Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 28 Pregnancy Update

Howdy, folks!

As usual, we're nearing the 29-week mark as I write my 28-week update, so I'll have to hurry up to get this published on time! Who knew that I would have such a hard time posting pregnancy updates every four weeks?

In the big news...

We have hit the third trimester! Hurray! We're really in the home stretch!

It is my experience that pregnancy crawls through week 20, and then races by till the end. Before week 20, it's a matter of watching the seconds tick by ever... so... slowly. But after week 20, it becomes, "Ack! No! Slow down! I have so much to do!"

That's pretty much the state of things around here.

So here we go:

Pregnancy Health Update

Both baby and I are progressing exactly according to textbook measurements. No known issues of any kind, and all appointments have gone swimmingly.

Weeks 20-24 were a huge improvement in my nausea and energy levels, and weeks 25-27 were similarly another big improvement. The 20's are just a time of great improvement for me!

Third trimester aches and pains (and the good ol' pregnancy waddle!) are once again with us, but I'm definitely not complaining - anything is better than nausea!

Speaking of nausea! I am feeling anywhere from "moderately yucky" to "almost normal." Not bad, eh? I am still nauseated almost all of the time, but my nausea levels are often low enough for me to ignore completely, and they're almost always "comfortable" - if there's such a thing as being "comfortably nauseated."

Getting ready for baby:

  • Afterpains tincture - ordered! Hurray!
  • Calcium-Magnesium supplement (also for afterpain prevention) - starting this week!
  • Supplements for postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) prevention - alfalfa tablets (for Vitamin K) and Floradix (for iron) - in the process of getting these started!  
  • My birth supplies are gathered, sanitized, bagged in plastic, and ready to go!
  • The only thing left to do (beside finishing the spring cleaning) is to order my birth kit! 

A note on blood draws:

My pregnancies are usually needle-free, but thanks to various persons-who-shall-not-be-named in the state health department becoming a pain in the neck lately, I had to get several blood tests. (Thanks a bunch, guys.)

That was the BAD news. But the GOOD news was that Phoenix now has a brand-new technology whereby many standard blood tests can be done by finger-poke instead of the big-horrible-needle bit that can put me under the table faster than anything else. Local friends, if you're interested, check out Theranos for your blood work - good stuff!

Of course, I still did a good bit of inward panicking. However, I did make it out of the office without hitting the floor (always good), and discomfort was minimal.

The hilarious part was that my bottled-up panic decided to burst the bonds of my self-restraint some time later - in the middle of the night, as a matter of fact. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. totally stressed out about blood work: "Ack! Yuck! Ew! No! This is so disgusting!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!" I've never had a delayed reaction like that, and it was hilarious. In retrospect, at least.

Let's just say that needles (of any kind) and I don't mix well. Or rather, at all.

A later note:

The results of my blood test (CBC) were extremely good! Apparently the dessicated liver pills I've been taking for the past sixteen-odd weeks have really helped! Hurray!


Pregnancy What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update

Baby Names

Can you believe it? We still don't have baby names! We need to get moving!

Speaking of moving...

This past weekend we took a two-night trip north to visit DH's family. This is the first trip that we have made since this baby made his presence known, and I was thrilled that I was able to pull it off. Trips are stressful! A month ago I would not have been able to manage this.

While there, we managed to pull off our once-a-year blackberry picking trip. Our total take was very low - we were a bit late in the season - but it's still my all-time favorite activity and my all-time favorite fruit. You may remember that blackberries were the one thing that sidetracked me from completing an entire year carb-free (only one week away from the finish line!). It's worth it.

This year, being pregnant and even more susceptible to nausea, I did my best to practice restraint. Sort of.

Actually, I did pretty well, all things considered, but I did indulge twice: (1) about one-third cup of blackberry cobbler, and (2) about a quarter cup of ice cream (on different days). Lesson learned - again - sugar is still evil. Very evil. Nausea levels increased each time.

But the cobbler was soooo delicious.

My mother-in-law is truly the best cook in the world. 
The kids had a great time swimming and indulging in forbidden-at-home activities (namely, television and junk food):

Meanwhile, on the home education front...

  • We are now done with one third of our school year. Wow, it's flown! Now to try to cram in another third before the little one makes his appearance. Can we make it? It all depends on how soon this little chap decides to join us! But the race is on!
  • About five YEARS after I should have started this, I have finally (after much prayer, blood, sweat, tears, etc.) managed to pull together chore charts and a chore system for the 8yo. Chores are so much work - for ME! Goodness! I'll post soon and share the journey we've been on with chore systems.
    • Okay, actually, in my defense, I actually started this process several years ago - it's just that now is the first time I feel that we're finally getting somewhere. But wow, is it hard!
  • I have made a mid-year decision to add composition to our daily to-do list for the 8yo. He does the composing, I write it down. We'll see how this goes. 
  • I am trying a trial program of eliminating our morning snack time. (Heresy!) But seriously, our mornings are so incredibly busy. Lately it's felt like I'm cleaning up breakfast in order to serve snack, and cleaning up snack in order to serve lunch. Pure exhaustion (and more mess!) on top of an already-busy schedule. So far, getting rid of morning snack has worked very well. It's less work for me, the children don't seem to notice, AND (best of all!) they are eating lunch much more enthusiastically (and with less pickiness). All around WIN!

