Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to (Home) School Once Again

Today was our first day of the school year. You would think I would have remembered to take pictures on the actual day, but no, eleven years into this homeschooling thing, and I still can't seem to get that part down. Yet. There's always next year. 

For now, I have some photos from our "Don't Go Back to School" dinner last Friday. We had build-your-own pizzas, a family favorite. Sorry, shirts optional, thanks to kids coming in from the pool just long enough to scarf down dinner.


 You know your name is difficult to spell when your own child gets it wrong...



Today went exceptionally well, thanks in no small part to the fact that a young lady at our church was here all morning, helping wrangle the little kids, holding the baby, reading to them, doing crafts, and generally preserving my sanity. It was a huge blessing to me, and made a world of difference. I find being interrupted while trying to focus on a task at hand (such as teaching Algebra) very stressful, and by the time the little kids' naps roll around, I am usually pretty well nigh spent, but still have to spend the afternoon hours getting the older kids caught up. 

But not so today! We were done with all subjects, including five kids taking turns practicing piano during baby Boaz' awake times (a small logistical challenge), by early afternoon. My sanity intact, I took the older kids to the library during nap time, only to realize upon arriving that today was a holiday... ah well! I got the kids a round of fruit popsicles to make up for the disappointment. It really was a good day all around, as even the kids agreed. You wouldn't believe it, but after four months of summer break, they were a bit reluctant to start school again. 

I will share about our chore system in another post. Here are a few quick shots of charts I made for each of the older children to help keep them on track in their schoolwork all year long. They each also have a syllabus for every major subject, showing them what lesson they are supposed to be in on any given day.







It seems crazy how fast time is flying by. I really want to soak in these last few years I have with my big kids. The oldest ones virtually never need my help with their school work any more, which is both exciting and sad. 

Homeschooling is a blessing as much for the parents as it is for the children.



Friday, August 29, 2014

Mr. Bow-az

This little guy is good enough to eat. By the looks of those chubby arms and legs, he has been getting plenty of milk. 



I just love this little guy. Babies make every day a good one!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Church growth

This past Sunday, our church sent out Pastor Donnie Romero, who is starting Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, this coming Sunday. Like ours, this is going to be an independent, Bible-believing, old-fashioned Baptist church.




You can view Pastor Romero's special ordination service in its entirety here:






Pastor Romero is the second pastor we have sent out; the first was Pastor Berzins of Word of Truth Baptist Church in Prescott, AZ, sent out in November of last year.



If you live in the area of either of these churches, or traveling through the area, I would greatly encourage you to try them for yourself. The kids and I recently visited Pastor Berzins' church when we were in Prescott for a family trip.



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In addition to sending out new church plants, our church has broken its attendance records for the last four services in a row (that's Wednesday last week, morning and evening service this past Sunday, and yesterday).

Panorama shot from the Sunday morning Ordination Service, with 141 in attendance

When that happens, we ring a loud ship's bell at the end of the service, signaling to everyone that we broke the record, and that there will be ice cream for all. I will admit, it has been a challenge keeping the freezer stocked with ice cream during the last week! But that is a good problem to have.


As of August 17


As of August 24 - last night's new record of 96 has not been recorded yet


There was a long line for the ice cream last night, but thanks to many helpers, it moved fast.



We have visitors at every service, but this last week we had some particularly dedicated ones. They had come all the way from North Carolina on scooters just to be baptized at our church. They do have a church they go to back home, this is just something they wanted to do. 


Check out the front of this one :)

These are exciting times in our church. I remember when we started in the house almost 9 years ago, and every step along the way. I remember when the record was 29 multiple times, and we never seemed to be able to break into the 30 and beyond range. I am thankful that as our church has continued to grow, the people that have been added are every bit as dedicated and faithful as the original group. We are looking forward to many more wonderful years of serving the Lord together.

 Our ladies - I just love how many of us are expecting, or holding a little one (or both - ha!)

Some of the men. The rest must have been off somewhere talking...

One of our members hosted a going away potluck for the Romeros in their home. I think there were about 70 of us in all there. It was great fun!


Some of the kids. The rest were busy trashing another part of the house or yard... ;) Look how much fun they are having!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Quinoa Salad (E)



1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups water or chicken broth
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, finely diced
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch kale, thinly sliced
1/2 lb very lean ham, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1. Combine the quinoa and water/broth in a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer while keeping it covered, and cook until no more liquid is visible. Turn the stove off, but allow the saucepan to sit on the hot stove plate with the lid still on for another 10 minutes. Fluff the cooked quinoa, and allow to cool.

