December 28, 2010

The End of Raw

I officially lasted almost two weeks on raw. I had a series of minor breakdowns, followed by a biggie that had my husband wondering if he needed to lock me in a padded room.  It was ugly.  I apologize for not telling you sooner, but it’s taken me quite a while to get back to feeling like me again.

I spent quite a while feeling like a total loser because I couldn’t even go 30 days.  
30 days is nothing.  
Or so I glibly thought.

I kept telling myself that those darn people on Simply Raw went 30 days.  And they had detox like I did.  They wanted to give up.  They had breakdowns.  And THEY KEPT GOING.  
Why couldn’t I????

As my husband pointed out…

1.     They were at a retreat where their food was made for them.  And most likely it was delicious.

2.     They were at a retreat where they did not have to take care of laundry and dishes and kids and homeschool and church service and many other things.

I was in no such place.

I will openly admit that the detox was badReally bad.  The first week or so I was feeling great…and then I started crying…and getting angry…and crying…and getting impatient…and edgy….and crying…and raising my voice (which I NEVER do)….and crying….Most of my detox was emotional and my kids were noticing.  I didn’t like the mom I was becoming and felt very little control over myself at that point. That made me cry even more. 

By the end of the almost two weeks I was a quivering mass of depressed mucous-covered raw nerves.  My husband called an end to the insanity and I started eating “normal” food.  And wouldn’t you know it, within a few days I was happier, calmer, and in control of my emotions again.  And fatter.  I regained the 7 pounds I lost. 

I’m currently working on a semi-raw diet.  So far I’m doing well emotionally and physically.  I eat raw for breakfast in the form of a large smoothie (usually a green one).  Lunch is either salad or vegetable soup/chowder with another massive smoothie.   Dinner is a small portion of whatever I cooked for dinner with veggies and fruit on the side.  I’ve been making a lot of vegetarian meals lately and tons of soup.  I feel so calm, so healthy after a big bowl of veggie soup with homemade broth.  It is very grounding.  I’m also trying to avoid sugar and bread.  
But they are NOT trying to avoid me.

My husband still thinks that raw is a great idea, in moderation.  He also suggested that I try various recipes out while eating “normal” thus building a collection of meals that I enjoy…after a while I should have a supply of “go to” raw recipes that I like, instead of ones I throw in the garbage. 

So, our current goal is to maintain the status quo albeit a modified status quo including many, many more smoothies….and work on building a repertoire of raw and/or vegetarian meals.  Are we giving up meat and dairy?  Not for now.  But we do want to decrease the amount we eat…and increase the quality. 

I found that I don’t really care for “gourmet raw”.  I don’t like the fake sour creams and fake noodles and fake whatevers.  They taste fake.  The things I enjoyed the most were raw foods acting like themselves – a salad acting like a salad, veggies tasting like veggies instead of like some nasty sauce, fruit that still looked and tasted like the actual fruit.   Gourmet raw relies on a lot of nuts and seeds, which I found somewhat irritating (to my gut).  And expensive.  Some recipes used hardly any veggies at all – it was all nuts and seeds.  That didn’t feel “raw” to me.  Just fake.  (The repeated use of the word fake in this post has now ended.)

I have learned a few things from this experience:

     For my mental health and well-being, I need to make gradual changes to my diet.  Some people may not have this problem.  I do.

     I was surprised at how strong a hold food has over me.  How emotional eating is.  I want to work at freeing myself from this dependence.  Food is my drug…and I want to break the chains.  Any suggestions?

     Food tastes best when it is in its most natural state.  Covering it with a sauce, even a raw sauce, usually doesn’t enhance the food.

     Blended soups need my attention.  I must figure out how to make more blended soups…but make them  chunkier  …and warmer.

    Smoothies are my friend.

     There is really no replacement for a great salad.  All the gourmet raw in the world doesn’t beat a salad with a fantastic dressing.

     Foods eaten in their natural state are faster than making fancy recipes.  That’s a big duh, but I need to learn it.  A nectarine is much faster, much tastier, much easier than putting together a frilly little doo-dah to snack on.

For now, raw is done.  It was not fun.  Hey, that rhymed! I’m still learning though, and still experimenting with raw recipes.  Just at a slower pace
I’m taking one day at a time and doing the best I can that day to be healthy.

December 10, 2010

My lovely long skirts

Sadly, I do not sew.  Let me amend that.  I do know how to sew but I do NOT know how to cut out a pattern.  My grandmother always did that part, then she'd pin it together and I'd sew it on the machine.

I have set a goal to learn how to sew, really sew, but haven't found anyone in my local area that can teach me.

So, I bought some skirts.  To tide me over until I learn....whenever that is.....

Some of you asked for pictures.  My camera is broken, or it hates me, I'm not sure which.  But I got them at New Creation Apparel.
Aline Seams Heather Gray 98% cotton, 2% Spandex       Brick Red Flax 53.9% flax  46.1% cotton

Black Diamond Comfort a combination of cotton, spandex and polyester

This last one is my absolute favorite and it's the one I went walking in!!!!  It has a zipper on the bottom allowing it to "open up" for walking.  It is 98% cotton, 2% spandex.  The one to the left of it is also a blend of cotton/spandex (70%/30%). 

The customer service is absolutely incredible.  They were out of stock on a few items and they immediately contacted me via email, then phone.  They worked very hard to make sure I was happy.  Shipping was fast and quality is excellent.

If you know of any other companies/persons that sell modest skirts, please let me know.  I'm always on the hunt for good quality, attractive, feminine clothes.

December 9, 2010

I walked a mile in a long skirt

I did.  And it felt great.  And a little weird.  I went swish, swish, swish the entire time.

So, you should know two things.  First, I've been wearing more skirts lately (don’t laugh, mom).  Like several times a week.  I thought I'd hate it but I actually love it.  Wearing a skirt makes me feel pretty and  homemakey  .  The big kicker for me is NOT to wear pantyhose with them.  I reserve pantyhose for special occasions like weddings and church.  For daily kicking it with my kiddos, it's just a long skirt and bare feet.  Ah, the freedom!

Second, I'm walking every day.  Winter has settled upon us here in West Texas.  Today it is in the high 50s/low 60s - we wore t-shirts to the park.  About halfway through our school day I send all my kids to the park to play and I walk around the neighborhood so I can still see them.  I walk around and around and around.  Then around some more.

The neighbors probably think I'm crazy, but at least I'm doing something healthy!  I've been doing a little over a mile each day, for the last 5 days.  Dragging my little mutt behind me.  Seriously, he’s so out of shape….worse than me!

And today I was wearing an ankle-length denim skirt with black tennis shoes.  Perhaps not my most lovely fashion statement, but I've proved to myself that I can exercise anywhere, anytime.  It doesn't matter if I don't have the right clothes or "enough time".  Excuses are no longer valid.  Well, at least for now.

