06 November 2012

Assumptions and Judgement

We have a lot of choices in this life. Easy ones or hard ones. It starts with: Which cereal am I gonna eat today for breakfast? And it goes to: What university am I going to study? And when a husband and family planning come along, it is more like: How many children are we gonna have and how are we raising them?

This blog post is not about making our own decisions and carry them out, it's about decisions that are taken away from us and can NOT be carried out anymore, according to OUR plan......

When I had Coqui, I made a birth plan that was as natural as you can think, besides the fact that it would take care in a hospital. I didn't want drugs, I wanted to walk, and I didn't want my child being taken away from me after birth. Guess what?! None of that happened. C-sections just don't come drug-free, and due to that, my baby was taken away from me.
If you read some statistics on C-sections and their after-effects on mom and baby, well, one of them is trouble with breast feeding. I tried it for four days, had a lactation consultant talk to me and show me some 'tricks', but to no avail. Finally, I sent the hubby out to buy a pump just to relieve me from the pain I was in! Engorgement, anybody? It hurt so bad, but once I put the pump on, it felt so good....

To make a long story short, I dedicated myself to breast feeding my newborn child - the milk just had to come in a bottle! I did this for nine long months! During that time, our family moved half across the country once, traveled on six different plane rides, and I pumped at pretty much every location that you can think of, including the car in various parking lots, a Jewish temple during a Bat Mitzvah, and on the airplane during the flight (batteries make it possible!). When I did not take the pump with me, I had about three hours for leaving the house and returning home!

You think those breast feeding moms are dedicated? Well, think about all those pumping mamas! The ones that had to return to work because money is tight. The ones that have to travel during breast feeding. And the ones that had the same thing happen to them like what happened to me....... I think we are just a bit more dedicated and it is just not recognized the same..... But you are welcome to proof me wrong.

Why am I even writing about this? Now? Well, I was approached by a friend, confessing that I was judged six years ago for bottle feeding my child. She didn't want anything to do with me because she thought we had nothing in common. She was all into attachment parenting and breast feeding - which I obviously was not. She judged without asking. So I was quite shocked to hear that - because I never thought people could have judged me for that. In Jersey, it is rather more common not to breast feed (personal statement!). I had no idea that people looked down on me for sticking a bottle into my boys mouth. Nobody knew that it had breast milk in it! And I did not think of labeling it either!

Did it bother me that we didn't click and latching just didn't happen? Of course! I had a crisis over it, until many people told me that it doesn't matter HOW the breast milk gets into Coqui's tummy! Breast or bottle, the liquid is the same! And they were right. We bonded just fine. When  he laid in my arms, he gazed up at me, and we connected. I carried him everywhere and I spent LOTS of time with him.

Fast forward three years, I had to bottle feed my second child because it was NOT carried by me. Hence I had no breast milk to give to her. We were at a Nikolaus party at a German friend's house. There I met another mama who's daughter was the same age as Peanut, so just a few months old. She kept disappearing and I didn't think anything of it, until I pulled the bottle (of formula) out and stuck it into her mouth. I was faced with a very surprised/worried/accusative question: "You don't breast feed?" Well, I had to explain where this baby came from, and why I couldn't give her any breast milk. At the end, they thought it was a story with a happy end, but I will remember why I had to tell it in the first place. Judgement!

It still didn't bother me, until now, six and three years later, when confronted with my friend's confession. Now I am wondering, every time I feed my baby in public: What are people thinking of me? Am I being judged for bottle feeding? At the same time, I am also hoping they would ask why - so I can explain that it was NOT my choice not to breastfeed any of my children! I WANTED TO! Very badly. And I am a big supporter for breastfeeding.

But my situation leads me to stand up for all those other women as well. It is a personal choice. I am not alone, there are other women that are in the same situation - blessed with the gift of someone carrying their child. What about adoption? Are they less of parents, less caring? No, there is a reason why they had to or wanted to adopt and can not breast feed. What about the woman that survived breast cancer, or really any cancer, and can not or should not breast feed? What about the woman that had to go back to work and it just didn't work out? The woman that got sick? The Mama that tried and had to give up because it was too stressful? And yes, what about the lady that just didn't want to?
They are ALL mothers that care for their children. And they are feeding their children (compared to the very rare case of a mom who doesn't even do that! - just saying.).

