How Epically Awesome Am I!

Stephanie at “BeeTreeStudios” nominated me for the “Epically Awesome Award Of Epic Awesomeness”!  O.M.G.! as the teenyboppers say. Umm… I’d like to thank the academy, my parents, and of course God and all my readers for this amazing moment of recognition. (But, seriously, thanks, Stephanie Smile )

So, what does the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness nomination entail?

Well, first I get to sport this snazzy award logo right here:

aeaaward

Then I get to send another shout-out to the person who nominated me, the epically awesome Stephanie, who writes posts about scrapbooking, including beautiful layouts like this

Next, I have to share 10 things about myself.

  1. I grew up in Kuwait
  2. I was briefly a refugee during the Gulf War
  3. I speak (with varying degrees of fluency) 5 languages
  4. My favorite season is the fall
  5. My favorite color is green
  6. I’ve never read any of Shakespeare’s works in the original
  7. I have read the story forms of most of his major plays
  8. I’ve never watched The Wizard of Oz
  9. I have read the book
  10. I used to wear glasses (and getting LASIK eye surgery was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made)

And finally, I get to nominate up to 10 other epically awesome people to share how epically awesome they are! So, go check out these epically awesome people:

Wow, that was hard to pick 10! I might have to do this again…

7 Quick Takes Friday

— 1 —

I’m thinking about starting a new blog, that will be more focused on homeschooling, unschooling, and raising Catholic kids. So, basically more of what I’ve been writing about here, but with more focus on the learning aspects. I also hope to write a bit more regularly, and possibly grow that one enough to turn it into a potential income stream someday. I’m exploring my options and trying to figure out if this is a feasible plan before I commit any time or money to it.

— 2 —

So why not just keep writing on this blog? Well, wordpress.com is a great free and easy to use platform, but it’s basically the strictest one when it comes to customization and monetization. Basically, there’s no way to even potentially make money off this blog hosted where it is.

And, if I’m going to make the effort to write regularly and grow my blog into something significant that more people than my mom read, then I owe it to myself to put my best effort into it, which includes marketing and SEO and all that goes along with that.

— 3 —

So why don’t I just move this blog to 3rdtimemama.com? Well, SEO and keywords and all that jazz, but more importantly because…. IT’S NO LONGER TRUE!

I’m not a 3rd time mama, anymore. I’m a 4th time mama now – and munchkin #4 will be here sometime this October. I’ve held off on announcing this news online so that my friends all found out in person when possible, but I think everyone who was going to be told in person has been.

— 4 —

Pregnancy so far has been uneventful, which I am grateful for, especially as I read about other women with stressful and difficult pregnancies. Pray that things continue to go well, and for me to remember this when I am just tired and cranky and ready to throw a pity party for myself..

— 5 —

Of course, pregnancy is what is giving me the most pause about taking on a new blogging venture. Am I going to be one of those moms that breastfeeds with one arm, while typing with the other? Am I going to wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and throw together a quick post while I’m up? Probably not. But really, I don’t think it matters if the blog gets off to a slow start, as long as it does start, and does get maintained regularly. If nothing else, it will serve as a record of our homeschooling, and in a way that is a lot easier for me to maintain than boxes of paperwork.

— 6 —

Speaking of paperwork, it is time to turn in my Notification of Intent to homeschool the big kid. This feels like a huge step, even though we’ve been homeschooling / unschooling basically since he was born. Submitting that paper makes it official – we are accepting responsibility for our son’s education and all the credit and blame that goes along with that.

Of course, we already had the responsibility for his education – we are his parents! But, bringing ourselves to the attention of the school authorities for the first time is still kind of nerve-racking.

— 7 —

Ok, a cute kid story to end this with.

We have a fairly regular game night here, where we invite a bunch of Dan’s coworkers and play board games, of which we have quite a collection. One of the more popular games we play is called “The Resistance” which involves everyone getting a secret identity as either a good guy or a spy, and the object of the game is for the good guys to find out who the spies are, while the spies try to hide their identity.

If you’ve played the game Mafia or Werewolf, it’s a similar concept to those, except that nobody gets eliminated from the game – we send people on a series of missions, which the good guys try to have succeed and the spies try to cause to fail. So, even if you’re a spy and everyone knows you’re a spy, you still have a role to play in the game; you’re not dead like in those other games.