My boys love being able to play outside for long hours everyday without frying to a crisp.  I love the fresh air and bright blue skies.  We all feel happier, calmer and sleep better at night.

I love Texas in the winter!

December 8, 2010

My latest venture

I want to introduce you to a fun project I'm working on.  It started over at my beloved Simply Charlotte Mason forum when someone asked how to stretch your money at the grocery store.  Seven pages of comments later we decided to start a blog to create a one-stop place for all our frugal tips, from scratch recipes, and information about repurposing clothes, gardening, canning and such.

You can find us at Penny-wise Women. We welcome any and all submissions relating to thriftiness, self-reliance, being a good steward and all that jazz.  I hope you enjoy!!
Penny-wise Women

December 3, 2010

A (Not Gross) Raw Recipe

For lunch today I made a raw "chicken" salad.  It was rather tasty!  If only they all were.....

Raw “Chicken” Salad
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, soaked 3 hours
1/2 cup cashews, soaked 3 hours
2" piece cucumber
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1/2 celery stick
1/4 cup pecans pieces
1 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon curry powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
 Juice from 1/2 lemon
 lots of ground black pepper
one half carrot (optional)

In a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade, combine all ingredients. Pulse to combine. It should be a finer texture than regular chicken salad--that helps it to stick together.   The cucumber and nuts and carrot should release water after it sits.  Stuff sweet peppers or wrap with Romaine.

I just pulsed everything in my Blendtec.  I had to stir it around a few times to make sure everything got their turn on the blade.  I didn't soak the nuts because I decided to make it last minute; it turned out just fine.

I'm still raw...and I hate it

I haven't posted for the last few days.  I'm still raw.  I hate it.  I've had several recipe disasters lately which has me feeling demotivated to keep going.  I can't tell you how awful it is to cook a meal for the kids, make a raw meal for me and hubby and then taste it and realize it's putrid...and then have to go back in the kitchen to try again.

The kitchen is my prison.  I spend so much time there right now.  I feel like the only thing I do, all day, is cook, "uncook" and wash dishes so I can do it all again in a couple hours.

Not to sound any more pathetic and whiny than I already do, but mealtimes are now a dreaded part of my day.  I have actually spent the last two dinner preps crying the entire time.  It's difficult to chop veggies with a sharp knife while tears are streaming down your face.  Try it sometime.  Okay, don't.  It's dangerous.

The thing I was most unprepared for was how the whole diet change would affect me emotionally.  Warm food calls to me, beckons me, mocks me and makes me sob. 
Warm food……

My husband is encouraging me to continue.  A part of me is grateful for that…..the other part is really angry.  I want him to say it’s okay to eat comforting, delicious food again.  I’m tired of eating weird tasting COLD food. 
I want a steak.

I’ve lost around 7 pounds.  That should encourage me.  It does.  Sort of.  I’ve resigned myself to not enjoying my food for the next three weeks.  In fact, I’m on a short of uncooking strike.  I’m eating salads and drinking smoothies.  All those fancy schmancy raw food recipes are just sitting on my counter gathering dust right now.  Too many failed recipes.  Too many ingredients wasted.

Have you ever noticed that most raw foodists are single?  Okay, some of them are married, but they only have a designer dog.  They’re not trying to prepare food for small children.  They’re not trying to maintain a home filled with small children.  Small children who need attention and who make messes.  Not that my children would ever make messes.  They would never take the entire bucket of Legos and dump it on the floor.   Okay, they might.  They did.

I need to go shopping tomorrow.  It’s a serious debate for me whether I buy another week’s worth of “raw food”.
 It cost over $230 last week. 
That’s over HALF of my monthly budget.
That’s a lot of money.
And did I mention it’s gross?

Thanks for listening. 
I will now go back to my normally scheduled happy mood.
After I eat a steak...

November 29, 2010

Raw - Day 4

The big far I've lost 6 pounds.  Since Friday!  I'm not sure where I'm losing it from because I don't see much of a body change yet.  Well, my belly is a bit smaller, so is my rear end and my double chin is shrinking.  I'm also noticing that I don't have my afternoon crash - the one where I need to take a nap around 3:00.

I've had headaches off and on (but I have a lot normally) so I'm not sure if I'm detoxing or just being me. I'm surprised at how I'm not feeling hungry.  I sort of expected to starve the whole time and feel like I was never getting enough to eat.  But I've felt full after every meal and rarely feel like snacking.  The thing that's the hardest is the temperature.  I miss warm/hot food!  I'll be eating something and think, "This would taste so much better if it were warm."  I hadn't realized that I equate comfort with food warmth.

I ate a late breakfast and my husband came home early for lunch so I ended up eating Pad Thai for brunch.

Pad Thai with Kelp Noodles - recipe by Ani Phyo

1/2 c. almond butter
1 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1/2 c. lemon juice
2 tbsp. jalapeno
2 tsp. coriander
1 1/2 c. water

Blend.  Toss with:
2 to 4 packages Kelp noodles
½ c. basil
2 c. shredded cabbage

My tastes nothing like pad thai, but was still very good.  Pretty much nothing can taste like pad thai unless it's pad thai from a little restaurant in Seaside, CA called Baan Thai.  They make the absolute best pad thai (and singapore noodles) on the planet.  When we lived in CA we ate there almost every week.  They knew us so well they bought us a Christmas present!  Nothing beats sitting at the beach eating great pad thai.

Um, back to the recipe.  This obviously makes a lot so I halved it.  I soaked the kelp noodles in warm water with some lemon juice.  Within 15 minutes they were nice and soft.  The fresh basil was such an amazing addition.  I now want to grow a basil plant so I can put it on everything.  The sauce was quite lemony so the next time I'd decrease that a bit.  I didn't halve the cabbage though, and I liked having a lot of crunchy veggie with my noodles.

1 pomegranate (I'm so loving them right now)

Cream of Zucchini Soup - Jennifer Cornbleet, 'Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People'
½ cup water
1 zucchini, chopped (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice 
1 teaspoon mellow white miso
½ teaspoon crushed garlic (1 clove)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
dash cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ avocado, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh minced dill, or 1 tsp dried

Place all of the ingredients except the olive oil, avocado and dill in a blender. Blend until smooth.  Add the olive oil and avocado and blend until smooth. Add the dill and blend briefly just to mix.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2

My thoughts...If I hadn't gone a bit crazy with the raw garlic, this would have been a nice, mellow soup. Don't do as I did and add two large cloves of garlic - more is not always better.

I didn't chop anything.  I just cut stuff into two or three pieces and added it to the blender.  I don't think it serves two.  I came away with one and a half bowls...which I ate myself!  Like the last soup I made it was very, very thin.  I like thick soups.  Even chunky ones.

