Saturday, December 19, 2009

Grandma's Candy

Every year growing up, our family spent the day after Christmas at my grandparents' home.  I have wonderful memories of Christmas at my grandparents' house.  The little kitschy spinning tree topper that I would sit and watch for hours, waiting to open presents.  The endless games of euchre.  The cold and somewhat mysterious storeroom upstairs from which everything seemed to come.  

And, most of all, GRANDMA'S CANDY.  The candy that had to be kept cool but wasn't kept in some boring, obvious place like the refrigerator.  Grandma's candy was always kept in a secret door that led to a secret room.  Okay, I think it was just the door to their storage underneath their house, but to me it felt like a big secret (Maybe it felt like a big secret because I am still unsure of what the door leads to.  Why, after all these years, have I not bothered to find out?).  Candy that only came out on the 26th of December.  Candy that was chocolatey.  Crunchy.  Peanut-buttery.  Divine.  

Now everyone who can make the trip to my grandparents' house on the 26th of December still goes to celebrate.  Things have changed a bit, but the memories and traditions are still alive and strong.  And Grandma's Candy?  Definitely still there.  And usually kept in the same secret stash.  

I say usually because once I found it in the refrigerator.  In plain sight!  For everyone to see!  Surely this wasn't the same candy!  It completely threw me for a loop.  

So a few years back I couldn't make it to the celebration and asked my Grandma for the recipe.  Who new that it was so easy?  A few ingredients melted and mixed together, put it in the refrigerator to harden and you're done!  

Grandma's Candy
(this makes about a dozen cookie-size pieces of candy)

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (11.5 oz)
1/2 to 1 cup of peanut butter (more or less depending on how much you like peanut butter)
1 1/2 to 2 cups of granola (again, depending on how you want the consistency of your candy) - Grandma used to always use Quaker 100% Natural cereal, but in recent years she's used the Kroger brand of Natural cereal.  It's just a basic granola.  Use whatever granola you like, but I wouldn't use one with a lot of added stuff in it (raisins, dried fruit, coconut, etc...).  A simple oats and honey one works best.

Okay, here you go.  I hope you all are reading closely because it's the easiest thing you'll ever make.

Melt chocolate chips.  Take off heat.  Stir in peanut butter.  Stir in granola.  Drop onto baking sheet covered with wax paper.  Put into refrigerator to harden. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Baking: an update

We survived!  And I even got a few pictures.  Here are some gingersnaps getting ready to go into the oven:

Here are some of those cute little pretzel treats, ready to go into the oven.  Things did turn out, I promise.  I just forgot to take after pictures.  I only have befores:

And last, but not least, here's a little one all tuckered out from the baking.  The older kids helped my husband hand out treats at work while I waited with the younger ones.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Baking

Tomorrow I'm planning on doing some baking for my husband to take to his office.  I thought I'd share what I'm planning.  These are simple, no-fuss recipes.  Easy peasy.

So, in case you're wondering - because I know y'all are - is she going to do all this holiday baking with five children under 6 years old?  Or maybe you weren't wondering.  Maybe you do it all the time and it's just me who gets in a tizzy about these things.  Kudos to you.  Tell me how you do it.  But I was sitting here thinking about my plan for tomorrow and I had a brief thought of . . . "Really?  Is this possible?"  

So I'm saying now what I have to say to prepare myself before I do any sort of cooking/baking with the children.  It won't be picture perfect.  And it won't go as planned.  I'm always lowering my expectations around here.  Because baking with children can be enjoyable and fun for everyone (you too!) if your expectations are lowered a bit.  Oh, and I don't know about your kids, but my kids are really only helping so that they can have tastes of everything.  So if you want to stay sane, hand out tastes (and liberally).  

Don't expect pictures.  Or maybe I'll surprise myself and get some good ones.  

Okay, here's what I'm planning . . . Don't look, Danneca.  Nothing is healthy about any of these.  :-) 

Peanut-Butter Kisses.  Everyone calls them something different.  Here's a recipe. 

Gingersnaps.  I use a recipe that makes soft gingersnaps, which I guess wouldn't make them "snaps" but I'm not changing the name.  

Oatmeal Scotchies.  I found it on the back of the butterscotch chips bag.  I might put chocolate chips in them too.  

These.  Aren't they cute?  This will be the kids' favorite thing to make and I'm mostly making this for them.  

