Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July Birthdays

My husband, as well as our 7th child Stephen, celebrated their birthdays last week, July 24. They are separated by 31 years in age, but share many characteristics, likes, and dislikes.

Plus, they are both incredibly handsome and loveable, but that's another story.

Thanks to my mother-in-law, who was here all week taking care of the kids and household like it's nothing, my husband and I were able to take a little "staycation" for his birthday - you can read all about that here. Which I prefer to call a steak-ation, since there was definitely lots of great food going on.

(One of the kids must have taken this picture - even fuzzy, I thought it was so worth sharing!)

On the day of the birthday, we watched as Stephen opened his one gift in the morning (we decided to go with one big gift rather than a bunch of smaller ones, since we have plenty of toys already). Having so many older siblings, Stephen totally understood that this was all about him, loved being sung to, and was thrilled with his gift.

 I included this picture because I just love how Anna's toes are sticking out of her jammies :)

  Stephen uses his Wheely Bug both as a walker, as well as a ride-on toy.

 Someone is seriously teething! 

The inner workings of a large family - someone will take over your gifts for you before you are even done unpacking them all (the book was from Miriam, but check out Annie in the back).

Later in the day, as my husband and I were out celebrating his birthday, Grandma was at home with the kids making chocolate cupcakes and giving Stephen his first birthday cake.

This being a Wednesday, we had church in the evening, followed by a surprise birthday BBQ in honor of my husband's birthday.

In other news, baby Stephen started taking single steps here and there in early July. The night before his birthday, Miriam practiced with him until he could take several steps toward her at once. He can't walk across the room yet, but he is about 50/50 between crawling, and toddling a handful of steps to his desired destination. Time sure flies!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Spot the difference

How many differences can you spot?

Yes, this is my snazzy new set of wheels. We are turning more heads than a Ferrari (though I can't really be sure because I have never owned one). When the doors open and the crew unloads, it's like a SWAT team jumping out.

I put my personalized plates on, removed the dealership decal, and added a stick family that a very sweet reader sent us as a surprise random act of kindness. 

My husband in suit and tie with his Bible, me in an apron, baking up a treat, Solomon playing the piano, Isaac riding a horse (he is the only one who takes riding lessons), John our artist with a palette, Miriam holding her dolly (though she likes to think it's baby Stephen), Becky in her apron helping me in the kitchen, Annie with pigtails, and last but not least Stephen in cute little overalls, just starting to walk.

Am I thrilled? You bet! This baby seats 12, though we removed 2 seats in the back row to make more room for cargo and hauling goods. We got the dealership to throw in the tow package, so the hitch mount and all are being installed sometime this week.
Last ride in the Sienna - so many great family memories!

We are not the type to get excited about cars. Nor are we the type to go overly large on them - our family vehicle was a Ford Escort (5 seats) with three car seats in the back until our fourth child was about to be born. Then, for almost 7 years, we had our much loved Toyota Sienna (8 seats). With a family of 9, we were over capacity, but it was not too bad having four kids in the back share the 3-seat row when all of us were riding together. So this is a big step up, with room to grow, and years of heavy duty use ahead. I am especially excited about the V8 engine and the tow package, as it will allow us to pull a trailer or one day possibly even a camper. We will be taking a trailer to the camping trip later this summer, full with bikes, kayaks, and other gear. More than anything, I am thankful to a loving and hard-working husband, who against my protests insisted on buying me the nicest, safest, and most comfortable vehicle option currently available to large families.

Since this type of vehicle is relatively new on the market, I will do a review on it here on the blog once I have driven it for a few thousand miles. In the meantime, you can check out this, this, and this.  

Now please excuse me as I drive off into the sunset... :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dealing with pregnancy insomnia

Ironically, even as most moms experience more fatigue than usual during pregnancy, this is also the time when many of them struggle with insomnia. Being tired, but unable to sleep, is incredibly frustrating. I am no stranger to being awoken in the middle of the night by some disturbance (I have seven very cute ones!), and then being unable to go back to sleep immediately.