Mushroom Tacos with Mango Salsa
Portabella mushrooms
olive oil
Nama Shoyu
sea salt or seasoning salt
lemon juice

I cut up 2 large mushroom caps, after chasing the kids around with them.  I cut the zucchini into small strips.  Then I just sort of drizzled or dashed stuff on top and stirred it around.  I made it at breakfast and let it marinade all day (stirring whenever I walked through the kitchen).  By dinner time they were very soft and seemed almost cooked, albeit not warm.  I was surprised at how much the mushrooms reduced.  From filling a small bowl at the beginning to barely covering the bottom!

Mango Salsa
1 mango
a nice medium tomato or a few small ones
some onion
a bit of garlic (unless you're still burping it up from lunch)
a lime 

I cut up the mango, seeded and chopped the tomatoes, tiny diced about 1/4 cup onion and skipped the garlic.  I added a large handful of cilantro and chunked the avocado, sprinkled with salt, then squeezed half a lime all over it and stirred.

To serve, I used romaine lettuce leaves (I ate 4).  Add the mushroom stuff and the salsa, roll and eat.

My thoughts...these didn't taste like tacos.  But I'm a diehard taco fan (they're my favorite food, followed by pad thai).  But they were tasty.  They dripped a lot (I should have drained the marinade better), but I liked the combination of slightly sweet and salty.  Towards the end I just ate the salsa and mushrooms with a fork and yes, I ate the whole thing by myself.  

Playstation Nation

My husband and I are having conversations right now about whether or not we keep the Wii.  And if we do, how do we use it.  But first, let me tell you how we got to the point where we're thinking of removing it.

It all started when we moved to Texas.  We'd never had a gaming system before, but our boys were getting older and we felt that they were 'missing out' on something.  We originally decided to get them a trampoline, but the summers here are scorching hot, so it wouldn't have been used for 6 months out of the year.  And in base housing, sometimes you have room for one, sometimes you don't.  (Then there's that nasty 'weight limit' when they move you and tramps are heavy.)  We thought, "A Wii would allow them to stay active in the house during the hot months and it would be a fun activity to play with their friends."

So we bought one.  At first we only allowed 'active' games and they had to stand to play it.  I'm not sure how it happened but after a while we had some Lego games - to play you just stand there and move your guy from place to place.  No real physical movement or logic involved.  And when their friends came over they all just stood in the room, playing a game and not talking.  It was like a room full of zombie kids.

There began to be fights.  Major fights.  "He hogged the Wii.  He didn't share."  There was name calling and put-downs.  Sometimes they would play all day and I'd find out they hadn't let one brother have a turn.  It became an obsession for them, how much time could they play?  They were constantly talking about it, begging to play it, crying if they couldn't.  All their imaginative play was based on the computer games they played.  No more knights or heroes or soldiers or whatever.  Only Wii characters.  All the time.  I often found them just sitting in a room discussing "plans" for the next time they got to play.  And they were ALWAYS asking to play.

Sadly, it became a crutch for me.  When I was sick or tired, or both, I'd tell them to go play the Wii.  It was too hard for me to deal with all the whining and begging while laying in bed wanting to throw up or pass out.  Part of why we're discussing getting rid of it is based on my own weakness to rely on it as a babysitter.

So, as I started to think about it my friend Misty over at Misfit Cygnet recommended that I read Playstation Nation by Olivia and Kurt Bruner.  When I got it in the mail my boys were so excited - 'Mom has gone crazy and now she's going to get us a Playstation'.  They were less than happy when I told them what the book was really about!

Playstation Nation talks about video game addiction and what parents can do.  The authors use examples from their own family and interviews with many other people.  They also discuss many of the studies done about video games and their effect on emotion and behavior, including what actually happens in the brain.

I enjoyed the stories and interviews very much, but I especially appreciated the 'science' behind it.  I had already seen what it could do so it was chilling to understand what was going on in their little brains, and the damage it might be causing.

I went into the book thinking we'd just limit the amount of play, an hour a day or maybe one day a month.  One particular man quoted in the book said that he wished his parents had just gotten rid of it, because even though he could only play once a month or so, he still thought about it, it consumed his thoughts even if he wasn't playing it or talking about it.  I don't want video games to 'consume their thoughts' (which I had already seen that it did) and this made me think deeply about what I truly wanted for them.

After reading the book, and observing my own children's behaviors, I'm convinced that the Wii needs to leave our home permanently, never to be replaced by anything else.  My husband is not so convinced.  I've asked him to read the book, which he agreed to, but hasn't had time yet.  One of his main arguments is that "it's fun".  Well, many people would argue that taking drugs, sleeping around and drag racing are fun, but that doesn't make it right.  He has also expressed concern that "we spent money on it" so it would be a waste to get rid of it.  I countered with, "If you made a mistake, you correct it and move on.  If you give up drinking but have a year's supply of beer in the house, you don't need to keep drinking it until it's gone.  Get rid of it!"  And he's worried that the kids will feel deprived or weird because they're one of the few without a gaming system.  I worry that they'll grow up addicted, unmotivated, unproductive and consumed with unimportant worldly things.  (Reading the book Boys Adrift further convinced me that this most probably would happen.)

At the moment we're at an impasse, but we've decided to not let them play until we make the decision.  The first bit was rough, but now they are playing imaginatively again, reading books, going to the park, riding their bikes and most especially, the tone of our home is calmer and more pleasant.  We don't have multiple screaming or crying fits a day.  No more nagging me then lashing out because I said no.  They are doing their school work independently if I'm sick or playing with their younger brothers or reading to them - they're using their time productively.  Without complaint.  The noise level has dramatically dropped.

We did let them play one day (on Halloween instead of trick-or-treating) and it took almost 2 weeks for them to stop asking to play, complaining, crying, or yelling about not being able to play.  Now, peace has been restored and I don't want to interrupt it again!

November 28, 2010

Raw - Day 3

Today was a slightly weird day for raw because we had church, and additional church leadership meetings and visits and such.  But, I made it through another day!

Fruit smoothie
1 banana
several cups of frozen strawberries, blueberries and cherries
1 orange
about 2 cups coconut water

Blended in the good old Blendtec and gulped it down before we ran out the door.

1 persimmon

Nori Rolls
1 avocado
a tsp. or so Nama Shoyu
a bit of garlic powder
a splash of lemon juice

Smooshed it all together in a bowl with a fork.  That's what us old-fashioned people without food processors do.

