Monday, May 30, 2011

Giveaway over at Confessions of a Homeschooler

In recent months, I have become quite intrigued in reading other's blogs. I enjoy crafty blogs, cooking recipes, and education centered blogs the most. One of my favorite education centered blogs is "Confessions of a Homeschooler" at It is her Expedition Earth curriculum that we supplement our geography curriculum with for K. She also has a phenomenal Letter of the Week curriculum. Now through June 3rd, she is giving away a "Sneaky Squirrel Game" from Educational Insights. You can head over there and check it out!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Not our will, but His

It was only a week ago. Everything was in our bag we needed. Double checked that all the changes of clothing, pajamas, toiletries, and favorite stuffed animals were in the kids' suitcase. Laundry was done, dog fed, plants watered. Agenda in my purse, and kids loaded in the car. Headed to a dear friend's house to drop off the kids. Anticipation was steadily rising! Drop the kids off and visit for a few minutes. Brad and our friend kill the baby copperhead the boys were trying to catch. Stop by the chiropractor's office for a quick adjustment since we are uncertain when we will get in there again. After being adjusted, we go over to Ye Old Fashion for milkshakes. Finally we are on our way. Not for our dream vacation, but rather our dream VBAC... only God had other plans.

When we found out we were pregnant with our fifth child, we were elated. Brad and I have always dreamed of having a large family. Due to our Biblical beliefs, we do not feel we have the right to "set" a number to the amount of children God is to bless us with, so we say, when asked, we'll have as many children as God gives us. After having an emergency c-section with our fourth child, we were determined to have as natural a birth as possible with our future children. We wanted to actually hire a midwife and have this child at home, only to find out we were not legally allowed - midwives are not allowed to deliver VBACs here. So we started looking into having a natural VBAC in the hospital. We were determined to have intermittent monitoring, no epidural, no assistance, Brad was going to catch, and we were going to wait until the cord stopped pulsing before we cut it. There was one doctor in particular, that was extremely for us having a natural VBAC - and sure enough, he was the one on call when we went into labor.

When we got to the hospital, around 4 PM, we were told my membranes had indeed ruptured, but I was only at a 1 or 2. A quick ultrasound was performed to ensure he was indeed head down, due to the fact that as of yet, he still had not dropped. Once confirmed, I started walking and bouncing on an exercise ball. I continued this up until around midnight. At that point, I was exhausted. I laid down in bed to try to catch a nap. About thirty minutes later, I started getting severe pains over my old incision, in between my contractions. Knowing there was a chance my uterus could rupture, I had my hubby put me back on the monitor. The nurse came in and checked me - my contractions were three minutes apart, but I was only 6 cm. When asked to rate my pain for the contractions, I rated them at a four... but the pain over my incision quickly hit a seven, causing me to be literally sick. At that point, the doctor came in. His concern was not my uterine rupturing, but rather the fact that the baby's heart rate was steady climbing and not coming down at all. Our baby was in distress! After some discussion, it was decided that I would need another c-section. My dreams of a natural VBAC disintegrated as I was prepped.

Benjamin Nathaniel was born via c-section at 1:07 AM. His cord was wrapped around his neck twice and he was tangled in it, which had not allowed him to drop in order to be born. For the first 90 seconds of his life, he fought to survive. He was not breathing and had to be bagged - he was a "blue baby." His respiration rate remained high until around 6 in the morning, when he finally seemed to be able to regulate them and keep the rate around average. Thankfully, he is doing well now.

To top everything off, we were told that we were not allowed to have a VBAC for any future children - we must have a c-section. I have yet to get my brain around this - why would God have us have another c-section if this makes it so we are no longer allowed to birth children the way He intended? I still do not know the answer to this question, and probably never will. I do, however, know that everything works together for His Glory. It is not about what we want or what others think is best for us, no matter how well-meaning they are. It is about God - what He desires for our lives. If we are not meant to have any more children, we will not get pregnant. If we are meant to have a c-section, we will fair through it fine. If we are meant to have a natural VBAC, He will see that it happens.