Here, in no particular order, are things I have found helpful in combating insomnia.
  • Tempted as you may be, resist the urge to get up out of bed. 2 AM is not the time to study the Bible, fold laundry, or (heaven forbid!) surf the internet. Getting out of bed, and/or turning on any lights, will only reinforce to your body that it is acceptable to be awake at this time. 
  • Even if you cannot sleep, lie there with your eyes closed, reminding yourself that resting like that is almost as restorative as sleep itself. Rather than worrying about how crummy and tired you will feel come morning, pat yourself on the back mentally for doing the next best thing to sleeping, which is lying down quietly in a dark room with your eyes closed, tuning out any thoughts of stress or responsibility. Often, I have found this alone is enough to have me back to sleep in no time.
  • Ditch the bedside clock - both the light from it, and the agony of realizing at what unholy hour you are awake, will only add to your insomnia. Your body's internal clock will soon learn to give you a general idea of what time it is. 
  • While I said that this is no time for Bible reading, praying is a different story. It gives you something to occupy your mind with, and is soothing and relaxing because you are unloading your burdens on the Lord. Praying at night, more than anything, will almost immediately lull me to sleep. Just think of the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus, when they were unable to stay awake in prayer with him.
  • Refrain from looking at electronic screens for several hours before bed time, such as TV, computer monitors, tablets, smart phones, etc. Opt for reading books or magazines instead, which will actually help you be more sleepy.
  • If leg cramps wake you up during the night, consider eating a banana before bed each night, and/or adding a liquid calcium magnesium supplement, also taken right before going to bed.
  • If you are wakened by hunger pangs in the middle of the night, up your protein intake in the evening to hold you over until morning. In case you do wake up, have an easy snack next to the bed that you can just grab and munch without needing to get up or turn on any lights.
If, in spite of all these, you are unable to get enough rest and you find yourself overly tired, try to sneak in a nap whenever you get an opportunity to.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Books for family read-aloud

Our family loves family read-aloud! We try to make time for it every evening, except on church nights, or if we are out late for some reason. Not only does reading together make for some great family time, take us on journeys to faraway places and adventures in years past, it also helps quiet the little ones for bedtime. Many of the below stories tie in important character lessons, or deal with biblical concepts, so there's some spiritual food thrown in there, too.

This list is far from exhaustive. These are just some of the books we have read in recent years.

Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We have read through these twice now, and will surely do it again in the not too distant future. Both our boys and girls, older and younger, enjoyed these greatly.

Our little funny family twist: Whenever my husband would read out loud, he would change Ma's tone to a very angry and mean one, without changing the actual words. If you know how sweet and meek Ma is in the books, you will cry laughing when you realize how changing her tone turns the story on its head.

Arty Anderson series by Mark L. Redmond

From Sword of the Lord Publishers, this has been a great series, one the boys have read and re-read many times.

Old West adventures and Bible truths tied side by side - it doesn't get much better than that.

Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren

There are four books in this series, which are translated from Swedish. The author is well-known all over Europe, although in the US she is probably only known for having authored "Pippi Longstockings." I cannot recommend all of her books, but these are very sweet and funny, full of childish innocence of yesteryear.

"Future historians may look back on the Arnold Pent family and describe them as the “first modern home school family.” Long before there were any state home schooling organizations or curriculum fairs, Arnold Pent declared his independence from government education and his dependence on Jesus Christ in the training of his children.

No one told him to do this. He simply read the Bible and determined to follow the clear principles found within its pages and to be obedient to God — regardless of the consequences.

Like all great visionary leaders, Arnold Pent was a man with many wonderful directives for his family. The world would probably describe these initiatives as eccentricities, but they were not.

In fact, Arnold Pent discovered something that all fathers would be well advised to consider: True Christian leadership in the household is born in the fire of adversity. The noblest and most God-blessed expressions of biblical fatherhood are cultivated always and only by taking the path less traveled." (quoted from Vision Forum)

My favorite aspect of this book is how much Bible it perfectly ties into the storyline, as it quotes verse after verse. Funny, inspiring, and spiritually challenging, we are currently reading this and very much enjoying it.
The Adventures of Lily Lapp by Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger

The three (soon four) books in this series follow Lily, a young girl growing up in an Amish home. The stories are based upon the real-life experiences of the author, Mary Ann Kinsinger. Because of the lifestyle of the Amish, they are reminiscent of the Little House books, as well as highly entertaining. While we are not Amish, these books do not teach any strange doctrines, but rather tell childhood stories.

Tiger and Tom / The King's Daughter 

These character books are over 100 years old, aimed at boys, as well as at girls. Each book contains many short stories on various character traits. A bit stilted and slow-moving at times, our older children have really soaked these in much more than I expected. The stories are short enough to be added on to another chapter book, or to be read on their own if the reading time has to be shortened.

"Created for Work" and "Boyhood and Beyond" by Bob Schultz

Written by a Christian carpenter, these two books give young men practical insights and wisdom into becoming godly, hardworking, knowledgeable men. Our boys really loved these, and it certainly never hurts for young ladies to learn how to discern a wise young man.


Please add your own recommendations of wholesome books in the comments below.

Monday, July 15, 2013

He's a big boy now!