"Spring" Cleaning

I am now two months into my "spring" cleaning project, working 30 minutes (sometimes more) per day (all days but Sunday). I estimate that I have about a month left before I finish.

Who knew this could take so long?

However, it's lovely to have things cleaner - even little things that I can't see!

Speaking of which, I finally got our couches cleaned! Yes! After meaning to do so for at least four years! And guess what?

They look just as bad as they did before we got them cleaned!

The technician who came to do our cleaning said that the basic cleaning (covered by our Groupon) would do some good, but that to truly resuscitate our couches we would have to add in an extra $250 "deep cleaning" fee. Um..... no.

So I take comfort in the fact that our couches *are* cleaner, even though they look just as awful as ever. That's just life with toddlers (especially one of whom who is a professional mess-maker).

Now onto the carpets!


And there you have it!

Life around here is insanely busy, but it's a good busy (though far too stressful at times). I find that I don't ever feel that I've "arrived" as a mother or homemaker or home educator - it's a constant (and usually steep) learning experience that involves mastering one step and then tackling the next. It never stops. I don't think it ever will.

But that's a good thing. And it certainly keeps me humble.

Have a wonderful week, dear friends! 

I'll leave you with this picture from the archives - DH at a much younger age. Local friends, do you even recognize him?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Crockpot Lasagna!

This is another one of those "I can't believe it's THIS easy" recipes. But seriously, it is. Ten minutes and an afternoon in the crockpot, and you're set. Unfortunately I can't eat this on my current diet, but it is an awesome family dish.


Slow Cooker Lasagna

8 lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
2 each 28 oz. jars spaghetti sauce
4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, optional
15 oz. ricotta cheese, or cottage cheese (my choice!), or cream cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Spread a bit of sauce on the bottom of a greased crockpot. Break noodles; Place half in bottom of slow cooker.

2. Brown ground beef in sauce pan, stir in Italian seasoning. Spread half over noodles in slow cooker.

3. Layer half of sauce, half of mushrooms (opt.), half of ricotta/cottage cheese, and half of mozzarella cheese over beef. Repeat layers.

4. Cover, cook on low 5 hours from fridge or 3-4 hours from prep (room temp).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Benefits of (Too Much) Baby Stuff!

As a budding minimalist (who still has way too much stuff), one of the hard parts about having little children running about is the fact that they come with... stuff. Lots of stuff. Toys, papers, clothing, you name it. Our house may or may not explode any day now.

But the good part about this is that my husband and I constantly have to ship more and more of our stuff out the door to Goodwill to make room for their stuff.

At the end of this parenting journey, we will have practically no stuff left!


Take my dresser for example.

Looking at it, you'd think, "Wow, she has a lot of stuff!"

Well, I used to. This thing used to be crammed full of all of my clothes.



These are the drawers that actually have my stuff in them...

And this is now what's in the other drawers:

Who knew that children could be such aids to minimalism?

I'll make that 100 Things Challenge yet!

(It's also really nice having so many fewer clothes!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls!

This recipe comes straight from one of my all-time-favorite blogs, Raising Arrows!

Recipe - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Usually when I see recipes this easy, I tend to ignore them. I've learned (painfully) that recipes claiming "5 ingredients, 5 minutes!" usually have results somewhere in between "forgettable" and "abysmal."

But this recipe was different! It really was easy and fast, and it was delicious! For us, this was a definite keeper!

- For our family (five people), we made a half-recipe.

- It would be easy to stretch this further by increasing the vegetables - for example, by doubling the cabbage and/or the onion.

- My husband and the boys immediately transformed this dish into an Asian dinner with lots of Asian sauces. I preferred mine plain - but both versions were good!

- For the carb-eaters of the family, I served this over rice. For myself, I ate it without rice. An added bonus - it fits into my very-low-carb diet perfectly!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Enjoying the Thrill of the Hunt!

Many years ago, a college artist-friend of mine and I visited a used-book shop together. She immediately headed for the children's books and started flipping through them, remarking, "I always like to look for children's books that have good art, because most of the art in children's books is simply dreadful!"

At the time, I wondered greatly at her comment. Didn't she know how insanely difficult it was to get published as an author of children's books? How could any but the best be on the market? Having never considered the matter before, I was quite puzzled.