So often we pray "not our will, but Yours," but do we really mean it? I know I personally need to keep my faith in Him and know without a shadow of a doubt that His will is perfect, even when it "goes against" everything my heart desires. God sees the big picture and knows what is best in our lives. He knew that Ben's heart rate needed to start sky rocketing and I needed to start having intense pains so that we would agree to a c-section so that we would figure out how wrapped up in his cord he was, before something happened. God is in control!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why homeschool?

I have received a couple e-mails recently regarding the decision our family has made to homeschool. This certainly is not a new question that we have received, but I thought I might address it here on my blog, since I'm actually writing in it at the moment. I will forewarn you that I am about to write regarding our beliefs - while I do not intend to offend anyone, I will not "sugar-coat" our beliefs.

Perhaps one of the most practical reasons that drew us to homeschool is the fact that we are a military family. My husband is active duty Air Force and has every intention of retiring from the Air Force after 20 or so years, which is another 5.5 yrs from now. Though by being in the Air Force, we do not move very often, the potential to move is always there... and we never know where or when. This means that in the middle of a school year, we could find our family relocating to a new state. Not only would one school not be teaching the exact same curriculum as another, but the skill-level would probably be totally different as well. Schools here in the south move at a much slower pace than those in the north!!!

Another reason is we want a handle on the children our children are around, and the behavior of our children. Many people comment about the "sponges" children are when it comes to learning "facts," yet we seem to fail to remember that they are also "sponges" of what they see and hear. The first spanking I recall as a child was repeating verbatim what my father had told me to tell my older sister. This included a swear word. While I do believe that children need to do as they are instructed (such as not cursing), I also believe that they need to be around examples of what is expected of them. No two families are going to have the exact same beliefs on what is right or wrong for children to do or say. Without proper training and close monitoring, it is an unfair burden on a child to expect them to do as you wish when they are around others that do not evn come close to your expectations, on a regular basis, at a young age. One of our favorite books is called "raising Godly Tomatoes." In it, she compares children to tomato plants. You cannot plant a tomato plant and expect it to grow straight and strong, and to be productive without some support, structure, and staking. So it is with our children.

The primary reasons, however, is due to our personal beliefs regarding WHAT our children should be taught and by WHOM. I'm going to talk about the latter first. We are a Bible-believing, Christ-following family. We take the Bible very literally. In Deuteronomy 11:19, we are instructed to teach our children. No one knows our children better than my hubby and I. Each of our four children (soon to be five) have different personalities and learning styles. By teaching our children at home, I am able to tailor their lessons to their individual needs. Our oldest is very much so a kinesthetic learner. I have had to switch her math and spelling curriculum a few times in order to find ones that fit her learning style. If there is something hands-on for her to do to go along with what she is learning, she retains the information. Public and private school teachers are unable to do this with each subject and/or lesson. For example, we have begun using All About Spelling for K's spelling. This allows her to move letter tiles to spell her words. By doing this, she is grasping the word families. Can you imagine in a regular classroom setting, them giving each child a set of letter tiles to spell their words? Of course not! So now, rather than struggling with her spelling, she is enjoying it. Math is the same way! She is learning much better with Math U See, using math manipulatives, than she ever did with any of the other curriculum we tried - including ACE, Saxon, and Singapore!

Perhaps the most vital reason, though, is WHAT we want taught to our children! Evolution is a bunch of baloney. God created this earth and everything in it. Our children need to be taught about Christ through each of the subjects we tackle. Our science curriculum is based on Creation. Our history curriculum combines what was happening in the secular world at the same time as what was happening Biblically. For example, did you know that Ruth and Naomi were only about 50 years historically behind the Legend of the Trojan Horse? Our purpose on earth is to bring glory to God. How can we expect to do this when we take God out of our lives??? He is to be Lord of all our lives, not just part of our lives. This past Sunday we just heard a sermon on this very topic. Our pastor explained it like a house with many rooms. If you purchase a house and are given the keys to your new house, but are told there is one room you absolutely must not enter, and you find it locked and impossible to get into, would you be satisfied with that??? Of course not! You had bought the entire house, not just a select number of rooms. In the same way, Jesus Christ paid the price in full for us... he owns all of us, not just select rooms or parts of our lives. Our children are not ours - they are Hi - and they need to be taught about the God that Created them, loves them, and prayerfully owns them 100%.