It was haircut time at our house last week for the guys.
The boys convinced me that baby Stephen needed one, too, and considering the heat spell we've been having, I figured he might be more comfortable with less of a mop top.

Solomon gladly stood in as a human barber chair. Stephen never so much as flinched. I thought I had the #3 clip guard on, but later sadly realized it was the #2 (1/4 inch - yikes!). 

Here he is, cute as a button - but oh, I miss that baby hair!!!
They always grow up too fast, don't they? It's hard to believe Stephen will be 1 in just a week and a half. Seems like just yesterday when he was born.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Q & A Answers, part 1

Thank you, everyone, for the many great questions. I enjoy getting them, and being prompted to think.

I apologize that this post is long, and contains no pictures. Hopefully the formatting will help make it more readable. 

Are your kids able to speak and read German?

They understand everyday German pretty well - well enough to tell them stuff in public I don't want others to understand :) They also read and speak German, though not nearly as good as English. My goal this summer is to only speak German with them at home, when it is just us, so that by the end of summer they can read actual chapter books in German, not just easy stuff. Of course, we have not been true to this goal as much as we should be, but are definitely talking German at home on a daily basis.

I'd love to know more about how to have eliminated teflon from your kitchen. I'd love to do this too, but I use my electric skillet and griddle all the time because I can fit more food for my family on these items (thereby saving time). So, how do you make pancakes (or something similar) in a timely fashion for such a large family?

I use mostly stainless steel pots and pans, as well as baking sheets, though I am adding more and more cast iron skillets, too.  Until this purchase, I had been using two large frying pans at the same time for making pancakes, but am totally in love with my new stove-top cast iron griddle. It cranks out 8 pancakes at a time!

In order for food not to stick in stainless steel pots, the trick is to heat the pot or pan without any butter in it first. Once the pot is hot, add butter, allow to melt, and then add the food. Hot pan + cold butter = non-stick

I think you mentioned once that you have purchased organic mattresses. This is also something we are considering. I'd love more information! 
Mattresses in America are just awful. I think the regulations stipulate that in order to be considered fire safe, they must be able to not ignite for at least 90 seconds of being torched with a 2-foot wide raging flame. Whaaaat? The concern in conventional mattress is not just the flame retardant used on them, but also the chemicals with which the foam or latex is processed. The two interact rather horribly with one another, and the deadly off-gassing is most likely one of the major causes of SIDS. We purchased our mattresses from a local store called EcoClean, and have been very thrilled with them. They currently do not seem to carry the particular brand we bought at the time. We had to wait almost 2 months for them, as they were being manufactured out East by some Amish people. 

Do you do something natural in place of food coloring (for birthday cake icing or easter eggs)? 
Yes, food-based natural food colors. I buy mine at Whole Foods, but these are also great, as are these sprinkles.

We live in Germany temporarily and I'm looking for German toys or games for our kids that can also be souvenirs. (We have several games already - Sagaland, Tempo Klein Fische, Nanu and Obstgarten.) Any ideas? 
Those all sound great. You can never go wrong with the "Spiel des Jahres" (Game of the Year) award winners. Ravensburger, Haba, and Selecta all make wonderful family and children's games.

What advice do you have for a girl who is expecting her first son after three girls? Is this a good opportunity to teach my daughters how to be a mother? How do I quell my son's rambunctious spirit as he gets older? I'm sorry, girls are so easy. I have never had a boy. I feel quite incapable right now.

You are very capable, and will do great. Your little boy will be much doted on by his big sisters!! Yes, definitely a good teaching opportunity. There is no need to quell any rambunctious  spirit - boys will be boys, as you will soon discover. Having a boy is very different from having a girl, but no less wonderful. You will soon have a very protective admirer!

Would you let any of your children (daughters included) go to college? 
By the time our children are college-aged, they will no longer be minors, so this is not a question of us "allowing" them to go to college - that would be their decision. However, it is our hope and goal to teach them that college is overrated and worthless, and that working hard and consistently will advance a career much faster than getting a degree. Our daughters will hopefully have learned that no college or career comes close to the blessing and privilege of being a wife and mother. It's like asking if I'm worried they will grow up and eat at McDonald's: I suppose it is possible, but when you are used to grass-fed steaks, that pink slime just doesn't hold any appeal. They CAN go to college if they want to,  but why would they?

Please note that I am NOT against learning. However, going to college and learning are not one and the same. Anything that is taught at college, one can learn on their own through reading or apprenticeship. Not  like going to college is a brain transplant - someone just stands in a classroom telling you things that are available elsewhere to learn on your own.