But then there is a whole other league of women out there! Women that are so passionate about breast feeding, that they want to do it for others as well, people like me. So when Peanut was born, there were two other women pregnant and one of those ladies offered to share some milk with us. I blogged about it here. It was such a huge blessing to us. I believe that this milk helped Peanut to grow stronger.

Munchkin has been very lucky as she has been drinking both breast milk and formula since birth. Wonderful Beth pumped up until recently, so Munchkin could have God's best food for babies. I am so thankful for that. There is also a webpage where breastfeeding moms from our state share their milk with mamas who don't have any or their supply is low. I connected with a lady that has given me her milk since before Munchkin's birth. I meet her once a month and she gives me what she has pumped extra next to feeding her own child.

And that is not all - Munchkin has had breast milk from three women, and that is including ME. During the pregnancy, the question of re-lactation came up. I had tried (with pure faith) for Peanut three years ago - and it didn't work. So at first, I was not really interested in stressing over that again. Than, I believe, God put a desire in me to check it out. I hooked up with a lactation consultant at the birthing center, heard what I needed to do, and then talked to my own oncologist, to make sure she would be okay with this. We both felt very strong of NOT using that drug from Canada (that is not available on the American market, for a reason!), so I didn't take it. But I was very open to herbs and just very boring dry pumping..... Again, my dedication and faith in God (that I heard Him right) were blessed with some milk. It was not much at all, as a matter of fact, it was more like an ounce a day! But to me, it was worth it. Munchkin got lots of time on the breast, even if she never drank any milk from it - I bonded with her and that is all that mattered. She got what she needed in a bottle.

Bottles are NOT bad. You don't know what is inside of them! So next time you see someone that does it differently than you, think twice about judging them, or just simply ask! It can lead to some serious miracle reveling. Or maybe a funny story?!

Life can throw us curve balls, things that we didn't expect and certainly didn't ask for. But isn't it about accepting the circumstances and making the best out of it? I believe that every mom has this instinct inside of her to know what is best for her child/children, even if it is not HER best choice......

(And if you are a reader, you might be interested in another woman's journey of providing food for her loved baby, click here: Life As An Exclusively Pumping Mom. She says it all, and I can so relate to this!)

28 October 2012

Farm and more farms

This is a picture-loaded post. We went to two farms in a row for our field trips. Farm One was more for fall fun and entertainment. So we did a duck race, the hay ride, three different mazes, pumpkin coloring, and having a picnic. It was alot of fun for the kids.
Coqui, Zoodle, and Chickie working at the pump to make little ducks race through the water
The boys ready for the hay ride
The weather was just perfect for our trip
Coqui and Peanut; but Munchkin and me were there as well.....

Being friends, and making friends.

Farm Two is a working farm, a real farm with animals and fields and, yes, a few fun exhibitions to attract visitors like us. It was fun and the kids actually really learned something. This time, we started with a real picnic and went on excursion then. We participated at another hay ride, a visual tour of the farm, a cow milking, animal exhibitions (snakes, turtles, ostriches, donkeys, crows, pigs, and many more), and flower exhibitions. We walked for quiet some time.....

26 October 2012

Lapbook about Health

We have been working on their health lapbooks for two weeks, one week before Columbus and then the week after. It was a lot of work and so the books are quiet big.

This time, we met at a playground, presented the lapbooks in the beautiful sunshine and let the kids play afterwards.

So the lapbook was so big because we wanted to cover a few things that are part of our curriculum and a bit of stuff that Beth wanted to cover. So on the front page you can see ALL the things we talked about, which included: posture, nutrition, exercise, sleep, right thoughts, hygiene, and kindness.

Making the lapbook was fun even though it was alot of work, but it was hands-on and practical and the kids really understood the things we discussed because they are doing them themselves. We had alot of fun with the posture and exercising because we practiced those in the house, counting how many times Coqui or Mami could jump on either leg without falling, etc....

I was looking forward to talk about nutrition as my son had decided a while ago that he doesn't like a lot of food anymore, especially vegetables. So it was good to talk about the food pyramid, or like the plate they are doing now. Beth came up with these two characters, Healthy Herold and Unhealthy Uzziah. SO he had to draw a plate with 'good' food for the boy who makes 'good' choices. And then a plate with the unhealthy choices for the other boy. He had way too much fun with the latter. We even talked about how it makes us feel when we make healthy choices and when we don't make those.

We also did some experiments for this, like counting the glasses of water he drinks per day - which is usually way too little but with this he was motivated to drink more - which has lasted until now.