On a piece of seaweed we spread some of the smooshed avocado along one edge.  We added:
the leftover "noodles" from last night
broccoli slaw
spinach and butter lettuce, sliced small

Then we rolled it all up and dipped it in the Raw Asian Dressing and Spicy Peanut Sauce (separately), both from yesterday.  The overall taste was very nice - the dipping sauces totally 'made' the meal though.  I don't think I would have been able to eat the seaweed without them.  Thanks Misty!  You totally saved my bacon (except I didn't eat bacon).

My two oldest, once again, decided to try these on their own.  They made up a roll, dipped and had 2 or 3 bites and said they were done.

I didn't get home until after 8 so I just made a quick soup.

Thai Vege Soup - posted by Ocean at Raw Freedom Community

1 orange pepper
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
3 carrots
3/4 c. cashews
4 radishes
2 c. warm water
1 tbsp. curry powder
3/4 c. almond milk
1 tbsp.. Nama shoyu
1 tbsp. agave
1/2 tbsp. jalapeño pepper
1/8 cup green onions

Add everything to a blender and blend until blended.  (That's a lot of blending!)

My thoughts....very tasty.  I used two small sweet peppers, one yellow and one orange.  I cut off the end of a jalapeño and used that instead of measuring.  And I didn't use the green onions because I think they're nasty.

The soup was very, very thin.  I'd like to make it again and use less liquid, and possibly add some veggies right at the end so there's some chunkiness.  I ate my second bowl with coconut milk stirred in, which made me think that using coconut milk instead of water might be a tasty replacement.  I love curry, and this definitely had the curry taste.  I might decrease it though because it overpowered everything (in a mostly good way).  

This whole "blended soup" thing has me thinking about all the soups I can make for my family and, instead of using a water or broth base, I can blend a ton of veggies making a smooth base and then add chunks and textures to give the mouth feel that thin, watery soups make me long for.

We finished the meal with another fruit smoothie, at the insistence of my 4-year-old.  Three of the four boys joined in and by the end there was barely enough for me!

My 4-yr-old is funny

The other day he told me, "I'm the boss of me.  So I'm going to tell you what you're going to do for me."

To understand the following you need to know that my husband speaks Hebrew and the boys call him Abba, instead of dad.  Tonight the 4-yr-old was discussing the fine art of making guacamole.  He wanted to know if there were "mama-cados".  Because obviously you make guacamole with "abba-cados".

He also tried to insist that he get two bags of fruit snacks because "only one side of my mouth got to eat them and the other side is so sad."

November 27, 2010

Raw - Day 2

Well, I'm not sure I'm going to make it!!!  Eating raw is already starting to annoy me.  Maybe I'm just detoxing lots of negative emotions....

First of all, I hate having my entire fridge full of produce.  It's so full I can't find anything.  And there isn't room for anything except produce.  And it's getting squished.  I only did a one-week shop because there is no way I'd be able to fit more than that.  It was expensive.

Second, if a meal flops, there isn't much you can grab at the last minute so you don't starve.  Most of the meals require quite a bit of prep and many need "marinating" time.  Essentially I'm making 6 meals a day, 3 for my kids and 3 for my husband and me.  It's a deflating thought to have to go back into the kitchen and make something else if the first thing tastes yucky.

That being said, here's what I ate today.

Hot Pink Smoothie - recipe by Green Smoothie Girl
1 1/2 c. young Thai coconut water
1 large carrot, cleaned and cut into pieces (or 5-6 baby carrots)
1/2 medium raw beet, peeled
1/4 c. cashews
1/4 c. chopped dates
2 tsp. vanilla
12 frozen strawberries
2 tbsp. kefir or yogurt (optional)

Puree all ingredients except strawberries for 90 seconds.  Add strawberries and puree on high until smooth.

Okay, here are my thoughts after having made this a bazillion times...the coconut water can be obtained by cracking open a young Thai coconut (look for the white pointy one, not the brown hairy one).  You can also use canned coconut water if needed.  I also scrape out the coconut meat and add that to the smoothie.

I don't add the dates.  I also don't add the vanilla.

I add way more than 12 strawberries.  About a cup or two.  I often add a berry mixture instead of plain strawberries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and/or blackberries).

I also just throw everything in at one time.  I love this smoothie and drink it about once a week.  Thai coconuts cost $2.29 each so I don't use them every day.  My husband thinks this tastes "too beety", but I enjoy the taste and don't find it overpowering at all.

Romaine Wraps with Sweet Mustard

3 leaves romaine
1 cucumber
1 carrot
1 avocado
2 tbsp raw agave
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 tsp mustard powder or 1 tbsp prepared mustard
salt and pepper (to taste … about 1/4 tsp each)

Mix agave, mustard, salt and pepper and set aside. Chop cucumber into sticks, shave carrot curls with a vegetable peeler, slice avocado into strips. Divide all equally between the romaine leaves, drizzle with the sweet mustard sauce and wrap up. These are juicy and messy.  This serves 1 person.

My thoughts....these were fantastic.  My husband and I agreed that we'd eat these again, even if we weren't on a raw diet.  And here's a funny thing about me - I hate cucumbers.  But I loved them in these wraps.

We each ate 3 wraps worth (3 leaves) and felt pleasantly full.  I cut the cucumbers into small matchsticks (and only used half of a large English cucumber).  I used a handheld julienne peeler for the carrots (I used 2, one for each of us).  One avocado per person.  I didn't use the onion and I didn't have any sprouts.  

For the sauce I used agave, but if you like raw honey (like I do) you could easily switch them.  I also used prepared mustard (French's, which probably isn't raw but it was the easiest to find while making lunch).  I added salt and pepper, then some garlic and onion powder.  I kept tasting until I thought it was right.  Then I doubled it because it was so good!  So per person I used 4 tbsp. agave + 2 tbsp. mustard and the seasonings.

Eating these were messy.  Very messy.  But yummy.  I think next time we'll make this into a salad - same ingredients, but chopped up and eaten with a fork.  One of my 10-yr-olds asked me to show him how to make the dressing and he ate a huge plate of salad with it and said it was "one of the best I've ever had".

1/2 of a pomegranate
Sesame-Mixed Vegetable “Noodles” with Herbs
from Living Raw Food by Sarma Melngailis

Sesame Dressing
1 cup sesame tahini

1/4 cup sesame oil

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup mellow red miso

3/4 cup plus 2 Tb. filtered water

1/4 cup black sesame seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, sesame oil, lemon juice, miso, and 1/4 cup of the water.  Add the remaining ingredients a bit at a time and continue whisking until smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds and set aside.

Vegetables Noodles
4 cups daikon radish, julienned on a mandoline

2 red bell peppers, cored and julienned

3 medium zucchini, julienned on a mandoline

3 medium carrots,  julienned on a mandoline

6 baby bok choy, leaves thinly sliced on a bias

3 scallions, whites and about an inch of the green, thinly sliced

1 big handful cilantro leaves

Sea salt

In a large bowl, toss all prepared vegetables and the sesame dressing until evenly coated. Season to taste with sea salt. Serves 8-10.