Taco Stuffed Shells

Last night I made a DELICIOUS dinner of taco stuffed shells. I was kinda worried about finding gluten free large shells, but finally found some :) I'm not sure they are as large as regular ones, but I made them work :) I'm thinking next time, however, I may just mix the meat mixture with spiral pasta and be done, hahaha. It would certainly save me some time! Anyways, the kiddos and hubby really enjoyed this dish, and I am certain it would be great using regular pasta as well, if that is your fancy. Be forewarned - you need to prepare this meal a little ahead of time. Also, I made two batches, one for the freezer, so keep that in mind too.

Ingredients For Two dishes of stuffed shells:
2 pounds of ground meat (I used grass-fed beef)
enough taco seasoning for two pounds of meat (I use bulk - but you could just use 2 envelopes)
8 oz cream cheese
2 boxes of gluten free shells (I had some leftovers - you could also use other pasta if you do not want to stuff shells)
1/4C melted butter

Ingredients needed for each casserole (I only made one casserole last night and threw the other stuffed shells in the freezer):
1C salsa
1C taco sauce
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
4 oz shredded monterey jack cheese
1.5C tortilla chips
Fixings - we just used sour cream, but you could also throw some tomatoes, green peppers, green onions, and/or lettuce on top

In a large pan, brown meat. Drain. Add in cream cheese, cooking until melted and well mixed. Put mixture in bowl and cool for an hour. Cook pasta shells (watch that you do not overcook them or they will fall apart when you are stuffing them). Drain shells and gently mix with melted butter. Stuff shells with meat mixture. Put half the shells in a freezer container and freeze. Use the other half for the casserole.

In a 9" square pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Spread salsa in bottom. Place stuffed shells on top. Pour taco sauce on top of shells. Cover and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes, at 350. Uncover casserole and spread cheeses over top. Sprinkle crushed chips on top of cheese. Put back in oven, uncovered for another 15 minutes. Take out of oven and serve with fixings. YUMMY!!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Most people know this about our family, but we are gluten free. Both boys are gluten intolerant, and our youngest daughter is more than likely celiac - basically severely allergic to gluten. Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, and barley. It is this protein that gives bread doughs its elasticity, helping the bread rise, and giving the final product the desired texture that we have become so accustomed to. When we first discovered we needed to go gluten free - right before my oldest boy was to turn three, I was heart-broken. I absolutely LOVE to cook and bake. I find it very stress-relieving to stand in my kitchen, and produce something that people enjoy and that I can be proud of. Anyways, I started searching for gluten-free products. Some of the mixes were okay... some were not. I quickly discovered that I could not stand anything made with garbanzo flour! Bleck! Here recently Betty Crocker came out with some mixes for cakes, cookies, and brownies - these taste really good, but I was missing breads! I knew there were recipes out there, I just needed to find them.

This past year for Christmas, my younger sister bought me a cookbook called "The Gluten-Free Bible." It is a good thing she bought it for me, because quite honestly, the name itself would have kept me from buying it! And boy would I have been missing out! It has some FABULOUS recipes in it!!! I started trying some of the recipes and I have LOVED most of them. In the front are a couple recipes for all-purpose flour mixtures. The one recipe is for recipes that do not call for yeast and the other is for recipes calling for yeast. I made the first and have used it in everything!!!! But I was scared to try to make a yeast-based bread that is gluten-free. I have tasted other gluten-free breads and quite honestly don't normally like them! The texture is just wrong - they are always dry and flaky, and just not as good.

This past week I finally got brave. I have been wanting to make an Orange French Toast recipe that calls for Cinnamon Raisin Bread - but obviously to do it, I needed gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread. So I finally got brave enough to try it and I am so glad I did! PHENOMENAL!!! Again, these recipes are from "The Gluten-Free Bible." If you are gluten-free, I would HIGHLY recommend this book!