He also really wanted to trace the different systems of the human body. So we got some tracing paper and a book from the library and went to work. I traced four bodies, you know, only the outer lines of a boy, and he then had to draw (aka copy from the picture) the different systems into the bodies. He did such a good job with that. In the picture, you can see the circulatory system.

Hygiene was one of those things that was good for him to hear. I think boys tend to care a little less how they look or smell or appear to others. It is important for them to know that they don't need to be just handsome but that cleanliness is important to feel good about themselves.
 So we talked about washing hands, and HOW. How to wash their bodies - less dirty to progressively more dirty areas. We talked about their teeth, how to brush them and the role of a dentist. Then we talked about germs - which was a cool topic for the kids. There was quite some laughing going on while working on the worksheets and at the presentation. I guess, for kids, this is funny and fascinating at the same time.

The last thing was talking about clean rooms, folding clothes, and other ways, HOW kids can HELP to live in a clean environment, like their home, the garden, and their community.

Overall, it was two intense weeks, but I think the kids got alot out of it. Which is what we are going for with these lapbooks.

All Three Kids with their Front Page
Coqui's, Chickie's, and Zoodle's Nutritional Plates

And their GERMS...

Homemade Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

I am not a very creative person, so I do need to point out that I came up with this recipe by myself (with an idea from my sister-in-law)! So drum roll please.....

I am introducing Annie's Mint Chocolate Ice Cream:
yes, it's not chocolate chip! So there is no mistake in leaving that out! You will see....

1 cup of regular cow milk
2 cups of heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar 
1 pinch of salt
1 table spoon vanilla extract
1/2 table spoon peppermint extract (or if you like it strong a full spoon)
a few drops of green food coloring
1 cup of Andes Baking chips (Creme de Menthe)

- measure 1 cup of the Andes Chips and put them in a bag into the freezer (preferably overnight)
- set the stove to a low heat
- in a saucepan, combine the milks, sugar, salt and extracts and bring just to a boil
- remove from the stove right away and let it cool down a bit
- transfer it to a container that can go into the refrigerator
- let it cool there for about 2 to 3 hours, until really cool (again, overnight is best)
- get your ice cream maker out and use as directed by the manufacturer
- I add the mixture to the bowl and let it churn for about 15 minutes
- add the mint chips right before you are ready to turn of the ice cream maker off
- when ready, transfer the ice cream into a container to place it in the freezer (for about 2 hours)
- it makes about a quart of ice cream that becomes more like a quart and a half with the chips!

Now, why the green food coloring? This is from my kids. The first time I made this ice cream, I used only the peppermint extract and chocolate chips. It was okay for me, but my kids refused to eat it because they told me that the store-bought mint choc chip ice cream is green! And because I want to please my children, I added the color for their eyes only! It doesn't change the taste or anything. so you can leave it out!
Peanut happens to love MY ice cream just as much as the store-bought kind - which makes this Mami very happy! (Coqui is still reluctant - he has no idea what he is missing!) And Munchkin eyeballs my bowl as if she knew what it is.... I would assume she'll devour it just as Mami and sister do!

24 October 2012

Columbus, Columbus, sailed across the sea....

..... And found a very special land
That belongs to you and me.

Columbus,Columbus,we celebrate your day,
In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
When you sailed our way.

(you have to sing this to the tune of "sailing, sailing"!)

Well, on a certain Monday a few weeks ago (yes, I am very behind with my blog posts!), we celebrated a special day in honor of a special man. So we took the opportunity to get some history lesson into our curriculum. Our themed week was all about Christopher Columbus.

We went to the library but couldn't find many (or any) books on him - either they didn't have any or they were all gone by the time we got there. So we had to do without a major story. But the internet is a wonderful place for resources, we did without it.

On Friday, we got together and the kids had to present their lapbooks to each other. It is always such a 'battle' to fight who presents first.... Coqui got to go first.....

I am always surprised how much Coqui retains in his little brain. He still has trouble reading some of the stuff, but he is getting better at it. And most of all, we have fun doing it.

20 October 2012

Skeletons and spiders

Last year, we were part of a local co-op that stopped during the summer. The mom that ran it was not planning on restarting it for this semester, very much to our disappointment. So we did without...... (It was sad because my kids always had so much fun there. Coqui had a (boy) friend there, and Peanut opened up so much there, just by watching everyone else.

Because we wanted to stay friends with her and her kids, occasional play dates took place over the summer, and on one of those a few weeks ago, she invited us back to her house. So for the past two weeks, we are back at our co-op - and we are very happy about that.