My thoughts....the sesame dressing was disgusting.  I tried the sauce after making it and knew I would never be able to eat it.  That sparked a "discussion" with my husband about how all raw food was gross and I just needed to Cowboy Up and eat it.  We went back and forth for a bit and I just made a different sauce (actually two of them) to serve with the noodles.  At the table my husband insisted on serving himself the sesame sauce, and said "It isn't bad.  Just what I expected raw food to taste like."  A few minutes later he said, "You're right; this is bad."  He then sampled the other sauces and enjoyed them much more!

The 'noodles' themselves were great.  The daikon was a bit peppery, and next time I'd use less.  I didn't use the quantities in the recipe because I didn't want to serve 8 to 10 people.  I just julienned (with my hand-held gadget) the amounts I thought looked good.  I also only used 3 baby bok choy.

For the sauces I used two that Misty over at J&M Ranch shared.
Raw Asian Dressing
1/4 cup safflower or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup of agave
2 Tbsp Nama Shoyu, San J Tamari, or High Quality Soy Sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sesame oil (optional)

Blend on low power in Vita Mix just until blended. Store in a mason jar or salad dressing jar in the fridge.

My thoughts....very good.  I just used a small hand whipper thingy because my Blendtec doesn't like small quantities like this.  I think I added a bit of salt too.

Raw Spicy Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup raw peanut butter

1 teaspoons Chinese hot chili oil with red pepper flakes

3 teaspoons Nama Shoyu or organic soy sauce

1 clove minced garlic

Coconut milk

In a food processor combine everything except the oil until well blended. Add the coconut milk just until the sauce is of the consistency you like. Adjust shoyu and chili to taste.

My thoughts...I don't have a food processor so I just used the hand whipper thingy again.  We all really liked this.

I preferred the peanut sauce on the 'noodles' (the Asian sauce would be better as a dip or lettuce salad dressing).  One of my older sons had 2 servings of the noodles, plain. The other 10-yr-old ate a big helping of the noodles with the peanut sauce.  Neither was required to do so, they just saw it and wanted to try it!   We ate them with chopsticks which made us feel super cool.  

This is very similar to a recipe for Asian Noodle Salad that I tried (and liked) from Pioneer Woman, but which isn't entirely raw.

So final verdict...I'd made the noodle part again and use the Raw Spicy Peanut Sauce or similar delicious sauce.  I might also try the PW salad without the noodles.  Or with them when I'm unraw again.

November 26, 2010

Raw - Day 1

Today is Day 1 of my Raw for 30 Days.

3/4 of a persimmon  
Green smoothie consisting of:
1 apple
2 seckel pears
some frozen mangos and pineapple
1/2 frozen banana
4 large handfuls spinach
3 large handfuls "mixed greens"
a little over 1 cup coconut water

Have you folks tried persimmons yet?  I had never tasted one before and I love them!  I've only tried the Fuyu kind which I've read is sweeter.  I just washed it, sliced it and ate it, skin and all.

Uh, I was grocery shopping and skipped lunch.


This was pretty tasty.  It didn't taste like popcorn, but it was a pleasant way to eat raw cauliflower.  My kids were not impressed, but my husband said it was "okay".  One head of cauliflower made way more than I could eat, and it gets rather soggy if not eaten right away.  If you're making it for just one person, only cut up what you'll eat in one sitting.

Salad with guacamole

I have a lovely picture of this, but can't find my camera cord.  I guess tomorrow will be a cleaning day!

1 c. pecans 
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. Nama Shoyu or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
3 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Pulse until chopped but not blended.  To assemble, place a few spoonfuls of 'taco meat' on Romaine or butter lettuce.  Top with chopped tomatoes and avocados.  This would also be good with chopped cilantro, sprouts and/or cucumbers.

These were actually quite tasty.  The nut meat tasted very tacoish.  I couldn't get my sunflower seeds to crack (I used my Blendtec and it didn't like the small amount of ingredients) so the texture wasn't quite what I wanted.  I only had coriander seeds and I think next time I won't use them, or I'll try to find ground coriander.  I found large chunks of them while chewing and it overpowered that bite (and several after).  I ate 4 lettuce leaves worth and along with the salad and pineapple was rather full at the end.

November 23, 2010

Fruit Cereal

One of the "raw" recipes we experimented with a few months ago was a huge hit.  We've had it at least once a month for the last little while.  Here's what we do....

I set out a bowl for each person and put whatever fruit we have in the house on the table.  I go around the table asking who wants a banana, or an apple or some strawberries, etc.  I cut up the fruit into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces and put it in the designated bowl for that person.  At the end, everyone has a bowl of their favorite fruits.

I know what you're saying, "Hey, that sounds like fruit salad."  Well, it is, sort of.  But it's different for each person and my kids hate fruit salad.  They love fruit cereal.  (It's all in the sales pitch!)

All of them like it with a drizzle of raw honey.  A part of me cringes at that, but a bowl of fresh fruit with a small amount of raw honey is much better than two big bowls of Cocoa Puffs.  Some of them like to put milk on theirs, others prefer it without.  You could use cow milk or nut/rice milk.  One of my boys loves to eat just bananas for his "cereal".  A bowl with 2 bananas cut up.  Fine by me!!!

Some suggestions for fruit....
Grapes (green, red or black, just make sure they're seedless)

I prefer not to put citrusy-type fruits in mine because I think it overpowers the sweet berry flavors, but you could certainly add them to yours.

Any leftover cereal gets recycled into a lunch smoothie!

November 20, 2010


On my quest to find simplicity and health, I've determined that our "holiday" meals don't need to be quite as extravagant as they have been in the past.  I can't totally downsize because Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are my husband's favorite meals EVER.  I'm not willing to fight that fight and lose!  

In my pre-planning I have tried to figure out what can be done ahead of time, what doesn't need to be done and what can be done differently.  Today I'd like to share what I do for stuffing.

Growing up, I hated stuffing.  It was soggy and mushy and tasteless and didn't feel good in my mouth.  But I ate it because Grandma made it.  I continued hating stuffing until Stove Top entered my life.  And I'll say this here and now - no matter how healthy I get, or how drastically I change my eating habits I WILL NEVER GIVE UP MY STOVE TOP STUFFING.  I know it's bad for me, but I love it.  

I don't make it as directed on the box though.  Well, sort of.  I do make it as directed (I use 2 packets worth), but then I do this....

chop one medium to large sweet onion and cook until it's nice and soft, almost translucent.  I add finely diced celery (about 3 stalks worth) and some grated carrots (about 2 big ones or 2 handfuls of baby carrots).  I cook them with the onions until they too are nice and soft.  Then I add 3 or 4 leaves worth of diced kale (I cut it super small), and cook just until wilted.  I add all these tasty veggies to the prepared stuffing.  It "takes it up a notch", or several.  It's almost like I made it from scratch!