Later this week I'm making my Grandma's Candy for a party.  I will post the recipe to this because it is divine and so easy to make. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Book

I've been reading a book called Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin.  It's about - yep, you guessed it - preparing for Jesus!  Y'all are so smart!  Here it is.  I bought it last year but didn't read much of it last year because I got it when I was looking for an Advent devotional to use with the kids.  My kids are a little young for this book.  But I started using it myself and I really like it.  

Here's an excerpt that I thought was especially good.  This is from December 8th.
Luke 1:28-30: And Gabriel came to Mary and addressed her thus: "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"  Now, she was greatly troubled at what he said and wondered what such a greeting might mean.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary. for you have found favor with God."

"This, too, must absolutely be a part of our Christmas anticipations: that in the presence of divinity we are "greatly troubled."  . . . . . Nevertheless, fear has been forgotten - both by the world and by Christians in general.  We rush toward angels unafraid.  We approach the blazing furnaces of the seraphim with no more apprehension than children who reach laughingly for fire.  This fearlessness is not a sign of the character of God, as if God has changed throuh the centuries that divide us from Moses and Isaiah, from Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds.  Rather, it is a sign of the character of this present age, of arrogance or of ignorance, whether or not one admits to a living God.  

Mindlessly do the bells of secular celebrations jingle for Christmas.  Meaninglessly do carols repeat their tinny joys in all the malls of America.  No richer than soda pop is every sentimentalized Christmas special on TV.  Fearless is the world at play with godly things, because Godless is its heart.

If God is a laughing Santy, why should we be afraid?

Secular arrogance says there is no God.  Arrogance, in fact, assumes that humanity itself - its dreams, its talents, its visions and accomplishments - is the nearest thing to God the world will ever know.  Therefore, the "true meaning of Christmas" is assumed to be the occasional human kindness which, yes, may very well be symbolized by a nice old gentleman.  . . . .

Of course it is right to rejoice in tidings of great joy: that the mercy of God now crosses the gulf which our sinning opened between ourselves and our Creator.  Yes, it is right to fall down in perfect trust, fearlessly, before the Christ child and to worship him.  Yes, it is right to delight in the song of angels, the peace that God brings to the earth.  Yes, yes, and therefore do we cry in confidence, "Fear not!  Fear not!  For God hath banished fear!"

Ah, friend, but arrogance assumes that we deserve this blessed state.  There is neither grace nor gifts for those who deserve what they get - and no true joy at the receiving.  

And ignorance forgets the sin without which mercy means nothing, without which the baby Jesus is just a baby after all.

Listen: the light of Christmas shines into darkness!  We should be the walking dead.  What we deserve, in fact, is the absence of God - a cold and cosmic isolation - for this is our sin, that we chose to be gods in the place of God.  In the day we disobeyed we began to die.  We should, therefore, be dwelling in a land of deep darkness, mistrust, hatred, hopelessness, finality, and death. . .

But even as we feared, so do we rejoice when we hear the light say, "Don't be afriad.  I have not come to punish but to give you life.  I am no judge.  I am the Savior born for you."

Life instead of death?  That is a wonder!  And the wonder is all the more intense because death had been expected - because death had been right!

The mercy of God?  Is not this a dazzling wonder?

And isn't Christmas wonderful after all?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Delicious Christmas Beverages

I simply love to make special drinks during the Christmas Season.  It's no-mess, pretty quick, yet still delicious, nutritious and heart-warming.  Here are some of my favorites:

Hot Apple Cider

1 part unsweetened cranberry juice to 2 parts apple juice; add a cinnamon stick, an orange, whole cloves or allspice, simmer an hour or so on med-low, strain, add honey to taste and keep warm.  OR, buy spiced cider packets (unsweetened) and add to the juices.  OR, buy Knudsen's Spiced cider and mix w/ cranberry juice. 

Hot Cocoa

Follow the directions on the cocoa container, using non-homogenized milk and substituting the sugar with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.  Top with whipped cream, lightly sweetened with one of the above sweeteners.

Egg Nog

Folllow your favorite egg nog recipe, substituting the sugar with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.  You won't notice a difference!  It's so yummy!  Love it with rum too, of course.

Candy Cane Green/Black Tea

Use bulk herbs for this.  As you know, we love the herbs from these folks:  Pour 1c. boiling water over 1tsp. peppermint leaves and 1tsp. green or black tea.  Steep for 3 min.  Less if you don't like it fairly strong.  Sweeten with honey to taste.  Also a great gift for your tea-drinking friends - give them the bulk herbs already mixed, with directions for brewing. 