Due to the fact that 'some' families celebrate Halloween, our themes have been skeletons and spiders. First week, we talked about the different parts of the human skeleton and its functions. We read a book and did a craft.

Coqui's skeleton made out of different kinds of noodles
Peanut's skeleton
For our second week, we started ASL with the kids - which they really liked. They learned the entire alphabet in sign language. Even Miss Peanut stayed focused enough to learn a few letters herself.
Then we read a story. That was followed by several art and science projects. At the end, we did Spanish.
Make a spider out of cotton swabs and Styrofoam ball
Make a spider web out of rubber bands, and then out of strong and straws, and in the back yard out of some fabric material. They had lots of fun doing it.

I can not tell you how happy I am to be back at her house and do fun learning together with our friends. Her and her husband are great teachers. Her kids love my kids, they get along very well (most of the time). And we always include recess, and if we can't go outside, we do music with dancing inside. It's so wonderful to be back there. 

16 October 2012

Chores Or No Chores

Who likes chores? Well, I am not a big fan, but I understand that they need to get done. Now the question is HOW much do I want my kids to be involved with them.

Coqui is my big helper - he always has been. When it was just him, it happened automatically that we included him in all our activities, from washing the car in the driveway to planting a tree in the backyard. He is handyman material: he can swing a hammer, hold a drill, and does part of the lawn mowing with the Hubby. 

He is doing it all by choice and by free will.

I have mixed feelings about chores.

As a child, I hated them. As far as I remember, I never had a choice and was forced to do them. I made who I am today. So try to 'make me do something' - good luck with that. Because I like my free will and being 'forced' to do something just doesn't feel right to me...


... I do want my kids to learn that sometimes, we do NOT have a choice. The dishes in our house are not cleaning themselves, the laundry is not folding itself, and the groceries are not flying in by the front door. These are all things that need to be done - on a daily basis.

I want my kids to learn that lesson.

But how can I do it without forcing them?

I have heard of families that have these chore charts, or life-size calendars with everyone's jobs, done either by day or by month. I have never felt the necessity of having one. Coqui has never had to 'work on' helping, he always volunteered (partly because he is my obedient child).

Now that I have three, and at least one of them that is so much LESS willing to listen and obey, I might have to reconsider it? Coqui is my oldest, and being the person he is, I just don't want him to get labeled as the 'good cleaner-upper', who cleans up for everyone else. His sister needs to learn that lessons as well, as being part of our family. She needs to do HER part, too. But I really don't want to do chore charts.......

Also, I am against making different chores for boys and girls. I grew up in a family where my brother and I were treated equally. I learned how to hang up a picture (using a hammer and/or drill), and my brother had to dry dishes or hang up wet clothes. I can bring out the garbage myself, I do not need a man to do it for me. And the Hubby is a much better cook than I am. So I think it is important for both sexes to learn to take care of themselves.

So far, it worked to just let them do what they wanted to help with. Cleaning toys is a job that the children need to get done! When we struggled with that in the past, a threat that I would throw away any toy that is not cleaned up, has done it's magic! (I never had to throw away a toy!)
And when my kids WANT to help, I let them. Coqui is the only one in this house who washes my floors in the kitchen and dining room - I don't do it (because he literally begs me to do it for me!). Peanut is eager to help me with hanging up the wet clothes, so I let her. When I told her the other day that I could not play with her because I needed to fold their clean and dry clothes, she was eager to do it all by herself. So I did sit back and only helped when needed. So from now on, I told them, I would like them to put away their own clothes..... and so far, they are willing to do it!

So for now, I think, I just have to come up with new ways HOW they can help, instead of 'forcing' them to help with chore charts.

How do you folks do it at home?

27 September 2012

Short Review

In case you wonder what I will do today, I will be celebrating this:

0 = cancer
1 = God
2 = miracles along the way
3 = children in total
4 = doctors that changed my life forever
5 = years of being cancer-free!

Celebrating today with my loved ones! Yeah.

26 September 2012

Vegan Chocolate Ice Cream

For my birthday, I got an ice cream maker - a very essential tool for someone that is addicted to ice cream. It's my comfort food, being also refreshing and oh so tasty in so many flavors. With the machine, I ordered a Vegan ice cream recipe book "The Vegan Scoop". Next to having ALOT of ice cream recipes, it also has recipes for baking goods, sauces and such. So it is worth it's money - I think.