I like to think that by adding all these healthy things, I'm negating the 'bad' in the Stove Top.  I'm not, really, but it makes me feel better.  And it tastes great.  Now I love stuffing with Thanksgiving dinner!

November 9, 2010

Last Child in the Woods

My mother and I were talking the other day (we do that sometimes) and she mentioned that she had just finished an interesting book about nature-deficit disorder and the importance of getting kids outside.  She graciously mailed her copy to me and I just finished it a few days ago.

Written by Richard Louv, this book discusses why we need nature, what has happened to create the disconnect between children and nature and what steps we can take as parents, and as a community, to change this.

It was a fascinating read.  He presented several studies to support his ideas, but most of the information was anecdotal.  I felt that while it was well-written, the language is just a little too scholarly which makes it inaccessible to the average parent or community planner.

As I read the book I kept wanting to give a copy to the housing office so they would see the importance of allowing free, open play spaces instead of small playgrounds.  I wanted them to relax their rules about building forts and treehouses and allow us to walk in the "undeveloped" areas.  But I knew the language of the book would stop them from reading it and/or understanding it.

Many of the author's ideas, and those of the experts he interviewed, are a little 'out there'.  I do not see our society embracing, or even accepting, a move to a planned rural community where everyone has their own garden and each person works to support the needs of the community.  We're not there and we are not moving in that direction.

I have seen my children become more calm, more cheerful, more talkative as we spend more time outside.  Each of them, at different times, have told me how much they love to be outside, how it helps them feel calm and that they love to "get away from it all."  They seem more grounded and more at peace the more time we spend outside.  My house is also cleaner since they aren't around to mess it up!

I took away the following ideas I hope to implement in our family:

1.  More time outside.  Lots more.  And try to spend time outside in different weather.  Just because it's raining doesn't mean they shouldn't go outside.

2.  Try to find natural spaces for them to explore.  This is hard.  We live in a planned community and the trees are 1-year-old (tiny little things).  We also live in West Texas and there are no forests, no beautiful green places, nowhere to hike or explore.  It's mostly cacti, and cacti and a few more cacti.  We are searching out places though and are trying to learn to appreciate the beauty of where we are.

3.  Learn to identify the plants, trees and animals in our local area.  As Louv pointed out kids know more about the rain forest than they do about their own backyard.

4.  Allow them opportunities to interact with nature.  I'm the kind of mom that tells them not to pull leaves off trees or pick flowers or move rocks to look for bugs.  "Leave no trace" is my motto.  Well, I'm trying to change that.  We're pulling acorns off trees and peeling them apart to see what's inside. We're opening seed pods and digging in the dirt.  We're touching and feeling and smelling.  As much as possible we try to do minimal damage, but I want them now to know nature, not just know about it.

5.  Continue with our nature study.  The author expressed concern that there is a shortage of people who can teach geology, biology, and other 'nature' type classes.  I want my boys to have that knowledge, whether they use it professionally or not.  We're slowly building a library of natural science books and investing in tools like magnifying lenses, microscopes, binoculars and such.

6.  Plan for nature experiences.  I've found that if I don't plan on taking them on a hike or camping or to 'be' outside, then it doesn't happen.  We are now putting it on the calendar.  On this day we WILL go to the river or into the wash or whatever.  This also creates an anticipation which makes the experience more magical.

Overall I highly recommend this book.  The language can be a little stiff, but it's worth slogging through.  It's a fantastic motivator for overcoming any hesitations you might have about getting outside.

November 8, 2010

I'm going raw

As most of you probably don't know, because I don't talk about it much, my body is falling apart.

I'm 37 years old and have probably had more colonoscopies than all of you combined.

The entire left side of my colon looks like it has road rash.  I know this because I've seen pictures.  I can share them with you if you want.  But you really don't want.

My fasting glucose levels are 160.  They should be under 100.

My blood pressure was 144/95 last time they checked.  That's bad.  Really bad.

My cholesterol is 236, which is bad, but it's come down 30 points over the last few months.

I weigh 187 pounds and am 5'6".  That's overweight.  And I carry most of it in my stomach.  That's the dangerous kind of fat, by the way.  It's hard to find shirts that look nice with a 3-month-pregnant-looking belly.

I am exhausted.  But I can't sleep.  I am often awake until 1 or 2 in the morning, doing nothing other than wishing I could fall asleep.  I walk through life feeling fuzzy and tired.  I never, ever feel well rested.

I'm always sick.  Always.  If there is a virus in the area, I'll get it.  And keep it for a long time because apparently we become good friends and can't live without each other.  I just finished having pneumonia and then got a bad cold so basically I've been sick for over a month straight.  My nose is literally peeling off my face.

I've reached a health crisis in my life and something needs to change.  My doctor wants to give me more pills.  And diagnose me with things I don't want to be diagnosed with.  As my husband and I were discussing what we should do, I came across the movie Simply Raw.  Well, not so much the movie, but the website talking about the movie.  I have been watching their fascinating videos.

I have read about, heard about, learned about the raw "movement" for a while, but was not interested.  Too much work.  Too many weird ingredients.  Too many expensive things to buy like dehydrators and food processors and such.  And most of it is just plain weird...and I didn't want to eat it so I'm sure my kids didn't want to either.

Well, the thing that caught, and held my attention, on these videos (and the movie concept) is that for 30 days six people with diabetes (some with Type 1 and some with Type 2) went raw and every one of them was cured of the diabetes and no longer required medication.  They also lost 20 or more pounds.  Um, I could use that.  The other interviews talked about reserving heart disease, overcoming chronic illness, high blood pressure and the list went on.

I thought, 30 days.  I can DO 30 days.  So, I'm going raw for 30 days and my husband is going with me (bless his heart).

So, the day after Thanksgiving we'll start eating as raw as we can and will go until Christmas day.  At that point we'll discuss whether we want to continue raw, modify it or chuck it out the window altogether.

My initial thoughts are that I will most likely never be 100% raw after this initial 30 days.  I love food, maybe I love it too much.  I also think there are a lot of really healthy, wholesome, nutritious, necessary foods we should eat and they are cooked.  I can see our family moving more rawish though.  Perhaps we'll have a Raw day once a week like Monday is chicken, Tuesday is beans, Wednesday is beef, Thursday is raw.  Or maybe we'll do 2 raw meals a day and one cooked, or vice versa.  Who knows?

Once I officially start I'll be posting the recipes I use each day and how well we liked them and if they are "keepers".  At the end of the 30 days I'll get re-tested for glucose, blood pressure, etc and post those numbers.

