Wednesday, April 30, 2008

WFMW ~Less stress at mealtimes

I know that for many families with young children, getting them to eat healthy food can be a very stressful venture. I thought I would share with you what works for us in our family(with kids ages 2-8) to make mealtimes less stressful. Here is basically what we do:

  • We give the children small plates with small portions. (We almost always serve them rather than letting them serve themselves.)
  • If it is a normal meal (not a large feast like Thanksgiving dinner, a potluck or leftover buffet) everybody is required to take everything being served whether it is a favorite or not.
  • No complaining about food is allowed. If it happens the complainer forfeits any possible dessert or snack before the next meal.
  • All food must be eaten. If for some reason they feel they just cannot finish then they can put it in a container and put it in the fridge and save it for when they are hungry again. So before they can eat a snack or another meal they need to eat that food. This makes sure they don't get conveniently full just because they don't like something, it is also helping to make sure our children are not that picky and it prevents food waste. There are times we do forget about the food for a meal or two (though actually often the kids will remind us!) so then we end up pulling it out then and having them eat it for that meal instead. Also sometimes the kids will have not wanted to eat because they were actually getting sick -in that case often their meal will get thrown out.

This method might sound strict but it really works very well for us. We have pretty much no arguing over eating your veggies or whatever kids might not like. The kids know the routine and except it. There have been things that they didn't like for a while (for instance Mara with mushrooms) but since they have to eat it anyway (we don't allow pulling items off or out of a dish) they have often learned to like it or at least not mind it. We have very fun mealtime conversations and really enjoy that time together as a family.

That works for me! I am interested to here how you deal with feeding your kids.

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tipster Tuesday ~ Cleaning your houseplants

The plants around my house tend to get a little dusty from time to time. This is not really good for the plants nor does it look very nice. I could (and I have before) take the time to carefully wipe off each leaf but since I have 30 some houseplants that would take not a little bit of time. So the method I have found easier is just have them one at a time take a shower with somebody. I have also showered them by themselves but it is always a little difficult to get them all washed properly while I stay dry. It is much easier just to pull them in with you if you aren't to shy. :-) A little soap doesn't seem to bother them, just set them in a place where they will get some of the water and proceed to take your shower as normal, they will probably be quite clean by the time you are done and watered as well. You save time and water with this method.

To see more tips visit BeCentsable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Enjoying Vermont!

We had a fun time studying about Vermont. Even though I have never been there I feel connected with the state in some ways because I have had several friends that have lived there and I have heard a lot about it. It seems to me that most people who have lived there look back on their time there very fondly. I think I would like it too. It seems in many ways like MN and the addition of mountains would be a nice one.

It was very appropriate that we studied about Vermont while we were in the middle of Maple syruping. Above is a picture of some of the Maple Syrup that I canned that week. Producing Maple syrup is something that Vermont has long been famous for. Cheddar cheese is another of their specialties (though they actually produce more Mozzarella). Also in the food line is Ben and Jerry's Ice cream. Ben and Jerry are from Vermont and they started their ice cream making by taking a $5 correspondence course. (Ken wonders how well it works to take a correspondence course for making ice cream? I guess for them it worked fine.)

The state fruit is an apple and they seem to enjoy lots of baked goods with apples in them. Something we enjoyed was apple muffins.
We also tried and enjoyed Green Mountain Corn Chowder. There are lots of other Vermont Recipes at this site that also look yummy. At the Vermont Specialty Foods Association you can find a lot more recipes.

Some of the things we found interesting about Vermont were:

  • No Billboards are allowed.
  • They were the last state to allow Wal-mart to have a store there.
  • The kids found the pictures of a granite quarry very fascinating. It looks dangerous but interesting. They also have marble quarries.
  • They have a lot (maybe the most?) or covered bridges.
  • Vermont was the state that the Von Trapp family located in when they came to the U.S.
  • Vermont became a State on March 4, 1791. The 14th state and the first one that wasn't one of the original colonies.

Vermont is a state that is known for it's beautiful fall leaves, pretty old fashioned towns and getting a lot of snow (like MN). I think I could feel pretty at home there.

What do you like about Vermont? By the way we are studying Ohio this week and would love it if you would share any information about that state. Thanks!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Our Winter (?!? Isn't it actually Spring?) Wonderland!

This past week has been a nice spring one with all our snow melted and the kids had a wonderful time playing outside. And so I had thought that on Friday and Saturday I would plant some Iris bulbs (Both my sister and a friend gave me a bunch!! I am so excited as they are my favorite flower.) and I had hoped that Ken could til the garden for me so that I could plant the Lettuce, onions and peas soon (you can do that before the last frost) and I also thought that on Saturday afternoon we would try to go into town to the Library. Well we can make plans but that doesn't necessarily mean it will work out. Friday morning it got quite cold and then in the afternoon the snow started falling. By the time Ken got home from work we had at least 4 inches! In the evening it was pretty blizzard like. It kept snowing all night and all through Saturday. Here are some of the pictures.

Here is a picture of the front of our Garage on Sat. AM that I took from our upstairs window. It was quite windy to the snow had drifted in various ways so some places there wasn't hardly any snow and other places it was around 4 ft deep.