2. Toss the cooled quinoa with the remaining ingredients, seasoning to taste with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. 

3. Enjoy! Makes 12 servings.

If you are following Trim Healthy Mama, this is an "E" recipe. I am not usually a fan of quinoa, but absolutely love this, as do several of the children.

To follow our Facebook group, "Trim Healthy Mama - Whole Foods Style", please click here (ladies only). We share lots of great info, including how to use the program with natural, traditional sweeteners (as opposed to stevia, xylitol, etc.)


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

They clean up nicely


We were invited out to eat last Sunday. Went to one of our very favorite places, St. Francis Restaurant in Phoenix. Like, love, or hate this blog - but it will always direct you to the best food around.

Whatever did we do before camera phones to capture these handsome dudes (the girl is pretty cute, too...)?

That's all - just showing off these beautiful people I made. And to think that's not even all of them! :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Babywearing Jackpot

You may think that after having a number of children, I am some sort of baby care expert. While I like to think that I know more than when I started, there is so much more yet for me to learn and discover. 

Last week for our 14 year wedding anniversary (insert happy cheers), my husband and I went on a date that included a few necessary errands, some gelato, and a stop at Zoolikins, a local store I highly recommend. I had just earlier that day found out about a particular type of baby sling/wrap, and wanted to try it out in person at the store. 

The brand of carrier is called Baby K'Tan. I had heard of it before, but did not know anything about it. 

Basically, there are a few different types of baby carriers. The most common type are what are known as "soft structured carriers" (SSC), with their straps and buckles. This includes anything from a Baby Bjorn to an ErgoBaby carrier. Another common type of carriers are slings. They either have rings and are adjustable (known as ring slings), or are custom fit to the wearer in a set size (like Hot Slings). Finally, there are wraps to carry babies in, which are basically just a very long (15+ ft) pieces of fabric that can be tied in a number of ways depending on how you want to hold the baby. 

Personally, I find wraps the most comfortable by far for extended carrying. They keep baby close, and distribute the weight evenly, freeing up both hands/arms. However, the length of the fabric is very cumbersome. If baby is already fussy, s/he will not enjoy being wrapped up (which takes a couple of minutes for a beginner). Also, the wrap has to be re-tied every time after baby is taken out for a diaper change, feeding, etc. Trying to use a wrap in a public spot such as a parking lot without letting the ends touch the ground is near impossible. Removing a sleeping baby from a tight wrap to lay him/her down is tricky. For all these reasons, I have used ring slings almost exclusively for carrying my babies around for nearly 13 years. 

Ring slings are great for discreetly breastfeeding, and carrying a baby securely in a variety of positions. They can be slipped on and off quickly within seconds, don't require complicated wrapping techniques, and are just all around user-friendly. The only downside to them is that most of the weight will be on one shoulder only, which can become uncomfortable with extended carrying. They also do not fully free up both arms, as the arm opposite the supporting shoulder has to kind of keep close to the baby.

Well, the Baby K'Tan basically takes the best aspects of a wrap and a ready-made sling, and combines them into one. I absolutely LOVE it!!! The carrying comfort of a wrap, with the ease and speed of a ring sling. 




If you are one who enjoys carrying your babies close while you homeschool, run errands, do chores, or otherwise go about your day, you may want to give this carrier a try! I have been carrying Boaz more this week than ever before, and enjoy it so much I'm wanting to carry him even if he would be happy to sit in his swing or bouncy chair.

Please be advised that it is best to try these on in person, as sizes are custom-fit to the wearer. According to their sizing chart, I should be using a size "large", but actually fit much better with a "medium." When you put it on, it should feel a little tight. The fabric is knit jersey, and just like a shirt, will stretch with wear until you wash it again. If you are local to the Phoenix area, I highly recommend you buy from Zoolikins. Not only would you be supporting a local, independent business, but they are also exceptionally knowledgeable and super friendly :)

 Face out, known as the "adventure position"

 I posted a second picture just because the little guy is so cute :)


Facing in, blissfully asleep. While it's recommended, I do not use the additional sash, as I find it unnecessary for a secure carry. That makes using this sling even faster, and a bit cooler in the Arizona heat. Obviously, use at your own discretion. 