If you want in on the fun, I'd love to have company!  Let me know if you want to accept the challenge and I'll link up with you every day so others can see your progress as well.

These are my "rules of operation" -
1.  Eat as close to 100% raw as I can for 30 days.  But I'm being realistic here.  If a recipe calls for coconut water, I might buy a young coconut and crack it or I might use a can of coconut water.  Depends on availability and price.
2.  Minimize the use of recipes require a dehydrator since I only have a cheapy one
3.  Use what I can find locally with only a few internet purchases - in other words, try to keep the price down!
4.  Buy organic if I can and not worry about it if I can't
5.  No raw meat (my son wanted me to make sure you knew that)

We plan on involving the kids in the following ways:
1.  No cow's milk for the month.  We'll be testing nut milks and such.  We'll let you know what we think.
2.  No breakfast cereals.  We'll be eating raw fruit breakfasts, or raw, sprouted grains.  I'm also going to 'allow' baked goods for the kids like muffins, bread, etc.
3.  Have them drink at least one smoothie a day.
4.  A large salad with each dinner.
5.  More fresh fruits and veggies for each meal.  I'm good with serving them at dinner, but not breakfast and lunch.

I'll continue to make regular foods for them, but will try to incorporate more raw foods with each meal.  And if they ever want to try what I'm eating I'll share.  Maybe.  If it's really delicious I just might keep it to myself!

Here are some good resources for finding more information on raw eating and raw recipes: (p.s. I love David Wolfe's hair.  I wish I had hair like that.)
The Raw Chef
Raw on $10 a Day (or Less!)
J&M Ranch - this is my friend Misty's site and she has a few raw recipes
Gone Raw - has a helpful forum and a great recipe section

I have found that if there is a product you really want to try, most of the time Amazon has it much cheaper than the "raw sites".  The manufacturer also, usually, sells it much more cheaply that the raw sites.  Check prices before you buy!

November 5, 2010


I have 4 boys so potty-training has been, well, interesting.  And each of them was very different so what worked for one kid did NOT work for another.  Heaving a big sigh.....Some of them took much longer than others.  Each did it in their own time though.  And joyfully, it DID happen.  Even during the most difficult times I would remind myself that most 18-year-old boys were potty-trained and my boys would be too...someday.

Today I just wanted to share a trick we learned with our youngest.  He was 3-and-a-half-ish when we introduced underwear.  His response, "No thanks.  I'll just go potty in my diaper."  We figured if he was old enough to think logically through the whole situation he was old enough to use the toilet.  He didn't see it that way.  We started a battle of wills.  Not our best parenting moment, but it can really chap your hide to pay $80 a month for diapers when your child TELLS you he's just going to 'go' in them.  (We tried Pull-Ups but those were just extra-colorful diapers to him.)

One day when my husband was feeling especially impatient, I took over and asked if our young son would like to wear underwear.  No, he wouldn't.  So I replied, "But underwear is fun to wear.  It's FUNDERWEAR!"  His little blue eyes was FUN to wear??? Well, he wanted anything to do with fun so he put those things on and was potty-trained within a few days.

To this day, a year later, he sings the little song I made up to go with it, "Underwear is fun to wear."  He even calls them his Funderwear, or Fundies for short.

It's all in the marketing!

November 1, 2010

Our "Gratitude" Wall

Last year we decided to document what we were grateful for every day, for a month.  We started on Thanksgiving day and went until Christmas day.  I cut circles out of construction paper and every night at dinner each person told what they were thankful for.  The boys really enjoyed it and it was a wonderful exercise for them to see how truly blessed they are.  They loved it so much that we left the circles up for months afterwards.  The boys read them often and so did the visitors to our home.  It was such a huge hit that they asked to keep doing it, but my husband was tired of having a wall that looked like a weird chemistry molecule so we purchased a nice journal and are writing down what we are thankful for in the book.  Unfortunately, it's harder to remember to do this because I don't have a huge visual reminder like the wall.  I'm hoping to create the habit though so we'll keep plugging along.

We did have to make a rule that they couldn't name specific foods.  After a while the wall looked like "pizza, cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Sprite, 7-Up, Root Beer....."  It was almost like the only thing they ever thought about was food.  Now that we're not constrained by the size of our blank wall, we are allowing them to express gratitude for whatever foods they want!

October 31, 2010

Things I've learned from this bout of illness

After my stint with pneumonia I had two days of good health and then I caught a cold that has hung on for over two weeks with no real sign of leaving any time soon.  Two of my four sons have the same cold.  Here are the things I've learned recently about colds.

1.  Essential oils work to stop the coughing.  I use doTerra oils (and sell them if you're interested).  We used Breathe and Eucalyptus with great success.  They'd be hacking up a lung at night and I'd go in, oil their feet and throats and they'd sleep quietly the rest of the night.

2.  Eating raw garlic burns.

3.  Placing raw garlic cloves between each of your toes and trying to sleep is rather painful.  I made a valiant effort and woke up at 1:30am with aching toes.  Once I pulled out the garlic my feet felt much better.

4.  Eating raw garlic mixed with butter on bread only prolongs the pain.  It still burns, only you get to enjoy each bite with the burn.

5.  Even if you've lost all sense of smell and taste, raw garlic burns your mouth.

6.  Even if you've lost all sense of smell and taste, others around you have not and they will think your breath is stinky.  They'll even tell you to your face.  And pretend to faint every time you walk by.

7.  Warm apple cider with a whole lemon squeezed in and a plop of raw honey feels wonderful on sore throats.

8.  Steam showers work for calming coughs and unclogging noses.  So do steam baths with essential oils added.

9.  Hot and Sour soup has wonderful healing properties.  So does Chicken Noodle soup.  It's been scientifically proven.  Really.  I alternate between the two.  Although I have to get the Hot and Sour from a restaurant.  Does anyone have a good recipe for making it at home?

10.  Warm apple cider with a whole lemon squeezed in AND some ginger tea (make by boiling water and shredded ginger together) with honey also feels really good.  It's a little spicier though.

11.  Add cayenne to your chicken noodle soup for some extra healing power.  If you have lost your sense of taste and smell you can add quite a bit.  You know you've added too much when your tongue starts to burn.

12.  You can keep your other kids healthy by making them do all the stuff the sick people have to do - eat the soups, put on the oils, go to bed early, etc.

13.  Using On Guard (from doTerra) on the healthy boys feet seems to have helped in keeping them healthy since they are still healthy.

14.  Drinking On Guard is truly disgusting.  Peppermint oil though is great and eases the congestion.

15.  Eating On Guard on crackers with honey and butter is even worse.  I made my kids promise me that if I ever tried to get them to eat On Guard they were to run screaming.