This is one way to bless my family without too much hassle and guilt.  Enjoy!

posted by Danneca

Thursday, December 3, 2009

a picture of the advent calendar

Here's a quick picture of the advent calendar I made after seeing it in a catalog.  I'm very happy with the way it turned out.  I couldn't get a nice looking picture, so sorry about that.  And I took it on the side where you can't really see the numbers, but they're there, on the other side.  See that first one on the far left, all askew?  That's after I got it all made and pretty looking and a certain child clipped the ribbon really really short.  Lovely.  So I had to make do. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"For to us a child is born. . . "

For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 (Isaiah 9:6)

Now that the Advent season is upon us, I am faced with the challenge of conveying to my children the real meaning of all the preparations for December 25th.  Actually, I should back up and say that I am faced with the blessing of conveying this to my children.  It is a blessing to be able to try to convey the magnitude, the miracle, the wonder of it all!  But I will say it is also a challenge.  How do you celebrate Christmas with young children and not have it be all about the presents?

Well, in some ways, it is all about the presents and there's no way getting around that.  When you are a little kid, the excitement of it, the anticipation, the wonder gets mixed in with presents.  And that's okay, in my opinion, as long as it doesn't get out of hand.  We tend to let them get excited about anticipating presents, but also reign them in when it feels like they are just selfishly wishing and hoping. 
I think a big (very very big) way to help your children not focus on presents (or just "things" in general) is to limit their television watching.  I know lots of people say that, but I see a very big different in my children's attitudes when they have been watching tv and when they haven't.  We don't own a television.  That's for another post though . . .we won't get into that now. 

So having said that, some practical things we do:
+We do an advent reading every night.  It's short and sweet.  We light our advent candle, we read Scripture, and we sing a song.  Then they get a small treat. 
+We tell them the story of Christ's birth over and over and over again.  We read books about it.  We focus on it as much as we can while we're decorating and baking and partying.
+This year we're also doing a Jesse tree.  I'm sure most of you have heard of it.  There are a lot of resources out there to do this.  We're using this book.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering about Santa Claus.  We tell our kids about the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas.  There are plenty of books out there to read about Saint Nicholas.  I just recently found several I hadn't read at my local library.  We have this book and I like it a lot too.  Everyone does the Santa Claus thing differently and I tend to not want to mettle with your way of doing things when it comes to St. Nick.  Do whatever you feel is right.

Lastly, I got several Christmas book suggestions from here, if you're interested.  She has several along her sidebar.

So there you go.  My ideas.  Anyone want to share your ideas? 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Advent Ideas

Since the first Sunday of Advent is right after Thanksgiving, I thought I'd post some ideas I have swirling around in my head for Advent festivities.

First off we have a wonderful Advent calendar that we've used for several years now and the kids enjoy it more and more as they get older.  It's the Fontanini Wooden Advent Calendar.  It's a little pricey but it is really nice quality and with five little children, it's saying something that we've had it for several years.  This is not really one for them to play with and touch a lot, but we just have the kids take turns every night putting a piece on.

We also have a beautiful (gorgeous!) advent calendar made by my mother-in-law.  I'll take a picture of it when I get it out and post it.  She made them for each of her kids a few Christmases ago and it is really special and nice.  Maybe you can talk her into making you one.  :-)  With this one, the kids turn over a piece of the calendar every day like the other one.

It's kind of nice to have two because it gives the kids more chances to participate.

I was looking through the Garnet Hill catalog this year and found this sweet advent calendar.  I decided that I could make one like it myself for about half that price.  So I ordered everything and am all set to make it.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes and take pictures.  The buckets are so tiny and cute and I'll think they'll be fun to put candy in for each day.  We always give a little piece of candy or treat after we do our advent reading and turn our calendars every evening.

Now that this post has gotten a little long, I'll save the important parts about advent for my next post.  It does deserve its own post.  How do you convey the real meaning of Christmas to your kids?  How do you get them to anticipate Christ's birth with excitment and wonder without making it all about the presents?  Well, we haven't perfected this by any means, but I'll write about some things that we do to make it meaningful and keep the focus on Christ.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Quick Happy Post