No affiliate links or commissions, I just love this carrier so much I wanted to share!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Muffin in a Mug premix (THM Style S)


A sweet friend of mine got me hooked on "muffin in a mug" creations. They are so quick and versatile that they have become a daily staple for me. To make whipping one up even faster, I multiplied the recipe to make a premix that can be used without needing to pull various ingredients out of the cupboard.



Plain Version (S)
1 cup almond flour
1 cup flax meal
4 tsp baking powder
5 Tbsp coconut sugar
Mix all ingredients well. Store in an airtight container on the counter. Makes approx. 8 muffins.


Chocolate Version (S)
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup cocoa
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup coconut sugar
Mix all ingredients well. Store in an airtight container on the counter. Makes approx. 8 muffins.


To make a muffin, follow these steps:

 1. Get an oven-proof bowl or mug for your muffin.



2. Whisk together 1 egg and 1 Tbsp coconut oil in the bowl
 


3. Add 5 Tbsp of the premix, then add any additional flavors you would like. Below, I am making one plain muffin with blueberries and cinnamon added, and one chocolate muffin with chopped pecans. 



4. Bake 12-15 mins at 350 degrees. 


Alternatively, you could nuke these in the microwave for 1 minute. We don't have a microwave, because if we did, I would be tempted to use it. If you have one, feel free to go with that option. Attaining a healthy weight will yield more health benefits in the long run that not microwaving your food. Some have commented that the taste is better when baked rather than microwaved. I typically make my muffin while I am already using the oven for something else, such as toasting bread for breakfast, reheating leftovers, or making dinner.



5. Depending on the flavors you chose, top with a little butter, unsweetened whipped cream, or cream cheese.



Both of these versions are absolutely delicious! The berries make the muffin wonderfully moist, while the chocolate + nuts gives a feel of brownies. I have also made the plain version without any add-ins, and then topped it with lots of whipped cream and strawberries for a "strawberry shortcake" version. The combinations are limitless! For the record, a serving is ONE of these, not two. The second muffin was for Solomon, who loves eating THM style.
If you are in the market for a whipped cream maker, I have and highly recommend this one. Costco also sells it (as well as the necessary N2O cartridges) at their business-members-only locations.

To make a "bread in a mug" premix, use the plain recipe above, but omit the coconut sugar. When mixing it up, use 1 tsp (rather than 1 Tbsp) of coconut oil - other than that, the recipe is the same.

And can I just add how ***excited*** I am to be losing weight easily without counting calories, writing down everything I eat, going hungry, compromising my milk supply, or giving up healthy fats?

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If you are not familiar with THM, please click here to read my previous posts.
To buy the book, click here.
To read about my only misgivings about the program, click here

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trim Healthy Mama - Another Update

I first discovered Trim Healthy Mama spring of last year (and mentioned it briefly here).

In spite of my misgivings about using stevia or the other plan-approved sweeteners, I did succumb to them for the first few weeks that I followed the program. However, due to the (I believe serious) health effects of these sweeteners, I stopped using them. You can read why here and here. Please do take the time to read those posts before reading on below, as I consider the information in them to be crucial if you want to follow the plan, and enjoy maximum health benefits. If you are expecting, or hoping to get pregnant, it is especially important that you read up on the dangers of using stevia during pregnancy.

But that is not what today's post is about. Rather, I wanted to once again reiterate that it is entirely possible to follow a whole foods based, health-nutty diet, AND follow the Trim Healthy Mama approach, successfully! Are there some foods recommended in the book that I would never eat? Of course! But there is absolutely no need to have them if you don't like. Remember, the main concept underlying THM is to separate carbs and fats. How wholesome those carbs and fats are is entirely up to the individual.

More importantly, it is very possible to follow the plan with natural, wholesome, low glycemic sweeteners, and successfully lose weight while on program. I'm talking raw, unfiltered honey, Grade B maple syrup, and coconut sugar (my new favorite). There is no need to use denatured, hydrogenated sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol, which will wreak havoc on your intestines, or to use stevia, which is a plant, but one that greatly interferes with normal hormonal balance, and which many (including myself) believe to be a contributing factor in miscarriage and low fertility.

I went back on plan two weeks after giving birth, which was 10 weeks ago. During that time, I have lost exactly 20 lbs, and done so without my usually fickle milk supply suffering. The reason for this is that following the THM plan does NOT require you to cut calories. In fact, I think I actually consume MORE calories when I'm on plan than when I'm off, because eating this way fuels the metabolism so much that even two hours after a huge meal, I am hungry and ready to eat again. On an average day, I consume anywhere between 2,500 - 3,000 calories, while losing weight! 