Of course,  some professions require college degrees. Should anyone want to pursue a career in one of them, it would be wise to utilize a private college, with no "diversity" training, and without incurring any student debt.

How do you pick your children's names?

We toss ideas back and forth until we find something we both like, and seems befitting the baby. We do not repeat initials of first names (Stephen was an exception because he is named after his dad, and we already had Solomon).

I have a question about the Trim Healthy Mama diet. I was wondering if you consider Stevia a form of birth control? I'd love to try the diet, but I've seen many women saying the sweetener messed up or stopped their cycle all together.I know you would never do use anything that would harm your fertility. I was thinking it might be that a woman would need very high doses, it's a myth, or you do without the sweetener all together. Thanks so much!

I had never heard of that until you mentioned it, and I am so thankful that you did. I did not feel good about using Stevia, so I used it rarely and sparingly. Even so, it made me have insane drops in my already low blood pressure, to the point where I would have tunnel vision, see black spots, and be on the verge of passing out. Clearly, some people are more affected by it than others. For me, even tiny amounts are too much to tolerate. Then I read with shock that stevia has been used by indigenous people as a form of birth control - YIKES!

So - no more stevia for me! I also do not use the erythritol or xylitol promoted in the book. The only sweeteners I can recommend are natural ones such as raw honey, coconut sugar, grade B maple syrup, etc. For the plan to work, these must be used very sparingly (I'd say no more than a tsp per meal), and only with E type meals.

I have always been wondering how and how often your church celebrates the Lord's Supper. I don't believe I have ever heard a sermon or seen a video on it from your church. Do the little children who are not saved yet able to partake in the juice and bread or it's ONLY for believers. I grew up drinking booze every Sunday at catholic church and since my pastor never says anything either way, I don't know what is truly proper.

Good question! We observe it just a couple of times each year. The passover was held once per year in the OT, so we don't think that the Lord's supper is something we have to do frequently. It is only for believers, so young children do not participate. We use unleavened bread, broken up, and pure grape juice. The leaven in both bread and alcohol is a picture of sin. Since the Lord's supper pictures the sinless body and blood of Jesus, it is free of leaven.

Zsuzsanna, I was wondering how to get one of your DVD's "After the Tribulation." I will pay for them, but I would like at least 3. I just don't know how to send a private message to you. You don't have to publish this comment if you don't want to, but maybe others would like to know also. I want to give one to our pastor and some others. Thank you. 

You can order them here. But be forewarned that your pastor is probably not going to be a fan. :)

Since you are against hormonal birth control, I was wondering how you felt about Natural Family Planning? My husband and I are trying for our first baby together (I have two from a previous marriage), and we're charting and watching fertility signs to know the best times for conception. My second child was born by an emergency C-section when his umbilical cord prolapsed, and most likely I'll have to have a repeat, due to the incision I had to have, so more children might not be in the cards for me. I'm not willing to go on hormonal birth control, but at the same time, I want the option for more children to be there, just in case.

I am against NFP for several reasons. For starters, the Bible tells us not to defraud our spouses except with consent for a season that we may give ourselves to prayer and fasting. Since I would not like to fast close to a week or more each month, I would not regularly ask my husband to go on a marital fast for that long, either. Secondly, the fertile phase in a woman's cycle is typically also the one during which she desires and enjoys relations the most - it would be incredibly harmful to make this the time where acting upon these desires is not permitted.

I took German in school and now since we homeschool our children I would like to start teaching them German this year. Do you have any curricula you would recommend?

Generally speaking, any resources purchased from Germany (I use amazon.de) that teach "German as a second language" are fabulous. Our kids all love the "Planetino" series.

What colour eyes do your children have?

Mostly brown, a couple are blue. 


Thank you, everyone, for being patient with me as I answer these. I am hoping to publish the answers to the second half of questions in the next couple of days.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Irish radio interview

Oh my goodness, I didn't even realize how sadly abused I am, until a bunch of angry Irish pointed it out.

Caution: there are a couple of profanities in the clip - if you can make them out over the thick Irish brogue.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Things I like to order on Azure Standard, Part 4 - Hot Dogs

Just in time to be almost too late for your 4th of July celebration, I wanted to share about another product we regularly order on Azure Standard - good ol' hot dogs.