This is the silliest post you'll ever read, and in the scope of life-eternal, holds absolutely no significance, whatsoever.  However, that said, I just realized today how happy hot tea makes me.  I figured I can't be the only one who feels this way, nor could I be the only one to always be disappointed when I would make myself a cup of hot tea to enjoy, even while working, as I rarely "curl up" for anything....anyway and notice a couple hours later a cup of cold tea sitting on the counter top!  You all are so much smarter than me, and have probably already discovered this, but I'm going to share anyway....after I broke my large tea cup, I started making my tea in my insulated travel cup, since it was the only one large enough to satisfy my love for hot green tea.  THIS, my friends, has made me happy.  Now, when I return to my forgotten cup of tea, IT IS STILL HOT!  Literally.  Like I said, this is of zero importance; I know, but boy was I happy the first time I burned my lip on my forgotten tea!

posted by Danneca

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mommy Blogs that Make Us Happy

Are you getting tired of our "happy" things yet? I am, almost. I'll stop soon on the themey-ness. Yes, that's a word, even though my spellchecker is trying to say that it's not. And just so you know, it did not point out that spellchecker is not a word. Is it really a word?

Here are some links to some blogs that we are fond of (notice I didn't use happy? I'm phasing it out already). These blogs are mostly about mothering, being a wife, and homeschooling. I'll list some other favorites soon (like my favorite craft blogs, cooking blogs, etc...).  Please tell me someone else enjoys reading blogs as much as I do. 

Preschoolers and Peace
. This has been a great resource for me and more recently for Danneca. She's got some wonderful tips and ideas. I have put her Circle Time into our homeschooling plan this year and have really loved it.

Life in a Shoe. She's funny, witty, and very down to earth. Her kids are pretty cute too.

In the Heart of My Home. I enjoy her writing style and she often makes me appreciate the little blessings of having children.

Blue Yonder. If you homeschool, she has a fun "Book of Days" that's been a nice change of pace for us when we're ready for a little break from the daily grind but don't want to take a break entirely from learning.

There you go. Go look around, if you have the time, and enjoy.

Tell us in the comments some of your favorite mommy blogs. I love reading new ones.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Happy Snack

So we're all starting to feel the urge to hibernate.  Here's a snack that provides incredible nutrition, is a favorite for many, is easily transported, will keep for weeks........BUT you must follow the recipe carefully, otherwise you'll stress your body out and end up with a tummy ache. 

Crispy Cashews
Place 4c. raw cashews in a bowl.  Cover with pure water.  Stir in 2tbsp. sea salt.  Let sit at room temp. for 6hrs. - no more, no less.  Strain, but don't rinse.  Roast in oven at a max. of 250 degrees.  I usually roast at 170.  Roast until you like the texture.  Store in a jar with a tight lid or ziploc bag.  Mix with raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips or whatever you want!

Crispy Pecans/Walnuts
Place 4c. nuts in a bowl.  Cover with pure water.  Stire in 2tbsp. sea salt.  Let sit at room temp. for 8hrs. or overnight.  Strain, but don't rinse.  Roast in oven at a max of 150 degrees.  My oven only goes as low as 170, so I heat to 170, then turn it off for awhile, then repeat until I like the texture of the nuts.  Mix with raisins, etc., as you like.

**Here's the deal with soaking the nuts:  Nuts are made with "enzyme inhibitors."  These prevent the nut from being digested in your gut, causing your pancreas to work overtime, thus causing stress on your whole body (adrenals are badly affected, as well as your insulin response).  If you soak the nuts as directed, the enzyme inhibitor is broken down and digested properly, helping your body to receive the wonderful benefits of this highly nutritious food.  Very important not to roast them above the temps. listed in the recipe.  Overheating will kill those precious enzymes you released when you soaked the nuts!  I am always hard-pressed for quick protein.  Having been pregnant and nursing for the last 10yrs., my hormones are quite demanding on my body.  Protein helps balance these monsters and helps keep me "happy."  You MUST start your day with protein if your hormones give you any trouble at all.  That's why I like these nuts.  I keep them in a ziploc bag in the pantry.  After I've taken all my little morning routine potions (still with my eyes half-shut), I toss small handful of the nuts into a cup and mix in a little something sweet and chomp them as I go about my morning.  This has helped me tremendously in my tendancy to have hormonal panic episodes when things get cooky around here, and they always do.  Anyway, this is super easy.  Hope it makes you happy too!

Posted by Danneca

The photo of the yummy cashews is from flickr:

Raw Giant Cashews
Originally uploaded by Nutsinbulk

Thursday, October 15, 2009

If Mama Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

Ever feel blue?  Unhappy?  Work/Husband/Children stressing you out?

I've been there.  More times than I can count.

While there have been times when my happiness depends on someone else changing their ways or other physical factors (sleep, hormone fluctuations, pregnancy, etc...), a simple way for me to change my outlook is to . . . be grateful.