Nor is this weight loss due to being postpartum. I've been down this road a time or eight, and unless I make a concerted effort, I will weigh what I weight the day after giving birth indefinitely. In the past, I have always had to wait to start losing weight until baby was well accustomed to solids, because dieting pretty much meant drying up my milk. Not this time around!


Does this lunch look like I am suffering hunger? This fabulous salad was made with plenty of fresh greens and veggies, two eggs, smoked salmon, diced cheese, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and as much dressing as I wanted (which was a lot).

And because I had a little hankering for dessert, I rounded the meal out by having mixed berries (sweetened with a bit of maple syrup), topped with unsweetened cream.


So you see, even with my fat-fueled "S" meals like the one above, I can use a wholesome, low glycemic sweetener like maple syrup (which is still a carb) in moderation, and lose weight. 

If you have been thinking about buying the book or going "on plan", but are put off by some of the recommended foods, particularly the no-calorie sweeteners, don't be. Go ahead and jump on board, but rest assured that you can do so without giving up real, God-given, natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup, and still lose weight painlessly and with relative ease.

Please check back for a favorite recipe of mine in the next blog post! :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pink Stork Morning Sickness Solutions - A Review

Some time ago, I was contacted by Pink Stork Morning Sickness Solutions, asking if I was interested in reviewing their natural product line for treating morning sickness. After having suffered through Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) with most of my pregnancies, anything claiming to treat nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) immediately has my interest. Especially products that are natural, and even more so if these products address what I believe to be the true underlying cause of morning sickness and hyperemesis - Heliobacter pylori. 

I first blogged about the connection between H. pylori and NVP/HG about 9 months in my blog post, The Cause and Cure of Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. With a view count of over 52,000 to date, it is THE most popular post on this blog, bar none. I have heard from scores and scores of readers who reported that their NVP/HG greatly improved by addressing the underlying issue of H. pylori colonization. During my most recent pregnancy, not only was I able to reduce my symptoms of hyperemesis and morning sickness by about 90% by following the protocol outlines in the blog post, but I was able to do so while expecting twins, which typically is accompanied by exacerbated nausea. Personally, as well as based on the testimony of others, I am convinced that gastrointestinal issues, more specifically an over-colonization with H. pylori, are the true cause of morning sickness. I just wish there were more doctors and researchers studying this subject in depth, and developing natural, safe, and effective treatment methods.

Pink Stork Morning Sickness Solutions promises to do just that with their line of natural products to relieve anything from morning sickness to hyperemesis by way of healing the gastrointestinal system, killing off the H. pylori, and addressing nutritional deficiencies.

One month supply of the full product line

1) Probiotic: Probiotics are healthy bacteria - billions of them. Taking them as a supplement helps swing the balance in favor of good vs. bad bacteria in the gut. These are to be taken ideally on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. The capsules are small, but you could also open the gelatin caps, pour the contents into some water, and take it that way.

2) Foundation, i.e. prenatal multivitamin: This is an organic, whole foods based, liquid multivitamin made from various plant extracts. The flavor is very pleasant, and I can tell that (at least for me) it would be palatable even while pregnant. If you have ever tasted the iron supplement Floradix, it has a similar taste, but milder and fruitier, and without the "blood" aftertaste. 

I was very excited about this prenatal multivitamin, and love everything about it, but then noticed that sadly, it contains two artificial preservatives: potassium sorbate, and potassium benzoate. I react poorly to both, and it was this reaction that led me to look for and discover the preservatives in the list of "other ingredients." Also, the sweeteners used are erythritol and stevia leaf extract, both of which I stay away from whenever possible. For me, this means that I would not be able to use this particular supplement in the Pink Stork line.

I have brought these issues up to Pink Stork Solutions, and they are working on re-formulating this supplement in the future. Most women will not be as sensitive as I am to these ingredients, and would probably benefit overall from this whole food nutrient based supplement. Especially since pharmaceutical solutions to hyperemesis contain their own cocktail of chemicals that are probably far more harmful than the preservatives in this product.


3) Organic Liquid folate supplement: Folate is the natural, plant based version of folic acid, which is a synthetic imitation not found in foods. Pink Stork folate is derived 100% from food sources (organic lemon peel extract).

The flavor is very pleasant. Sadly, this supplement, too, contains potassium sorbate and potassium benzoate, making it a no-go for me in spite of all its other wonderful ingredients and their health benefits.