But a common occurrence is for different people to yell out “I am not a spy!” at various points in the game as others accuse them.

So we were playing this game at our last game night, and we’re in the middle of it, and The Baby walks through the room yelling “I’m not a by! I’m a Peter-weeter!”

Later on, the Big Kid wanted to play too, so we decided to let him try. He happened to end up as a spy, and while not admitting he was one, managed to telegraph his spy status pretty thoroughly by the big grin on his face whenever he said he wasn’t one.  Our guests were kind enough to keep picking him on missions, however, and so he got to play all his fail cards and win – and now thinks he’s really good at this game.

 

That’s all from me for this week. For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tips for Starting a Low Carb Diet

A friend of mine just started a low carb diet and asked me for advice on snacks and such. I started to reply but my email got so long I decided it was better to put it all here in case someone else found it useful too.

The basis of low carbs is meat, eggs and fresh veggies, so the first step is to make sure your meals are centered around those. (My friend is already on the right track, so that line is for the rest of you! Smile) The rest of this post talks about the extra stuff to help make this lifestyle more pleasant and easier to stick with.

In general I try to stay away from the packaged stuff and stick to real foods (I’m not a hard-core paleo person like some; I just don’t think most of the products out there are worth the price.) When I first started doing low carb, I did find the low carb tortillas and flatbreads useful for wraps and such. Since then, I’ve been convinced by reading the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis that in addition to being low carb, we need to completely avoid wheat. And I’ve also read enough bad things about soy that I avoid it as much as I can. It’s hard to find prepackaged stuff that doesn’t contain either of those.

That being said, I realize my life is much less busy than most people’s and having things on hand you can just eat is important. I do have some ideas for that.

First of all, I do find that if I make sure to keep the fat level of whatever I’m eating high enough, I feel full longer and need to eat less often. For example, a cup of coffee with real heavy cream in it around 8 will keep me full until 11 or so. If I eat an actual breakfast with the coffee, I might not be hungry until 3 or 4.

For snacks, simple things like string cheese or individual servings of nuts work (both of those stall weight loss in some people, hence the importance of individual servings), as does packaged lunch meat. Pork rinds are the much-stereotyped Atkins snack, but they do work well as a sub for tortilla chips with salsa. Veggies with dip are always a good option. If you can make ahead stuff like hard boiled eggs, those work well too. Natural peanut butter (the kind with just peanuts and salt) can fill you up too, but it’s really easy to eat too much of it.

The Just the Cheese snacks are pretty tasty, but tearing up American cheese into little pieces and nuking them for a minute or so can give you a pretty good equivalent. We do that fairly often around here – The Big Kid loves cheese crackers, and he puts all kinds of seasonings on top of them to flavor them too.

As far as recipes go, we don’t do a lot of fancy cooking around here – mostly it’s cook some kind of meat, add either a salad or some steamed veggies, and we’re good to go. My mom keeps me supplied with boxed Indian spice mixes, so that makes for easy seasoning, but salt, pepper, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper make up our basic spice blend that we put on everything.  The kids’ food allergies mean that I’m often cooking 3 variations of something already at every meal, trying to do that while following someone else’s recipes is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

I do own all of Dana Carpender‘s cookbooks, and if I were the type to follow a recipe, those would be the ones I’d try. I also like the website 247lowcarbdiner but she’s not posting as often as she used to. There’s a ton of recipes on her site already, though. Another good one is The Lighter Side of Low Carb – she focuses mostly on desserts, and if you want killer cheesecakes, that’s the place to go.

This site is practically legendary among low carbers: http://www.genaw.com/lowcarb/
It’s just a lot of different recipes tested by a women named LindaSue Genaw, with her reviews of each one. I’ve never gone wrong following any recipe of hers (that she said she liked) In particular, her 3 minute chocolate cake is my favorite quick dessert. And her deep dish pizza crust is one I used to make a lot (I’d make a huge batch, make up 6 crusts, bake and freeze them for quick frozen pizza whenever we wanted one.) That recipe doesn’t seem to be on her site anymore, though.

There are so many easy pizza recipes out there, and everyone claims theirs is the best. I’m not the world’s biggest pizza fan, and we eat pizza here once a month at most, so I haven’t spent a lot of time playing with recipes.