The truth of the matter didn't strike me until about ten years later, after I'd been knee-deep in children's books for a couple of years  - "Wow! Most children's books really are awful!"

And it's true - for whatever reason, and despite the fact that it is indeed difficult to get children's books published, a huge percentage of children's books out there are pretty bad quality - either in content, artistic quality, or both. (And this, of course, applies especially to mass-produced "grocery store" children's books and to books produced from children's television shows.)

However, I've spent the past eight years going through "good books" lists and seeing the best of what's out there in children's literature. Now, thankfully, I know what to look for in children's books, and - like my friend! - one of my greatest joys is hunting through thrift stores for the best of the best.

With that in mind, here are some of my latest finds! (Notes on books go from left to right, top to bottom.)

Thrift store trip #1:

  • Poppleton in Winter - We love Poppleton! So incredibly funny. I hope to collect the whole set.
  • Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm - Having just finished with our unit study on Germany, we have read many fairy tales - and the 8yo is thrilled to have his own volume to read!
  • Curious George Flies a Kite - We always love Curious George!
  • Desert Animals - I love collecting good-quality materials that apply to our local habitats. This one is excellent.
  • A Tree is Nice - Classic pre-school/kinder story. I'm so excited to have it!
  • Armies of Ants - This was a hit with our son when we read it a year or two back. I'm so happy to have our own! 

Thrift store trip #2:

  • Heidi (abridged) - We have "Robin Hood" in this version, and it is excellent. I'm thrilled to add "Heidi" to the collection!
  • The World of the Microscope by Usborne - Love (almost) anything by Usborne! I'm always on the lookout for these. 
  • Abe Lincoln and the Muddy Pig - A historical reader - always so fun. 
  • Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride - Ditto. 
  • The Night Before Christmas (ill. Tomie de Paola) - We love Tomie de Paola! Two of his books - what a score! 
  • Quakes! - A science reader - children love these. 
  • Tomie dePaola's Rhyme Time - I'm always on the lookout for good poetry, having discovered the surprising fact that children actually love the stuff. This is now next on our list!
  • Atlas of United States History - This one was great and will be so handy for history studies!
  • Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia - More Usborne! Hurray! 
  • You Can Do It, Sam! - Wow! We love the "Sam" books, and I never expected to find one in a thrift store! Yum! 

And an added bonus: A free curriculum swap at which I obtained some of my favorite classics (for me as well as the children!):

  • Rod and Staff readers - I'm in loooovvveeee with Rod and Staff. Their stuff is just so sweet. I can't wait to use these with our little guy! 
  • Memorial Press Series Copybook - We will probably have to take a break from Handwriting Without Tears next year, and this is most likely going to fill the gap!
  • Keeping our Children's Hearts - I adore anything and everything by the Maxwell family. I never dreamed of getting one of their books for free!
  • Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit - Neither did I dream of getting TWO of the Maxwell books for free, including this one - my ultimate favorite! 

Have I mentioned yet that I love searching thrift stores (and curriculum swaps!) for children's books?

If you're just beginning to learn about children's literature, here are some awesome resources to get started!
Many great blogs and website also have great reading lists - try these lists:

Enjoy, dear friends!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Mexican Mess!

I found this super-easy recipe several years ago on the blog Smockity Frocks, and it's become a staple at our house. Seriously - six ingredients and about five minutes of time invested. What's not to love? Especially when you're a homeschool mama, this recipe is an enormous blessing. Serve over chips or like chili with chips to dip.

Mexican Mess

(I call it Mexican Dip to make it go down a bit more easily with the family!)

An easy way to stretch this meal is simply to add more beans. I add two cans for our family, and it would be easy to keep adding - perhaps up to four or five cans.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Toddler Might Be a Neat-Freak If....

You know your two-year-old is a neat-freak when...

... he throws a tantrum when you forget to have him help clean up the toys.

... he snatches toys away from other toddlers... in order to put them neatly in the box and put the box back on the shelf.

... his one ambition in life is to get the Windex when mama isn't looking and do some clandestine cleaning on his own.

Seriously, this child cracks me up. I have never run across this trait in a child before, and it's (mostly) adorable. I'm doing my best to encourage his neat habits rather than to shoo him out of the way (my natural instinct).

One of our favorite things is when this child discovers a mess of any kind. He will immediately run to me, highly alarmed, and say, "Mama! Mama! Oh, NO!" in the most mournful of tones. It's extremely adorable.

The 2yo and our eldest (the 8yo) simply couldn't be more different in this area. We could set a bomb off in our home and the 8yo would still say, "Mess? What mess? I don't see any mess." He may or may not take after a close-relative-who-will-not-be-named but who is similarly oblivious to messes.

It never ceases to amaze me how different children of the same parents can be!

Asleep with his beloved scrub brushes.