16.  You can make garlic oil to put on your feet and chest by cutting up some garlic and just barely covering it with extra-virgin olive oil.  Let it sit for at least 2 hours, or a few days if possible.  Cover the bottoms of your feet (and the top, right where the toes join the foot) and put on some socks.  You can also spread it on your chest and throat, but your clothes might get greasy.  Then pretend you live in an Italian restaurant because everything will smell all garlicy.  Do not, however, lick anyone's garlic feet.

17.  Sleep as much as possible.

18.  You'll get better faster, or not even get sick in the first place, if you eat healthier.  If you do get sick and start feeding your kids (and yourself) cold cereal for breakfast and lunch, they will get sick too.  If your husband goes out for burgers or pizza or other such sundries every night because you're sick, and you, the sick person, eat it, you won't get better anytime soon.  And everyone else will get sick.  Don't fall back on junk food when you're sick.

19.  Pray.

20.  Pray some more.

October 20, 2010

Things they say outloud

We babysat my friend's two little boys Monday night while she was having her baby.  Tuesday morning she came by (with her husband) to pick them up and brought her one-day-old daughter.  And I got to hold her!!!!

My 4-year-old was sitting on the couch between us and he looked from the baby to my friend to the baby to my friend and back and forth for a bit.  Then he looked at me with great confusion, "If _____'s baby is out, why is her tummy still fat?"

He looks at me and continues, "Are you SURE you don't have a baby sister in your tummy, mom?  You're fat too."


October 15, 2010

My favorite things for teaching reading

I am by no means a reading expert, although I do like to read.  And I've taught 2 of my 4 children to read - the 3rd taught himself when he was 4 so I'm not sure he counts in the total.  Anyway.....

I have tried a number of reading programs/books and have finally found the ones I like best, the ones that work for my kids (all of them!) and the ones that are easiest for me to wrap my brain around.

1.  Happy Phonics.  This program contains mostly games.  It follows a logical sequence and has a great little teacher's guide to help you understand which order to do things.  My kids LOVE the games.  Even after they have "graduated" from a game, they will go back years later and play them.  The older boys are asking if they can play with the younger ones.  Not only does the program work, the kids have good memories of it!

One of the things I like best is that because they are games, struggling readers are more willing to practice over and over.  Reading (well, language in general) is very hard for one of my 10-yr-olds and Happy Phonics worked marvelously for him.  We could go over the same sounds, in the game, over and over again and he wouldn't complain one little bit.

I did cut out and laminate all the cards so that the program would last longer...that took a while!  But it has lasted for over 5 years now with one more boy to go.

2.  Now I'm Reading Series by Nora Gaydos.  These books work PERFECTLY with Happy Phonics.   Each book focuses on a specific sound, or combination of them.  The illustrations are fun and the text is silly.  My boys love them and I don't mind hearing them read them over and over and over again.

I have used Levels 1, 2 and 3.  By 3 a child could most likely start reading "easy readers" but Level 3 was specifically requested by my 6-yr-old so we're using them.

Each time the child reads a book they get to put a sticker in the front.  Sadly, there are only 4 stickers per book and we've read them more than that.  And now my youngest son won't have the coordinated stickers.  I do wish you could order additional stickers.

The books (10 in a set) are kept in individual plastic sleeves, housed in a hardbound book.  They are excellent for keeping all those small books together.

Updated to add:  I love how the books build on words.  For example, the first page might read, "A cat."  The next page will be "A tan cat."  The next will read "A tan cat sat."  And it builds from there.  It has really helped my boys with their confidence because they can read faster and they remember the words better.

I just read through Snack Attack with my 4-yr-old this morning and I noticed 2 of the books have characters that steal things and there is no remorse, repentance, punishment, nothing.  Not so cool with that.  I might have to go in and edit the book.  Or pull them out.  I haven't had that problem with the other books.

I'm working on a list of how Now I'm Reading correlates with Happy Phonics.  I'll post that soon.

3.  Starfall.  It's an online program and it's free.  I use this mainly when they are younger to help learn their letters and the sounds.  As they progress there are some fun little videos and short games they can play.  I consider this more of a supplement than an actual program, but it is well loved in this home.

4.  Explode the Code workbooks.  My kids will say they don't love these, but they do work.  I wouldn't say this is "my favorite" but we keep using them because they have really helped them understand the language better.

And in case you are interested I tried the following without much success:

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Phonics Pathways
Progressive Phonics
The Reading Lesson
various levels of Bob Books

Well, I should say we had success with one boy, and not much with the other.  In every one of the above mentioned programs/books he hit a wall and couldn't get around it until Happy Phonics.  I'm sure any of these books would have worked for the now 6-yr-old, but he heard us doing Happy Phonics so often that he learned to read on his own.

October 11, 2010

Defending the size of my family

Do you often feel like you need to "defend" the size of your family?  I do.  And there aren't that many of us!

Either I'm dealing with nasty looks or comments like "Oh, you're having ANOTHER one" (said when pregnant with my 3rd) when I'm out and about with my four boys or I'm trying to explain why I ONLY have four kids.  I either have too many or not enough.  I can't win!

I wonder sometimes why I feel like I have to defend my choices.  I also wonder why people ask the most impertinent questions and seem to feel entitled to very personal information.  In asking questions about my adoption one woman asked if I was raising my husband's illegitimate son from an affair he had had.  Uh, NO.  There was no affair.  Just an adoption.  Why jump to such crazy conclusions?????

One of my sisters is unable to have children of her own.  She has endured years of people asking hurtful, personal, unthinking questions.  Why do we do this to each other?  Why do I feel like I have to tell everyone I can't have more children for medical reasons?  Why can't I just be content and tell people to mind their own business?  Why don't they mind their own business?  Why don't I?

One of the things I struggle with in defending my "large" family is the question of courtesy.  Let's say we want to buy a snack.  We go and stand in line and wait 10 minutes or so.  We finally get to the front and there is a single person behind us.  Do we let them go first?  Do we order and make them wait?  How about at the grocery store when I have my cart LOADED with two weeks worth of groceries and I'm about to put them on the conveyor belt.  I notice a person behind me with half a cart.  Should I let them go first?

My husband and I debate this all the time.  He calls it courtesy to let the single person (or several single persons or smaller families) go first.  I claim that if I stood in line and have "done my time" I should not feel pressured to stand aside.  I also don't want my children feeling like we have to apologize for having four kids.  That because we 'have so many people' in our family that we need to feel like we're a burden and thus let others go first.  I constantly wrestle with being 'thoughtful' to those around me and helping my children feel that they are just as valued and important as those with fewer (or no) kids.

Am I even making sense?  For the record I like to let old people and pregnant women go ahead of me in almost any situation.  But what is the proper thing to do in other situations?  Why is buying a Slurpee such a moral dilemma????????