Another low carb staple is cauli-rice. Shred a head of cauliflower through the food processor (or grate it through a box grater, but the food processor is much easier), then microwave it for 5 minutes or so until it’s tender. You can then saute it with some butter, onion, cream, or whatever other flavorings you want until it approximates a tasty rice dish. My favorite is butter, and then a splash of cream, and some Parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper for a “risotto.” I’ve also made “Spanish rice” by mixing in Salsa, “fried rice” by adding soy sauce, green onions, and scrambled egg, and other variations.  What I don’t like is the mashed cauliflower substitute for mashed potatoes – the texture just does not work. I find that some variation of cauli-rice usually goes well with whatever dish I’m cooking, and thinking of it as a rice substitute rather than a mashed potato substitute goes a long way towards making my brain accept it.

A similar substitution is spaghetti squash for pasta, but just like with pizza, I don’t much care for pasta dishes in general, so I don’t spend much time with that. The Little Kid adores spaghetti squash sauteed with olive oil and garlic, though.

I do like shirataki noodles, but only in Asian applications. The House Foods tofu version comes in a fettucine width, and I’ve had it with Alfredo sauce, or under beef Stroganoff, but it’s just a little too rubbery for me to do that very often. But Ramen noodles are a comfort food for me, and the original shirataki with some chicken broth, soy sauce, chili-garlic paste, and just a little bit of natural peanut butter hits all the same notes.

I find Oopsie bread useful for those times when you just really want a sandwich – or you just want to be able to pick up a hamburger instead of eating it with a fork. I don’t find them great for cold sandwiches, but grilled cheese on Oopsies are great.

The other bread substitute I like is the one minute muffin. There are tons of recipes for this one, and a quick search will give you probably hundreds of variations on it. But the reason I like it is because a savory version of it with a little garlic or onion can be cut in half and toasted and make a bread that works really well with fried eggs.

There’s tons of other low carb/paleo bread recipes out there, some of which use more specialty ingredients than others. There’s also substitutes for everything from pancakes to cookies, muffins, cakes, etc. I rarely make any of those any more. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and the kids are allergic to everything so finding recipes that work for them is almost impossible. Luckily, they don’t have a horrible sweet tooth either. I made a single-serving (flour-, egg- and dairy- free) chocolate cake for The Little Kid’s birthday party and it took him 3 days to finish it.

So that’s the gist of my advice for living the low carb life – base your meals around meat, eggs and veggies, eat enough fat to keep you full, keep acceptable low carb snacks on hand, and find the particular substitute recipes that help keep this lifestyle sustainable without trying to duplicate every high carb food you can think of.

Now, if I could only find a satisfactory substitute for French fries, I would be all set!

On a day like today…

It’s 10:24am and here’s (some of) what the kids have already done today:

- put together the pieces from a hanging plastic shelf into a flat shelf to hang above their bunk bed. Tried to position it in place, realized it wouldn’t stay up on its own, found angle brackets that would help support it and took them upstairs. They were stymied in further installation of this shelf because the stud finder isn’t in the hanging pocket on the basement door and because I told them they could not put holes in the wall without Daddy. (The Big Kid really really wants a shelf above his bed so “my brothers can’t take my stuff.” I think this will result mostly in a bumped head, but I am quite impressed by the tenacity with which he is pursuing this idea.)

- added several new trains and scenery elements to the big Kraft paper poster hanging on the playroom wall. The Baby participated too with lines and squiggles accompanied by “I draw a helicopter,” “this is a car,” etc. and also several new connectors between pre-existing train cars. The Big Kid was quite helpful to his little brothers keeping them supplied with various colors of crayons, and suggesting areas where The Baby could add his creations without affecting existing pictures.

- The Baby moved the ride-on trucks into the “dark dark parking garage” under the dining table

- I created a little reading corner in our living room by bringing down the “reading pillows” (also called husband pillows, basically a cushion that has a back rest and arms) from their room and moving over the book basket. The Big Kid weighed in with his opinion that it should be the small book basket and the big one should stay where it is in the playroom. He also decided the reading lamp needed to be moved over there, and, after I said okay, moved it over and set it in place all by himself.