That's it.

No magic potion, no secret pill.

Just gratefulness.



Stop comparing your house with your neighbor's.  Be grateful that you have a place to live.
Quit hounding your husband to finish the (fill-in-the-blank).  Be thankful that he loves you.
Don't stress about your kid fitting in.  Be content with the fact that you have children to care for.

Everyone is different.  You may be in between jobs.  You might not have a husband who loves you.   Maybe you want children but don't have any yet.  But you have things to be grateful for.  Everyone does. 

If you're feeling down, I challenge you to list things you are thankful for.  Write them down.  Post them on your steering wheel.  Write them on your bathroom mirror.  Keep a journal.  Find ways to remind yourself of God's blessings.

What are you grateful for today?

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Need to Let Go?

So, ever have trouble "letting go?"  I'm not a great emotional counselor.  However, if letting go of toxic waste that accumulates in your bowels is your problem, then I'm your gal!

Studies show that a large portion of doctor visits are to treat constipation.  Over-the-counter remedies can have side effects longer term and don't treat the root of your problem, which means you may as well buy stock in the company, because you'll be their customer for life.  Leaving the roots causes of constipation unresolved can be deadly - literally.

First of all, everyone should do a colon cleanse twice per year.  This would include those suffering from chronic constipation and those who have no trouble with healthy elimination.  There are plenty of inexpensive colon cleanses out there.  I like the list found here.

Those suffering from chronic or recurring constipation should look carefully at their diet.  Food sensitivities/allergies can be a cause.  Try keeping a journal of your diet for a couple weeks and see if you can find a correlation between the constipation and what you've eaten.  The biggest culprit is usually dairy, but there are certainly others.

You probably already know that fiber is a huge factor in proper elimination.  Fiber acts as a broom to your colon walls, loosening toxins, bad bacteria, and other waste.  To be frank, white flour should not be part of your diet.  At all.  If, and only if, you make it a point to have lots and lots of healthy fiber in your diet, the rare occasion of your favorite pastry, pizza crust or other treat can be tolerated and properly removed.  

Flax is an excellent source - grind a high quality flax seed in a coffee mill and add 1/4 cup per day to your yogurt or smoothie.  I don't recommend grinding it ahead ahead of time, as it immediately begins losing it's awesome health benefits, like it's healthy fats.  Another great fiber source is new to me, but has shown amazing results in my own experience already!  Who remembers the commercial:  "Ch-ch-ch-chia!"?  Chia seeds!  Order chia seeds from  Browse this website for info on how to use these.  It's super simple and chia is seriously one of the most perfect foods on the planet.  My husband and I have been using them for a couple weeks now and can already see muscle tone and are experiencing the benefits of its slow-release endurance energy.  More on this later.  You probably already know that fruits and and veggies are great sources of fiber and keep your bowels moving.  Psyllium husks are excellent for short term use or on an occasional basis (once/week for chronic constipation or as needed).  Avoid these during pregnancy, as the potential for releasing toxins into the placenta is high.  Whole grains are also excellent sources and should DEFINITELY be part of your routine diet.  Refined grains and sweeteners will rot in your gut, causing all sorts of problems including many cancers.  Eat whole grain foods and brown rice.  Period.

Drinking lots of water should be a no-brainer.  If there isn't enough liquid in your bowels when the waste is formed, it will become hard and difficult to eliminate.

If you are pregnant or newly post-partum, and already have a propensity to have a slower system, you will have to be vigilant about avoiding constipation.  One trick is to eat a piece of fruit that is juicy, like a peach, and as you eat it, drink an 8-10oz. glass of water.  Take a bite; take a drink, until they're both gone.  Do this a couple times per day after you deliver your baby or if you have skipped a day going to the bathroom.  I call it "poop fright" after having a baby - who wants to push waste out after childbirth?!?!

Here's to letting go of all that's holding you back!

**I've recently read that flax is a thyroid inhibitor, so if you are pregnant or nursing, or have thyroid issues, another source of fiber is probably best.  I'm not ready to jump off the flax wagon yet, as this was the first I'd heard of it and haven't looked more deeply into the finding yet. 

Posted by Danneca

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Book You NEED to Read!

When it comes out, that is.  If you don't know Rebecca Petrie's story, you really should read up on it (go here).  She is an amazing woman.  I'm sure her book will be wonderful as well.  I'm including her last email update in this post . . .