My first try was the Vegan peanut butter ice cream, that was good but a bit too peanutty..... I had to make that first, because I needed to find a main ingredient for Vegan ice cream first: arrowroot powder! I finally did and so I tried the basic chocolate ice cream. Very general, but tasty enough... It was made with soy milk and soy creamer, and something was missing.....

Then I remembered that my friend Beth had made it once with coconut milk. Now I needed to find that ingredient, which wasn't easy! I finally did find it in the back of the Asian aisle!!! Yep, not the baking aisle.

So without further ado, I will share HER recipe with you: Double Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream.
With the added chocolate, it makes about 1 1/2 quarts.
2/3 c Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder, sifted (or run through a blender or food processor--however you prefer to get the lumps out). You can use regular cocoa powder, but it won't be as rich of a chocolate flavor.
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
pinch salt
2 cans of coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounce vegan chocolate (I use 4 squares Baker's semisweet baking chocolate, which is vegan)

1. If you plan ahead far enough, pre-refrigerate the coconut milk.
2. Whisk together the cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Whisk in the coconut milk and vanilla until the solids are as dissolved as you can get them. Mine wasn't that smooth, but that was okay.
4. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour before freezing/churning it. If you pre-refrigerated the coconut milk, this step is optional.
5. Follow your ice cream maker's instructions to churn/freeze the mixture.
6. While it's churning, cut the chocolate into chunks. Add to the ice cream during the last 3 minutes or so of churning.
6. Eat immediately (soft-serve consistency) or move to another container and freeze. You'll want to remove it from the freezer approximately 15-20 minutes before serving--it gets very hard in the freezer.

This time, I added a bit too much DARK cocoa powder, so it is extra dark..... but still tasty for me to eat it right now while typing this. The little chocolate pieces are a nice extra - at first, I was not sure if I wanted them in there.... The coconut goes so well with the chocolate, I think I will always make it this way rather than with soy milk. I wonder if rice milk would work?

25 September 2012

Vegan Potato-Leek Soup

I have been in the mood for real food, lately. What I mean is food that I cook myself that is full of healthy stuff and no preservatives! With a baby, it is so easy, and sometimes necessary, to eat stuff that is made and ready to eat. But I am at the point where I am so done with it.

The last two nights, I put the kids to bed, and started cooking in my kitchen. You know, taking all my time to chop the veggies, not having to be afraid someone burns their fingers on the stove (thankfully, this has never happened, yet!), or listening to music or watching a TV show while cooking.

Tonight, I prepared my ingredients for my ice cream that I am making tomorrow. It's in the fridge and freezer and will be made tomorrow, and consumed on Thursday(wonder why?)!

Then I pulled out my leek and made this delicious potato-leek soup. It took me all together about an hour and a half - not too bad when I was able to watch my favorite show while washing and chopping and mixing and stirring. I tasted the soup and it is super delicious, so I decided I needed to share the recipe. Now if you know me, I have a problem with following recipes, so I used this one, but changed it. Here is what I (!) did:

3 leeks, all edible parts washed and cut into slices of your choice (it will be blended later, so I felt it didn't matter how big they were)
1 whole yellow onion, chopped
2 big yellow potatoes, peeled, cubed into small pieces
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons garlic
hand-full of parsley
hand-full of cilantro

1.) In a pot, heat up the oil.
2.) Add the leeks, onion, and salt; and saute for about five minutes.
3.) Add the garlic and stir well.
4.) Add the potatoes and vegetable stock, cover, and bring to a boil. Then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
5.) Add the parsley and cilantro right before blending the soup. 
6.) Turn off the stove, and use a blender to blend the soup. I did this directly in the pot (it was big enough). (The recipe described to do it cup by cup in a separate dish - I just didn't see the point, and saved in doing an extra dish.) 

The soup is ready and waiting for me to be eaten at lunch time! I tasted it and I can't wait.

And tomorrow, I will make my ice cream - and I will share the recipe then. 

24 September 2012

Something to celebrate

I started this blog in order to spread the good news of 
And next week, I get to celebrate that hope big time. (and no, it's not my birthday!)

What is hope? I am talking about that feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
I expected God to fight my fight for me because I knew I was too weak to fight it myself. I expected Him to be there for me. I expected Him to guide me by His hand to a better tomorrow. And that totally happened. I have been blessed with life, love, hope, and faith. I have been blessed with family, friends, and children that I thought I could not have. (If you need to catch up on How we got here!, please go back and read it.)