- The Big Kid and The Baby have since been sitting in the new reading corner and are working their way through all the books in the basket.

- oh, and earlier we had quite the intense conversation that covered dying and going to Heaven, how only God knows when we die, how we knew some people in Heaven like their great-grandparents, was it possible for people to have more than four grandparents, how God knew us even before we were born, and other things I can’t remember.

And that doesn’t even count the itty-bitty things like The Baby counting the steps as he walked down them, or pouring ketchup onto his plate “my telf!” Or The Big Kid saying when they woke up this morning, “I’ll go tell Mama that P is awake. You stay here and take care of him.” And The Little Kid staying and playing with The Baby until I got up there to get him out of his crib.

Yeah, I know, there’s nothing “educational” in any of what I mentioned. But it’s amazing to me to watch these fascinating little people grow into their own personalities while I stand by ready to help if they need me. To quote a parent in a book I just read, “Everytime I think of something to teach them, they’ve already learned it by themselves!”

Field Trip–Layman Farms (September 28th 2012)

We just got back from a fantastic field trip with our homeschooling group. It was at Layman farms, which is a family farm about 45 minutes from us.  It was a homeschool day, meaning a bunch of different homeschool groups were out there, and we all got to try the various activities they had to offer.

First on the list was a hay-ride. We all rode on a trailer towed by a tractor (“Mama, it’s a John Deere tractor!”) around the farm to a mini-corn-maze. We made our way through the  maze to a pumpkin patch, where each kid got to pick out a pumpkin. The Baby tried to pick one that was bigger than his head, but I directed him to one that was more his size (mostly because he got in for free, so I figured getting a huge pumpkin for him would be a little unfair. Plus, I was the one who had to carry these things around, and I was already carrying him!).

After that, we got back on the wagon and rode the rest of the way around the farm back to where we started. Next on the adventure list was to ride the cow-train! This was a cute little train of cars painted to look like Holsteins, driven around by another tractor. Both big kids rode in that one, and had lots of fun being driven around in circles. The Little Kid wanted to ride again, but alas, there was only one ride allowed for each group. 

They did get some time on the swings, though, which were really cool because they were made out of tires, but shaped like carousel horses. The Baby swung while his big brothers were riding the cow-train, and he loved it. The Little Kid also swung a little after done with his train ride, and he looked so content on there I thought he might fall asleep!

He didn’t get to swing for too long, though, because it was time for the slide. This was a long tunnel-type slide made to look (a little bit) like the entrance to a mine shaft. The kids sat on little sacks to slide down a plastic slide. One of the kids from our group bumped his head on the top – Ouch! He got a bump on his head, and had to ice it. That was the only injury, though. The other kids had a great time, including my big 2. The Baby expressed a little bit of interest in going down the slide, but changed his mind when we got near the platform. He’ll be ready for it next year, I’m sure :)

Next it was down to the Jumping Pillow. This was a huge air-inflated bouncing platform, but not the usual enclosed castle-type structure. Rather this was a bouncy half-pipe. All the kids loved this one, and they had to make each group stop when their time was up so the next group could have a turn. I even got to try this one, because The Little Kid and The Baby both wanted to try it, but couldn’t make it up the sides while everyone was bouncing on it, so I had to help them get up there. It was really bouncy! I even had trouble keeping my feet. although the kids probably had an easier time of that with their lower centers of gravity. Thankfully for me, The Baby decided he didn’t like this very much after all and wanted to get off, so I didn’t have to stay on it very long. Twas fun, though.

The last thing we did was wander over to the pens to see the animals. There were chickens, goats and pigs. We paid a quarter to get a handful of food and fed the goats, and petted them and the pigs. Well, mostly, the little kids did this, while The Big Kid and I were trying to figure out the logistics of lunch and post-lunch plans.

Turns out this was decided for us by the storm that was threatening to move in, and by the fact that it was getting to be closing time. We sat at picnic tables and ate our packed lunch of bananas and apples. The big kids had one more turn on the Jumping Pillow, and then it started to rain, which meant they came running back to me in a hurry as though worried they might melt. Luckily, this was only a short quick shower, and it was soon over. Still, by this time it was almost 2 and time for them to close up. So, we packed ourselves up, walked back to our car and headed home.

