing is probably the most important skill one can learn; for without the ability to adequately express oneself, all other skills are compromised. That being said, writing is the subject that homeschoolers struggle with the most. That is why I love this little book: Simply Writing- The Five Paragraph Essay. As you move up in academics, writing is all about breaking away from the five paragraph essay, but it's a place to start. I love the five paragraph essay as a way to teach kids how to coherently organize their thoughts and ideas. Everyone needs to know how to write a five paragraph essay, and this book makes it so simple.

This is another wonderful series that makes writing instruction so... simple. Something we love to hear as teachers. The series goes from A-F, corresponding to grade level, and is broken down into 2 page lessons that can be covered in about 5-15 minutes. Book A begins by teaching parts of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) then moves on to what makes a sentence, capitalization, and eventually writing a short description, a book report, and a story. Jacob finished Book A in the first semester and we are getting ready to start Book B, which will probably take us into next year. Again, very easy, very digestible (which is important if you are to stick with it.)
Explode the Code: These are great little workbooks to have on hand, and kids can do them independently. They reinforce spelling, writing, and phonics, and are set up in drill format. Repetition is so important, and with language arts, you can't have too much of it. The illustrations are silly and make it fun.
We have used this series in conjunction with Explode the Code. It's just another spelling and phonics workbook, done daily and independently, to reinforce concepts.
Phew! If you have stayed with me for this long, you deserve a brownie. If you are not a current or prospective homeschooler, I'm sure you dropped off a long time ago. This is only a fraction of our curriculum, but it is what we use most prevalently. We learn as we go, and each year we discover new treasures. Here's to a last semester, a new year, and all the new and upcoming homeschooling families out there! I wish you all the best in your endeavors!

Trader Joe's Favorites

Since we all love Trader Joe's, I had the idea to start doing weekly "Trader Joe's Favorites" posts. I first discovered Trader Joe's about 8 years ago while living up in Washington, and we have since become regulars. Although I shop there often, it seems their inventory is changing in such a way that there are always new treasures to discover. My hope is that some of you can chime in and share your favorites as well!

What we've been enjoying this week:

Strawberry Cream Cheese Spread
This is so delicious and can be an accompaniment to many items- bagels, pretzels, crackers, fruit- the possibilities are endless.

Sprouted Wheat Bagels
These pair very nicely with the strawberry cream cheese, and have always been a favorite in our family. They are also delicious toasted with plain cream cheese or butter, and they make excellent pizza bagels. As most of us know, sprouted wheat provides many more nutritional benefits than traditional wheat.

And as a treat...
Fudge Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies
At $4.99 per dozen, these cookies are somewhat pricey, yet decadent in flavor. You can find them in the freezer section. Just defrost them on the counter for an hour or two before you are ready to eat them, and keep them refrigerated thereafter. The filling is like a rich chocolate ganache. They were quite a bit smaller than I expected, which is probably a good thing otherwise I would've stuffed myself on them. They are the perfect bite-sized dessert.

Have a favorite? Do share...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I was talking to another mother last night of 5 children; two of whom are 15 months apart, two of whom are spaced only 11 months. I began to pick her brain a little bit about some concerns of mine, and what she had to say offered me some hope:

"It's not that hard."

Shock, then refreshment. In a world where children are often viewed as an inconvenience, I loved her light approach on rearing them. It was not hard to see that this mother was a natural.

It also got me thinking, again, that it's all about perspective. A tiny pebble, if held directly in front of the eye, can seem huge and insurmountable, nearly obstructing one's entire view. However, that same pebble, taken and cast behind one's path, is but a tiny pebble.

And on a day like today, who couldn't help but feel optimistic? Spring, we are holding out for you.
(pics from the backyard)


This girl has discovered apples, and looooves them. Although they end up in bits and pieces all over my living room floor, it's worth seeing the enjoyment she gets out of one. Don't eat an apple in front of her unless you are prepared to share.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Newly-Launched Homebirth Website

Are you looking to connect with other Moms in the homebirth community? Perhaps you have a birth story or some pictures you'd like to share? I would like to share with you the newly-launched One Heart Midwifery Village. If you have wondered about or ever considered a homebirth, this is the place to start. Come. Learn. Be inspired.

Enter Here

My midwives, Marlene and Kaleem. Don't they just look like angels?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Indian Butter Chicken

I've had so much on my mind today, but the energy allotment I have confines me to blogging about food, so here goes.

Trader Joe's Indian Butter Chicken
This was my dinner tonight. I am not typically a frozen food kind of girl, but with Trader Joe's frozen meals, you can't go wrong. If you read the ingredients, they're just about as good as homemade. This dish came with Basmati rice (my favorite,) and a small portion of chicken cooked in a spicy yogurt curry sauce. I added some frozen chopped spinach for color and extra nutrients. At a mere 400 calories, I was able to have the entire portion. My kids liked this as well, and Noah and Kaitlyn sat on either side of me waiting for bites. Next to the frozen spinach lasagna, I think this is going on my list of favorite Trader Joe's foods. Their ready-made meals are so good to have on hand for busy days and late-night dinners.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patty's Day 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I hope it was a good one for everybody. Our tradition is to start the day with green oatmeal, but Ashlee had the idea of Lucky Charms for breakfast... of course I had to add a few drops of green food coloring to the milk.

I was treated to an in-home prenatal today, as my last prenatal was cancelled when the midwives got called to a birth. They happened to be in the area this morning and stopped by for a visit. I am 28 1/2 weeks, measuring 30 cm. (that fluctuates all the time,) Anthony is nice and low and active, my blood pressure is in the healthy normal range, and everything looks great. I love my midwives and can't help but be uplifted when I'm around them, so it was a great start to the day.

After school work, we went to the indoor Carl's Jr. play place for some lunch and play time. This is such a treat for the kids, usually reserved for a rainy day.
I put a corned beef in the crockpot this morning atop a bed of potatoes, carrots, and green cabbage. I also thought I'd try my hand at homemade rye bread. I've been wanting to do this for a while, and thought it would pair well with a corned beef dinner. I bought some rye berries in the bulk section at Bel-Air, ground them into rye flour in my wheat grinder, then followed a 4 1/2 star recipe I found online for dark rye bread. It turned out so moist and delicious, and the kids devoured it. Once despised in my childhood, I now love rye bread. It's a nice change in grain.

My friend and neighbor Brittany was kind enough to come over and sit with the kids while Forrest and I took a much-needed night out together. Our first stop was Pinkberry in Folsom, upon Brittany's recommendation. Apparently this is the first "original" tart yogurt shop, and let me tell you, they rival NuYo to say the least. This is some frozen yogurt to write home about- sooooo delicious (you must try the blood orange.)
Then we headed over to the cinemas for The Adjustment Bureau. I don't think this movie was what either of us expected, but for me it was better. Quite the love story, and a feel-good movie indeed.