So what am I so excited about that it drives tears into my eyes every time I think about it? 

It's been five years since those dreadful words changed my life: "It's the big C!"
It took a long time to accept that fact and it's consequences. It took me five years to heal from it. So today, I can proudly say that I am five years cancer-free, and that is something to celebrate!

I want to celebrate that Life and that Hope, that Love I received and those children I got, the special people that supported me on my journey and my relationship with my heavenly Father that got so strong through this experience.  I am praising God for all of it. He not only never left my side in those dark times but blessed me so abundantly in giving me the strength to go through this and come out on the other end as a renewed person. Hey, maybe one day, I will even become an optimist....
The walk to Beat the Clock in NYC 2010
Five years can be short but I feel that ALOT of things happened in those five years. The first year was full of anger and frustration, healing physically and emotionally, until that Hope would sink in and make life look a little bit better every day. It was a tough year of little social interactions, withdrawal, and loneliness. Once that anger turned into hope, I felt I can do things again. Life seemed manageable again.
My biggest supporter and me
And then we got blessed with New Hope through a family member that would carry our own baby (if you need to know how it works medically, here is a link) for us. That year was not always easy but oh so worth it. At the end, we recived a beautiful baby girl into our family.
During all this time, I had to have quarterly check-ups, which are always so nerve-wrecking. Even though I knew I was in good hands, that waiting with the uncertainty of hearing good or bad news was tough, and is to this day.
I did celebrate the half-time between that day one and now here. I love my team over there and was always worried that at five years, they would send me back to an regular OB-Gyn. Well, they don't and I really appreciate that. I mean, eventually, they might, and then I 'might' be ready for that, but for now, I am not. I am also part of a support group that I have attended now for those five years. I love the ladies there and I am so happy that I can share some of my hope with them. It has been a big part of my healing, too.
Of course, I have walked a few cancer walks, for my own cancer or others. It's an awful, creepy disease and I wish this on Nobody! So supporting researches makes me feel good, and I can show my support to my friends that are affected by it. 
Another Blessing
Fast forward four years, I find myself blessed again with another carrier to carry our third child. Wow. God has been so good to us! During that time, Beth and I did the Relay for Life for the second time and it was so meaningful for me - it goes with this post as well. At the end, I can only give glory to God for where I am today! (I wrote a post back in May that says it all.)

So five years have gone by, I was able to heal in so many ways. My family grew from three to five with the help of two very special ladies. And I have learned to be a fighter. Life is worth fighting for! It's worth living it every minute, and it's so beneficial to enjoy what we have, even if it is not always our plan, but God's. I am happy where I am today. So that is what I am celebrating my life changed forever due to God's plan.

I am not sure how my day will look like, but I want it to be special. 
I might not do school that day, or do a special session on 'counting our blessings'.
I want to celebrate with a birthday cake, and a candle on it... (it will be nice to see a one digit-number on MY cake once again - haha) 
I want champagne.... (this one might not happen though....)
And I want my family and friends around me!
And I want to thank God all day - whenever I think about it - for how blessed I am!

Thank you for being here and reading, thank you for praying and thank you for encouraging me when I felt I couldn't handle this anymore. Please stay and keep reading - I am certain that God is not done with me yet.

22 September 2012

Field Trip: Here's How!

We had a hog-killin' time today at our local outdoor pioneer museum!

But let me go back to the beginning. When this field trip was announced, Beth and I decided to make the week prior to the trip a themed week all about Pioneering.
Because I have an entire curriculum to finish by the end of this school year, I knew a lapbook was too much, but I wanted to do all the fun activities we had found online.

So on Monday, I introduced the theme to the kids, we learned what a pioneer is, where they came from, why they left their own countries and then the Old States, what they wanted to find here in America and out west. We took the world map and the USA map to follow their routes. Coqui liked to learn about the way they traveled (covered wagons) and what they could take with them (their packing list looked quite a bit different than today's list would look like!). Then we talked about life on the trail, especially the life of the children, and compared to the wonderful carefree life of my own kiddos!

On Tuesday, we made our own butter with this recipe. It totally worked. The kids took turns shaking the substance in a baby food jar. And when it was time to try it, Peanut agreed and Coqui ran the other way. We smeared it onto a slice of bread and Peanut ate almost all of it. I guess she really liked it.
For lunch, I made rice and beans (after our own recipe ressembling the Spanish rice) - talking about all the dry rice and beans those pioneers put in their covered wagons. 