Dear Friends,
"October 4th is a very special day. It is the 8th anniversary of my accident!" I was talking with my nurse during my regular morning bath. She was shocked that I saw this anniversary as a special day. To her it all seemed a tragedy. "Oh yes," I continued, "you see it is cause for celebration when God gives you a new life. I was going in one direction and suddenly through one cataclysmic event my world was turned upside down. But you know with God, what seems upside down really means a new plan and new direction." I hadn't planned to say any of this, but as it came out of my mouth I realized the truth of it in a new way.
Eight years ago, as you know, I fell in our stairwell and broke my neck at the second vertebrae, leaving me a quadriplegic. My life for the following several years was a swirl that we had never imagined possible. And yet I found that His providence was working to bring about His own good purpose. I believe there are several factors that have brought me to where I am today: Father's love, grace, strength and courage, the love of my family and friends, and over all the ever sustaining prayers of many.
2 Corinthians 1:11 says, "You help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted to us in answer to the prayers of many." Paul is speaking here of the help given to him by the prayers of many people. My, that's how I feel! Through these years we have been sustained and helped, and our circumstances shaped, by your prayers. It is an awesome thing to realize that our prayers make such a difference. As we come to this 8th anniversary I am humbled--and ever so grateful for you who have supported us, loved us, and prayed for us.
What is on your heart today? What is that for which you are trusting God? You keep praying, and leave with the Father what only He can do. He will bring about the answer and unfold His own good purpose.
With our love,
P.S. -- My account of this experience, Falling into His Grace, is nearly complete, just awaiting some minor corrections. When it is available, we'll forward the details on how to get it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Accountable Kids

As a stay-at-home/homeschool mama with "active, assertive" children, I have often felt like I was a tattle-tale at the end of the day, as I recounted to my husband all the things I thought he should know about.  I had handled the situations during the day, but as I'm sure you find in your home, the kiddos often respond differently to Dad than Mom and particularly some of those boys who happen to have a strong "dominion sensor."

Anyhow, cutting to the chase here, I wanted to find a way to "report" everything we did during the day, the good, the bad and  Being a homeschool family with lofty goals for our children, my husband has let me take the reins in teaching the kids, but likes to know what the heck we do all day.  He doesn't, however, like to listen to me moan about the kids, etc.

I came up with an incredibly simple way for all of us to be accountable to him in our daily accomplishments and attitudes.  I've attached the little report card that I do for each kid at the end of each day (see below).  Don't be impressed with the quantity of subjects listed on the card....we don't do ALL that everyday.  It's pretty self explanatory and I am quite sure that 99.9% of you are more creative and computer savvy than I, so I'm willing to bet whatever you come up with will be a lot prettier and even handier.  My husband doesn't have time to read a big long list of stuff and I'm reporting on 4 kiddos at this point, so lots of verbiage, etc. on each of them is a bit much.  That's how I came up with this one.  Please, oh, please, let me know what you come up with.  I'd love to keep improving on mine.  This has rid me of my temptation to nag, complain to and lecture the kiddos.  I know none of you ever do this.

By the way, I think this could be effective for non-homeschooling families as well, if Mom is the one who gets them out the door in the morning, oversees homework and chores, etc.

Happy Accounting!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Speaking of Manners

Whole Duty of Children
by Robert Louis Stevenson

A child should always say what's true
And speak when he is spoken to
And behave mannerly at table
At least as far as he is able

So my husband and I noticed that our outgoing kids were not using social manners and being courteous with others like we thought they should.  We found ourselves constantly pointing out what they had NOT done in a particular situation and wondering why they did not know what they should have done to show their appreciation for their fellow man.  After thinking about this, it dawned on me that in all our teaching and training, I had somehow passed over a good intentional lesson on how to behave properly in different, everyday circumstances.  I am not overly concerned with etiquette here.  My main concern is that my children realize that everyone - EVERYONE - is created in the image of God and therefore has and deserves honor.  This in mind, I want them to respond accordingly.  I came up with a very simple (are you starting to notice a pattern with my posts....I LOVE "simple!") game to be played with the whole family.  I wrote out 6 or so scenarios, that my kids encounter often, that draw on their social manners skills.  I was their partner for every scenario, usually being the "other" person.  My husband sat with a small dry erase marker board and marker and was the official judge.  He gave the kids a score from 0-2 on their performance.  He is very particular, so even after having played several rounds now, we have yet to see anyone receive a 2.  Anyhow, after the revealing of the score, he gave encouragement and suggestions for improvement.  We've played a couple times since and added a few scenarios each time, as well as keeping the old.  We also had the opportunity to teach the kids how to encourage and appreciate each other even in competition, by applauding each person enthusiastically after their turn.  Your scenarios can be tailored to your social environment, but here are a few samples from our game:  "You are approaching the door to Trader Joe's at the same time as an older woman.  What do you do?"  or  "You are standing on the risers during choir practice.  The boy next to you is tugging on your shirt while you're singing.  What do you do?"  or  "You are playing in the courtyard at church and see Mr. Wiemeyer walking to the gym with armloads of grocery bags.  What do you do?"  or  "We have guests for dinner.  The guest asks for the last ear of corn.  You haven't had any yet."  or  "You are at someone's house for dinner.  They have served dessert, but overlooked you.  What do you do?"  We played with the 5 older kids, ages 3-9.  The 3yr. old needed lots of coaching and direction, but it has really caused her to be more socially aware even if she can't quite pay attention to all the details yet.  Try it out!  We've already seen major improvement!