And, the ultimate sign that this was a successful trip – all three kids fell asleep in the car on our way home, and the little two even stayed asleep once we got home and I carried them to their beds!

There were a couple of things we didn’t get to try this time. There is a real corn-maze, which someone who had been through it last year said was pretty difficult to get through. I might have been willing to try it if the whole group was going to, but there wasn’t time once we were done with lunch. So that’s one to try on our next trip. There was also a corn cannon (or maybe a pumpkin cannon, I didn’t really check), but that wasn’t included in the field trip activities. And they said that in a couple of years, they are hoping to offer a pick-your-own orchard as well.

This was a really nice field trip; all the kids loved it, and it was time and money well-spent. Also, I have to say how much I love our homeschooling group, especially the kids (but obviously, their parents are huge contributors to their being great kids). Everyone is so polite and helpful, with the bigger kids looking out for the little ones and helping them when they need it. I’m hopeful that my children learn from this example, and help take care of the little ones when they’re the big kids.

7 Quick Takes Friday August 10th 2012

1

It only just occurred to me that the 7 quick takes is the perfect format for me to record all the cute things the kids say – every week!

2

The little kid and I have this exchange several times a day:

“Mama, do you know what a volcano does?”

“Yes, I do know what a volcano does.”

(Rapidfire, all in one breath )“A volcano lets the hot lava and hot gas out of the top hole of the volcano.”

Pause… “And that’s what a volcano does.”

3

The little kid again, just this morning, “Mama, your coffee cup has the American flag and the American Kivil War on it,”

me,totally bemused, “why yes, yes it does.”

He’s 3! and he pronounced it “kivil” which leads me to believe he’s remembering the word from reading it rather than hearing us talk about it. Again, he’s 3!

4

Oh yeah, I had a stroke of genius last week, and it’s still working. Send the kids outside on the deck with an assortment of bowls, cups, pitchers (all plastic and expendable), plus some water and a bunch of ice. They love transferring ice and water between everything, making a big mess in the process and getting themselves soaked, but because it’s on the deck, I can let them have fun without stressing because the floor’s getting dirty.

5

So we almost have a schoolroom set up. It’s our downstairs office, aka the formal dining room, but we took out Dan’s old desk that was in here, and put in a new desk for the kids. I’ll post pictures once it’s actually finished and the room is not a disaster area, but it’s basically four 2-drawer filing cabinets with a plywood top. Yep, that means lots of storage (and lockable storage so I can put all the stuff away that I don’t want them getting into all at once).

I also bought a couple of bulletin boards, which we haven’t put up yet, some posters (allposters.com was having a sale), and a calendar. This is one of those year-round calendar thingies that comes with inserts for the month, days, seasons, weather etc. plus things like “birthday,” “no school,” “labor day,” etc. We’ve been having fun playing around with that, although it’s annoying that there really aren’t any special days to mark in August.

The kids are pretty excited to be able to play with their new school supplies, but I’ve been making them wait until our official “first day of school” which is this coming Monday. I hope I have my act together enough for it to go well. Smile

6

Take a look at this picture the little kid made from foam pattern pieces. I really do need to get them a big set of the tesselated pattern blocks for some fun math concept work.

(This is where I would embed the picture, except that I can’t get Flickr and WordPress to cooperate, so please click on the link below. Thank you.)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/12450852@N06/7754147812/

Also, the baby is definitely already sorting these by shape and color, and he will (usually) point to the right one if you say, for example, “which is the blue one?” I am seriously scared by how quickly these kids learn things.

7

Ok, this happened a couple of weeks ago but it’s too cute not to share.

First, the background – we have a set of those big foam mats that go on the floor; each is a square foot, and they hook onto each other to make a big square. Ours is the alpha-numeric set, so A-Z and 0-9, and the kids’ favorite thing to do with them is to pull out the letters and make words with them.

So anyway, Dan and I are in the kitchen, when we hear the little kid calling from the office, “Mama, I spelled the word earthquakes!”

So Dan and I both walk in there and burst out laughing to see what he spelled. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this kid’s phonics abilities!

Here’s what he wrote: “ERFQAKS”

Update: As I was writing this, he called me over “Mama, I spelled the word ‘markers’” What he spelled was ‘mrkrs’ :)