4) Cocolaurin: This is a highly concentrated form of monolaurin, a fatty acid and form of lauric acid. It has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, effectively fighting harmful bacteria such as H. pylori, among many others. Monolaurin is a key component in breast milk. Pink Stork believes it to be the best and most natural way to combat H. pylori during pregnancy, and from my research on the subject, I must say they are probably right (though I have yet to try it during pregnancy myself).


At first I was a little baffled as to how to take this supplement, since it comes in the form of little pellets that are not to be chewed up (they are waxy).


I simply measure 3 scoops into a little paper cup like this, then pour them all into my mouth at once, and wash down with water. Very easy!


5) Organic apple cider vinegar: This probably doesn't sound appealing to a lot of ladies, but ACV even by itself is often enough to wipe out mild to moderate morning sickness. Pink Stork brand apple cider vinegar has a very pleasant taste to it, and does not taste overly acidic, especially once it is added to a glass of water. ACV helps restore proper balance and acid levels in the stomach, wiping out H. pylori thriving in the folds of the stomach walls.
Side note: If you suffer from heartburn (caused by pregnancy or otherwise), drinking 1 Tbsp of ACV in an 8 oz glass of water will put an instant stop to it. If you suffer from chronic heartburn, even heartburn so severe that you are using prescription drugs to control it, it can be safely and effectively overcome by drinking 3-4 cups of water + ACV every day for just a few days.

 

6) Magnesium Spray: This works along the same principle as the magnesium flakes, but can be used quickly and efficiently when taking a bath is not an option. Again, I had a liquid, spray-on magnesium supplement I used during my most recent pregnancy, with wonderful results. Anytime I felt my nausea increasing, I would spray it on my arms and legs, rub it in, and feel significantly better almost immediately.

 

7) Magnesium Flakes: There are multiple studies showing that magnesium deficiency greatly exacerbates morning sickness. Presumably, this is due to the electrolyte balance being out of whack, causing dehydration, which causes nausea and vomiting. 

Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin, as opposed to taking it internally in pill form. These flakes are to be added to bath water or foot soaks for quick, overall absorption and almost instantaneous relief. 

During my last pregnancy, in addition to supporting my GI system, I also used magnesium salts in my bath water with great success.




8) Organic Peppermint Oil: Peppermint helps quell nausea. This little bottle is for wafting under the nose when nausea strikes, as well as for masking unpleasant odors (you could put a few drops onto a tissue and hold it in front of your nose). Diluted with a carrier oil, it can also be applied to bottoms of feet or wrists for additional nausea relief.



9) Peach Ginger Tea: The typical suggestion of "try ginger to fix your morning sickness" makes me stabby, and I'm pretty sure that anyone who has ever endured hyperemesis will agree with me on this point. To be truthful, ginger DOES greatly support the GI tract, as well as help kill off H. pylori, but in a mom suffering from hyperemesis, it may only be a drop of water on a hot stone. Besides, the last thing I want to do is choke down a spicy-hot ginger beverage if my throat is already sore from throwing up.

So it was with some reluctance that I tried this tea, but a review is a review, right? Imagine my surprise to find I actually really, really LOVE this tea! It is neither spicy-hot, nor does it have an overwhelming ginger taste to it. Actually, it tastes like peach tea, which is the natural flavor it contains. 

 

Just to see how much ginger was in there (since I hardly tasted any), I tore open one of the used tea bags. Sure enough, lots of ginger in there! They are the little yellowish chunks in the picture below.


This tea has since become a treat for me. Each bag steeps up to 4 cups, so in the morning, I steep 1 bag in 2 cups of boiling water in a quart Mason jar, which I top off with cold water once the tea is done brewing. Then I sip on it throughout the day.


All these supplements come accompanied by a very readable booklet explaining each product in detail, as well as giving diet restrictions and recommendations (for example, cutting out sugar, processed foods, unprepared grains, etc.). There is also an extensive list of references backing up their claims.



Overall, I would definitely recommend these products to any mom suffering from hyperemesis or nausea and vomiting, with a word of caution regarding the preservatives in two of the products. I am excited about regularly incorporating the other products to my daily routine if and when I am blessed with another pregnancy.

To read more about Pink Stork Morning Sickness Solutions or to order their products, please click here. They are currently offering a 20% discount for first time customers! (Use discount code "first" at checkout.)


Note: I received a one-month supply of all of the above products for free in exchange for this honest, unbiased review. The above posts contains affiliate links.