posted by Danneca

Thursday, September 17, 2009

a book that makes me happy (and a happy picture)

For awhile, I searched and searched for a good book about manners. An odd search, one might think. Can't I just teach my kids to say please and thank you? Well, yes, but I also wanted something to reinforce it. I tried a couple of books and wasn't really happy with them.

Recently I found the book I was looking for. It's called "Everyday Graces: A Child's Book of Good Manners." It is exactly what I was looking for. Great, classic fairy tales with just a little commentary at the end of the stories by the author to explain which manner the story is talking about. There are several poems in there as well. The pictures are cute (but few, if you're looking for lots of illustrations).
We're on Chapter 3. We homeschool and we've been doing a little Manners lesson once a week during our Circle Time. We've been using this book and it's worked splendidly! I highly recommend it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exercise Can Make You Happy . . . Really!

In case being trapped in the house with your kids is your excuse for not exercising....

I have a free, comprehensive workout you can do any time of year! This is a perfect way to just keep moving everyday. You can get your kids involved and if they're 6yrs. old and up, you can set goals and earn accolades from the President for achieving them! Want me to hook you up? Thought so.

Do you remember doing the Presidential Fitness test in school? If you're competitive, you remember not being able to sleep the night before. That's me. Nevertheless, this is something the whole family can do together. My family got started a few years ago, because we homeschool and wanted our kids to value physical fitness. The program is available to anyone online at We started by testing everyone (even Dad and Mom) in each criteria. Set up your DAILY workouts however you like. This is perfect if you're a homeschool family looking for daily P.E. You can spend as little or long as you like on it. We do 30min./day focusing on improving in one standard or another. (I should note that we are overall pretty "into" physical fitness, so this is not our only daily workout, but can be if you're focusing your energy in other directions). Today's 30min. session today consisted of working on the "V-Stretch" and "curl-ups" or "sit-ups." We didn't take measurements today, but did both exercises, along with several others that worked our abs and stretched our legs, to fill the 30min. time slot. Anyhow, you should move some way, some how everyday. I promise this will give you more energy and make you feel better overall, no matter how tired you think you are.

You can even order certificates, t-shirts, etc. when your kids reach their goals. Browse the website and enjoy getting moving!

Posted by Danneca

Pretty Peppers

On the vegetable theme, some friends gave us some of their abundance from their garden. I'm drying the peppers - summer vegetables look so pretty in the kitchen!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pretty Tomatoes

The last of the summer tomatoes. . . We're having them tonight with some fresh basil on homemade pizza. I've tried several pizza crusts lately. My favorite the last few times I've made pizza is from the book "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day." A great book, by the way. I got it for Christmas last year and have tried several of the bread dough recipes in it. They've all been really yummy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Chore Chart

Recently I was over at a friend's house who had this great chore chart. It had two pockets for each child - one pocket for chores to do and the other pocket for chores that are done. I loved it and she said the only thing she didn't like about it was that it was getting torn up pretty quickly, it being posterboard and contact paper (I think).

So I went home and thought about how great her idea was. It seems that children (mine, at least) appreciate being able to visibly see what needs to be done. In turn, they also get really excited when they can have a way to say they've done it!

So I've recreated her idea using some fabric scraps, a large piece of material (mine was a long table runner), a curtain rod and some ribbon. This was very easy and didn't take too long, which is what all of my crafting projects usually are - quick and simple!

I have note cards for each child with each chore on a separate note card. I wrote out details for my 6 yr. old (who can read details) and drew pictures of everything for the non-readers.