The flour mixture for yeast breads is:
1 C brown rice flour
1 C sorghum flour
3/4C millet flour or chickpea flour (I use millet)
1 C tapioca flour
1C cornstarch
1/3C unflavored instant mashed potato flakes

Mix them all together and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

3 C flour mixture from above, plus additional for rolling out dough
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2t xanthum gum
1t salt
1 1/4 C plus 2T warm milk, divided
1/4C vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1T honey or maple syrup (I used honey)
1t cider vinegar
3/4C raisins
1/3C sugar
1T ground cinnamon
1T gluten-free oats (optional)

1. Line 9x5 inch loaf pan with foil, dull side out. (Do not use glass loaf pan. - I used a PC stoneware pan). Extend sides of foil 3 inches up from the top of pan. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with four blend.
2. Combine 3 C flour blend, yeast, xanthum gum, and salt in large bowl. Which 1 1/4C milk, oil, eggs, honey, and vinegar in medium bowl. Beat milk mixture into dry ingredients with electric mixer at low speed until batter is smooth, shiny, and thick. Beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in raisins.
3. Place large sheet of parchment paper on counter. Sprinkle with flour blend. Scoop batter onto center of paper. Spread batter with back of oiled spatula or dampened hands to 9x18 inch rectangle, 3/4 inch thick. Brush remaining 2T milk over dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Sprinkle all but 1T mixture over dough, leaving 1 inch border. Lightly press into dough.
4. Using parchment paper, roll dough jelly-roll style beginning at short end. Push ends in to fit length of pan and trim excess parchment paper, Lift roll using parchment paper and place in prepared pan. (Leave parchment paper in pan.) Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar and oats, if desired.
5. Cover loaf with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place 20-30 minutes or until batter reaches top of pan.
6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. Bake 35-45 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped and internal temperature is 200 degrees. Remove from pan. Remove parchment paper and foil. Cool on wire pack.

Garden-Fresh Spaghetti Sauce

I got harrassed the other day about needing to start a blog and saring some of the recipes I cook. Ironically, I already started this blog, lol, but have never put on any recipes. Generally I just write on here as a kinda journal since I spend more time on the computer than I would just writing on a piece of paper. In any case, however, I think I will share a recipe today, though I am going to have to think about which one I want to post first.

Just as an update, though, I still have not had Baby Ben. It amazes me how many people look at me and say "you haven't had him yet?" I keep joking that the next person wo asks me that I am going to tell them that I did have him, but I decided to put a basketball back under my shirt and decided against bringing him with me today. I understand what is being asked, but if you look at how rhetorical the question is, I just want to tease people back :)

I guess waiting for Ben to come is why I have been cooking so much. In the past, we have received a handful of meals after having a baby, but this time I plan to actually "be good." I will be spending the first week in bed on bedrest (gasp), and the second week on modified bedrest. Yes - I will probably go stir crazy and should really start thinking about what I want to do during that time! Anyways, I love myhubby dearly, but there are times he gets overwhelmed and is unabe to keep an eye on the kiddos and make a meal - shoot to be honest, I do too at times - so I figured I would help him out and have some meals in the freezer waiting for us :) I think the first recipe I am actually going to share is Garden-Fresh Spaghetti Sauce. I do not know that it was one requested, but I made it the other day and it was possibly the BEST spaghetti sauce I have ever made!!! I am thinking that I might modify it a little next time and add some other veggies like squash and zucchini... and maybe some spinach. Anyways - here is my recipe...

2 - 7 oz packages of sliced fresh mushrooms
4-5 medium carrots, chopped
1 C chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 head of green garlic, or 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4C oil - I use olive
2 - 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce
12 oz can tomato paste
1 C beef broth
2 t dried basil
2 t dried oregano
1.5 t brown sugar
1 t salt
1/2t pepper
1 C grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven, saute the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, green and red peppers, and garlic in the oil until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring it to a boil, lower the temp, cover, and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. It makes around 15 - 20 cups of sauce!!! We used it for spaghetti twice and I have another four to five cups set aside in the freezer to make Parmesan Chicken :)