Wednesday, we made this shadow clock, to demonstrate that pioneers had no Swatch watches, but read (or guessed) time by the stand of the sun and the shadows it throws on the ground. We started at 8 am with the longest shadow if the day. Coqui's head is somewhere in the grass - you can see a white dot, that's the chalk I left as a marker there. We came back every two hours. The last one was at 4 pm, it's in dark purple and not very visible, but it's there. We forgot to draw another one at 6 pm because the Hubby had come home earlier and parked his car over our clock.....
That same day, we also made home made apple sauce in the crock pot. I followed this recipe. Sadly, the kids did not want to even taste it, but lucky for me, because it was delicious! I am not sure what it is, maybe it's the texture as this is not looking like store-bought, and a little chunkier, too.
Next time, I will use a blender and maybe they'll like it better.

We also worked on a Math puzzle and some other things that had to do with pioneers, like counting tools and flour bags, or measuring things, especially weights.

On Thursday, we met with Beth's kids to do our fun games. If you didn't know (or just have a hard time believing it), but pioneers had no TV, no video games or iphones. They had to come up with stuff to entertain themselves, and others. Children's toys back then were much simpler and made out of wood or other materials like rocks or ropes. Nope, no trip to the local Toys'R'us for the poor children back then! So we played Rolling the hoop and a marble game. At first, they had trouble figuring it out, but eventually, the two big kids got the idea of it.

During the summer, Coqui had found popsicle sticks and we build a log cabin - not knowing that it would come handy later in the school year. So we skipped that activity, but we did talk about it, regarding the difference in heating and cooling compared to today's conveniences, and we talked potty business (which is oh so interesting to our children!).
Here is a picture of our creation: with a removable roof.

It was a fun week for all of us.
Yesterday, we wanted to remind the kids what we had learned, so Beth read a book about the Oregon Trail to the kids. They loved it and sat through the entire story.

Finally today, we went to the local outdoor museum that is about those fun pioneer times. Their exhibitions are mostly originals from around the state, like farm houses and barns, and even some tipis from the tribe that used to live here in this region. The originals were taken apart and put back together piece by piece.

This is a big place - at least when you are walking with a big group of nearly 30 people and children mostly under nine. They have a general store, of course, where you pay the entrance and can buy little nicknacks - we passed very quickly! And moved onto a town building with a smokehouse, an outdoor kitchen, and an outdoor toilet.
We had a lovely elderly man walking us through the house and explaining all the different rooms and tools. People definitely had much LESS during that time, than all the stuff that we fill our house with today!
Here is Coqui trying out an old-fashioned hearing aid.
Also, I think they liked the idea that back then, everyone was home schooled. 

They had a blacksmith there who was actually making a knife - the kids were mesmerized that someone was allowed to 'play with fire' and 'bang' on something!

Next things were the tipis. I was just a bit disappointed with it. I am not sure what I had expected, but more than what was there. I know, I know, I am European and fascinated with Indians....
But the kids had a blast as they were allowed to go inside the tents and explore with touching and playing.

Last but not least, there was a farm house of a poor immigrant family that lived in ONE room with 13 children! Wow. Peeking through the front door, it looked just a tidbit tight in there, trying to imagine to sleep in there with all the kids (not to talk about making those children ;-)). It also had some animals there, and an outdoor cooking station with hands-on stuff for the kids. They got to play there for a while. It was in the shade, so we adults didn't mind.

To say the least, my kids had a blast running around and learning. We were all dusty, so when we came home we not only enjoyed modern-day's air conditioning but a bath tub with look warm water to rinse of! After a well-earned meal, I needed a break, because I was as I was all dragged out from all that walking and carrying. Because I was walking with a baby strapped to my front, and to top that, I had a backpack on my back. So round about, I had 15 extra pounds on me, and it was just close to 90 degrees again today. Yep, I needed that shower!

20 September 2012

My favorite color is still GREEN

...and I am trying very hard to BE more green in my every-day life.