It has worked beautifully so far. The kids like doing it and they get excited about putting their cards from the "do" pocket to the "done" pocket. And I like seeing pretty fabric hanging up in my hallway.

P.S. The beautiful fabric scraps came from Amoretti. They also make something called The Skirty, which is a wardrobe essential for our fun loving, tree climbing girls. I have them in a number of sizes and love them!

P.S.S. No, my almost 1 year old does not do any chores. Neither does the 2 year old for that matter. But they still have to have little pockets!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Navigating the Cold & Flu Season Drug Free

Eeeewwwww! It's here! Cold and flu season has already greeted my household. My clothes from yesterday and today display the signs. The 3 youngest (ages 4mos., 22mos. and 3yrs.) have a cold. They each had slight fevers for less than a day. I'm not worried though. I am so thankful for the arsenal for this season that God has given me through years of research. I can't keep it all to myself. Here's hoping you can have some success and not have to trapse off to the doctor's office too often this year. Wouldn't it be marvelous if you could navigate this year's onslaught without the use of antibiotics and instead actually have your whole family come out of a cold/flu healthier than before? This can really happen if you learn a few simple but highly effective tricks that will kill the virus/bacteria and boost immune systems for the better, instead of weaken them, the way antibiotics do. Here are a few things I've found incredibly successful.

First, for overall health, you HAVE to cut back on refined sugar. Sugar perpetuates all sorts of things you don't want to deal with, but especially at this time of year, it collects mucus, making it tougher to keep the toxins out of your system. Cow milk also does this. At first sign of a cold, say bye-bye to the milk jug until you're past it. I could write post after post on milk, but that's for another day.

Second, yarrow. This is an amazing flu-stopping, fever-reducing herb. It is very bitter, but well worth it. My older kids will chug it all by itself, but they're used to concoctions of this sort. For the younger kids I make it with equal parts of peppermint and add lots of raw honey (babies under 1 yr., add maple syrup or molasses). I get my supply from The Bulk Herb Store. To make the tea, cover 1 heaping tsp. of yarrow with 8oz. boiling water. Steep for 10-20min. I add about a tsp. of raw honey to each cup, or to taste. Research on this herb shows that the tincture of this mixture was not as effective against flu and fever as the tea, so unfortunately, we have to drink it. The key to making this really potent against sickness is to catch it early!

Third, garlic. I get garlic powder from the same source, The Bulk Herb Store. I love this site. My sister turned me onto it a couple years ago and I have found it invaluable. I also by capsules from them and fill them with the garlic. Take as many of these as you like. My kids will take them. If yours won't, you can mix the garlic into their uncooked food. I also sprinkle a good green drink powder into the baby's uncooked food (usually plain goat yogurt) when he/she is sick. I like Garden of Life's Perfect Food for many reasons.

Fourth, cayenne. It is rare to need this, but for serious sicknesses, I have found it very useful. I get the powder and fill capsules for this as well. It heats up your gut and causes a great immune reaction and kills all kinds of bad guys.

These are my main go-to's in this season. I rely on The Bulk Herb Store for lots of other herbal teas, etc., which you can take a look at for yourself, but what I have posted today is what I have found to be the most successful, hands down. All of these are safe for pregnant and nursing mamas. Remember, the key with herbal remedies is to use them early and in abundance. You cannot simply take one capsule and a cup of tea and hope that will do it. We're talking 4 or more cups of yarrow and at least 3 garlic capsules. In the future I will post on how to help babies in cold and flu season. To your health!

Book Recommendations: Herbal Antibiotics, The How To Herb Book

Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome to our happy mamas blog. We're so glad you've found us and have stopped by to visit. Chances are very high that we know you and love you already!

We are two sisters from the cornfields of Indiana. Okay, so we never actually lived near cornfields because we lived in a small city growing up, but that city is surrounded by cornfields, so it counts. After getting married, we moved across the country from one another. Well, one of us moved across the country. The other moved to the next state over.

We have twelve beautiful children between us. Yes, twelve! Five boys and seven girls. Between the two of us, we have been pregnant every year for the last ten years! We are two blessed mamas!

We've decided to start a blog. We'll be talking about healthy eating, crafting, homeschooling, mothering and whatever else strikes our fancy. What would you like to talk about?

We are happy mamas, but we are not always happy (I can think of several times in the last week, in fact!). While we might write about a struggle here and there, we probably won't be blogging much about the negative things because frankly, who wants to read about those?

We are living our dream by mothering wonderful children who are gifts from God. And that makes us very happy.