Now please, before I get bombarded with concerned comments about the health implications of eating hot dogs - I know they are not the food of angels. We eat them once a month or less, even during the summer months (which is every month here in Arizona - insert maniacal laughter)

With this disclaimer given, if you are going to eat hot dogs (and who doesn't), be prepared with Applegate Farms Organic Hot Dogs, Stadium Style in the freezer when you feel like having a quick BBQ, when the pool and fire pit beckon, when you are throwing an impromptu picnic at the park, or when your kids want to make dinner. Or to reward yourself when you shop at IKEA and pass up their 50 cent nasty hot dogs on the way out. Or... well, you get the idea. 
Ingredients: Organic Grass-Fed Beef, Water, Contains Less Than 2% of the Following: Sea Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Garlic Powder, Organic Paprika, Celery Powder, Organic Onion Powder, Lactic Acid Starter Culture (not from milk).

Are these hot dogs perfect? I'm sure one could find fault with them. But let's just take a look at one popular alternative, shall we?

Oscar Mayer Classic Wieners: Mechanically separated turkey, mechanically separated chicken, pork, water, salt, ground mustard seed, sodium lactate, corn syrup, dextrose, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium acorbate, sodium nitrate, and flavor. 
Wow, I'm just shocked there's some actual "meat" crammed in there among all the chemicals. Click here to read more about your hot dog ingredients explained

If this has ruined your appetite for conventional hot dogs, head over to year nearest Trader Joe's - they carry the organic Applegate hot dogs for just a little more money than Azure.

Happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Recipe for Pudding

Cooked pudding is one of those things that can seem daunting and complicated at first, and you may give up before even trying and just buy a boxed mix. Give this recipe a try just once, and you will be hooked. It is incredibly easy, delicious, and nourishing. Cooled, it also makes a mean filling for banana cream pie or fruit tarts. Whipped with butter, it can be used as creamy cake filling.

Vanilla Pudding 
(serves 2-4, variations below)

(Yes, I know this is a picture of chocolate pudding - LOL! The process is the same.)

2 3/4 cups milk (any type will work, we use whole)
1/3 cup sugar*
1/4 cup organic, unmodified corn, wheat, potato, or tapioca starch
1/8 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2  tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

* You may be tempted to use honey in place of sugar - don't. If you add the honey to the pudding before cooking, you will lose any benefits from raw honey, and if you add the honey once the pudding is cooled, the enzymes in it will make the pudding become runny. Sugar such as sucanat, rapadura, or coconut sugar works best in this recipe.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, starch, and salt. Add the egg yolks, and whisk thoroughly. Heat over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When the mixture starts bubbling, add sugar and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter, whisking until smooth.

The pudding will thicken as it cools. If you would like to pour it into molds or a pie, do so while it is still hot.

For chocolate pudding: Omit the butter, and stir in a handful of unsweetened baking chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips until melted.

For coconut pudding: Omit the butter, and stir in about 2 Tbsp of raw creamed coconut (also called coconut butter).

 (This chocolate and coconut swirl tasted heavenly)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ultimate Consignment

Last week, in searching for a certain item on Craigslist, I came across the best store - ever! Period. 

It's called Ultimate Consignment, and in a nutshell, it's like a marriage between a thrift store and Craigslist, on steroids. You need it, they have it.

Best of all, every single item in store is listed online, complete with a photo and description. No need to go hunting thrift stores for that elusive item you know is out there somewhere, no need to call down a long list on craigslist. Simply check their online database of items from the comfort of your home, and then pick it up as you would from any store. 

When you get to the store, you will notice that none of the items carry prices, but rather, tags with number codes. All throughout the store, there are terminals where you can plug in that number code to pull up a complete description, and the price. There are also tons of employees who follow customers around with iPads, ready to pull up prices. This is because prices sometimes change, depending on the consigner's wishes. 

If an item is over $25, you can make an offer on it. The seller can accept the offer, give a counter-offer, or decline - all in a matter of minutes while you shop or wait. 

Af of right now, Ultimate Consignment has only two stores, one in Phoenix and one in Mesa. They have plans for expansion (the store in Las Vegas, NV is opening next), and I have no doubt that it will quickly become extremely popular. The store in Phoenix has just insane amounts of merchandise, anything from art work, to antiques, to tools and appliances. The store in Mesa has better air-conditioning and is less crammed with merchandise, but consequently does not have the same feel of diving into a crammed treasure trove.

I have not yet put up anything for consignment with them, but plan to do so next time I declutter a room. Often, I have nice things that I know people would want to buy, but lack the time or enthusiasm to list them on craigslist, or hold a yard sale. This is a perfect solution to that problem.

The two big items I found there this week were:

A new, Lodge-brand reversible cast iron grill and griddle. I made pancakes on it this morning - so good!!

A new slicer for bread, meats, and cheeses. I finally burned out the motor on my old one. This one is fabulous!

If you live in the area, check out this store. You'll be glad you did!