Two years ago, I wrote a post about Recycling and what I am doing in my own house to help decrease the amount of trash on our landfills. Looking back, I can say that I am doing great AND that I have found new ways to reduce.....
  • Yes, I am still a fanatic when it comes to recycling. I even go to birthday parties and bring home the empty water bottles because I hate them being thrown in the regular garbage. (I know I am weird.)
  • Yes, I am reusing bought containers, especially glass jars from pickles or olives.
    But my favorites are the glass containers that I invested in a while ago. They are awesome. Not only do they not stain from the stuff that I am storing in them, they also don't smell like last week's spaghetti sauce, and I don't feel like I have to throw them out after a month's worth of usage. To top all that: I can put them in the oven (can't do that with plastic!), and I prefer to use glass in my microwave. I am really not sure what happens when one sticks plastic in it, but I prefer not to....
  • Yes, I am using cloth diapers on baby number three... most of the time. I bought  and got a bunch of fuzzies, and I got my neighbors old prefolds that I just started using today.
  • And yes, I am still hanging up my clothes in the laundry room - my dryer is being used for sheets and towels only. I would so love to be able to have a spider outside in the backyard - because I really love the smell of clean clothes dried in fresh air! ... dreaming of a better future.
  • I did start a new thing last year: a compost pile in the backyard. Then came the pregnancy and a new baby and I got a little lazy with that..... but I am proud that I tried it and I will restart it again, I am certain of that. 

Okay, now comes all the stuff for which people will declare me insane, or at least that I have completely lost my mind.... or maybe they will be encouraged. I hope so because I really am proud for sticking with it. About four months ago, I bought a bunch of rags, well really they are suppose to be wash gloves, from Walmart for super cheap! They are colorful and very handy. Now you are wondering what I am doing with it. A long time ago, I got rid of paper towels in our house! Yep. I just hated to see it being used for every little thing, spills and tissues and what-not. I just had enough and stopped buying them, then I hid the rest of it in the pantry (I guess for emergencies) and told everyone that we are using those rags from now on. You would think that I encountered resistance.... Nope, the kids loved the idea. Whenever they spill, they automatically grab one of the rags and clean their own mess. Colorful ones for the floor, white ones for the table or counters. They know it and it works. I love it.

Because this was so successful, my wheels kept spinning some more and I found another area where we used too much paper (besides in the bathroom!). Napkins at the table. I mean it got so bad that they wiped once and threw them out, just to get a new one. I had enough and thought and thought and thought..... and came up with: cloth napkins. I mean, duh.... why did I not think of this before?
I could have sewn my own, I do have enough fabric in this house, but I also have a little one and sewing is just not my priority right now next to homeschooling and other things going on. So I thought of bandanas! They come in soooo many cool colors and prints, and when I told the kids, they were all for it.
Here is our colorful wheel of choices. We went to two different places to pick them up. I had initially only bought five, but when they were dirty, we had to go back to paper and I did not like that. So we went out again and bought more. They are not that cheap but right now, cheap enough not to sew them myself. Some of them are a specific person, like Spiderman is for Coqui and Dora is for Peanut. But the rest is for everyone to use..... The kids are so excited about this and love it. Which makes me a happy Mama.
My best friend Beth loved my idea and has blogged about it already (yes, she does not have a newborn to take care of, so I am lacking behind on my blogging!). I hope I can inspire more people with this fun idea.....

And because the Hubby was using bandanas as handkerchiefs (yes, he has done so for years! and I am very proud of him for that!), we had to come up with a plan.
He was using those old-fashioned bandanas with the Paisley design, so we decided to make those for our noses only! The fun ones are for our mouthes!

Everyone has those Paisley ones now, Coqui has orange ones, Peanut chose pink, and the Hubby got red (I have regular handkerchiefs for women with flowers on). So yes, we are also using cloth tissues!

Being green means alot to me and it makes me happy when I find new ways to help the environment (and my conscience!).

11 September 2012

Lifelist Accomplishment #10

Lifelist # 10 - "Visited Ground Zero"

Last year, I wrote a post about the Hurtful Memory of September 11th, for the ten year anniversary. I wrote about where I was and what I did. Well, I was traveling on that very impressive tour around the US. As awesome as this was, I did want to go home. After that fateful morning, it was hard to return 'home' - what was then New Jersey. But nonetheless, we had to take the car and just go, go see how it would look....
And sure enough, we got to see.... not without tears in our eyes, not without dust taste in our mouth, not without the many fliers around the city that were a constant reminder that people had died and loved ones were still looking for them. It was awful.

So yes, I have seen Ground Zero. I have seen it a week after it happened.. I have seen it six months later when the light towers were celebrating the six months anniversary. I have seen it many times, over and over. I went to the FDNY Memorial Wall
I went to the St. Paul's Chapel that has become a museum today.
And here is one more picture from the new World Trade Center, now called Freedom Towers.