Here is Ken working on the driveway. With all the storms we have had in April this year he is so happy that he bought the snow blower on the year end clearance.
Our house and all the snow. This picture doesn't properly show the neat wind sculptures that God made. I had fun looking at all the beauty out in the snow but I don't know how to properly photograph it.

Even if that wasn't what I planned to for the day we were still able to have a fun day anyway!! I was able to get various things done in the house like go through Megan's clothes and the boxes of clothes for her in the closet. Whenever I do that I always realize how abundantly blessed we are. As far as I can remember I have only bought one item of clothes for her (a pair of tights) and I have made a sweater and a dress (or possibly two) and otherwise everything that she has worn (other than disposable diapers, which yes, we have bought) has been either hand me downs from mostly her sister or cousins (Being the youngest of 6 female cousins is not a bad thing) or somebody has given to her for a birthday or something. She is not always dressed in the height of fashion but mostly she looks pretty cute. We have also had plenty to be able to share with others.

I also wrote a few letters, played the violin, sent in some news items to the radio and a newsletter about a really fun kids program we have coming up at church, worked at potty training a little girl (with little success but she really loves sitting on her potty chair! Does anybody have any suggestions for me?), worked at cleaning out my e-mail inbox and lots of other lazy Saturday sort of jobs.

What sort of fun stuff did you do and do any of the rest of you have snow?

Learning about Rhode Island

Something I am realizing is that I shouldn't wait so long to post about a State that we have studied because I am forgetting a lot of what we learned.

The week we studied Rhode Island was a pretty busy one and one that we actually where not even home for quite a few meals so we didn't eat very much from Rhode Island. One thing that we did eat however was Rhode Island Johny Cakes. This seemed to the popular Rhode Island food item in my research. According to the recipe that I used I didn't actually make them right as the cornmeal (which should also be white) should come from a specific mill and I know mine didn't as I ground it myself.

For learning more about Rhode Island and to see a list of other recipes I recommend the Class Brain site. It is a great place that has lots of help for your homeschooling.

Some of the things we learned about Rhode Island are:

  • It is the smallest state. My kids remember it well because of that fact.
  • It is the 13th state, becoming a state May 29, 1790. I found it interesting that of the original 13 colonies they were the first to sign the Declaration of Independence and the last to ratify the Constitution.
  • The state bird is the Rhode Island Red Chicken. I think my dad raised those some of the time when growing up, I at least know that they are a pretty popular chicken for hobby farmers.
  • The State flower is the Violet. I love that flower, they should be blooming around here soon after the snow from our snowstorm this weekend goes away.
  • Can you think of a painting that you have probably seen more than any other? How about the face of George Washington on the one dollar bill? Gilbert Stuart was the painter of that picture and he is from Rhode Island.
  • The longest distance in Rhode Island (from North to South) is only 59 miles. For us that have lived in the Central US and mainly visited out West that is pretty hard for us to imagine!

Rhode Island was a fun state to study and as with all of the states we have studied we would love to visit there also.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Frugal crafts for kids.

At our house we love to make crafts and have fun with various sorts of art projects. If you buy everything for your crafts at Joann's or Ben Franklin or wherever this can get pretty expensive but if you recycle and reuse stuff and buy paints, glue and supplies like that on sale then crafting can be pretty cheap. Around here I like to save stuff especially for crafting. Here are some of the things that I save (to a point, if you never use them and just save a bunch your house will soon be over run with clutter.)

  • Toilet paper tubes

  • Empty containers. (I actually save most of these for freezing garden produce in but if the kids need it for a craft project then it is available)

  • Fabric scraps.

  • Scrap paper , especially colored paper.

  • Styrofoam trays.

  • Egg cartons (though actually most of these go back to my parents to get more eggs in them.)

  • Boxes of all sizes. The kids make a ton of projects using cereal, cracker and other boxes of that weight as it is far easier to cut than thick cardboard.

  • Old Socks and tights.

  • Twist ties.

  • Bits of yarn.

  • Tissue paper from presents.

  • And much more. If it looks crafty then we stick it in our craft box.

Here is Aaron with one of his creations.
This is a doll family that Jonathan made last year. (With some help from me.)
Here is a book I would like to recommend if your kids like being creative and you don't want to spend a ton of money. The Book is "Eco Art, Earth-friendly Art and Craft Experiences for 3-9 year olds." We have checked this book out from the Library several times and really enjoyed it. Not only are there are a lot of neat crafts which a pretty much all from recycled items there are also quite a few recipes for paints, glue and stuff like that. I encourage you to check it out!

For more Frugal Friday tips visit Biblical Womanhood.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thoughts about Earth Day

"The Earth is the Lords, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." Psalm 24:1

With Earth day this week there has been lots of stuff in the Newspapers, radio and where ever you go about the importance of recycling and caring for our earth. So that subject has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I really like the idea of being careful with this earth for several reasons:

  1. God made it for us to use but it belongs to Him (Psalm 24:1) I try to be careful with anything that I use that belongs to somebody else (actually I try to be careful with my belongings as well) and how much more I should be careful with what is God's.

  2. I want the environment that I and my family live in to be one that promotes good health.

  3. I have a strong aversion to wastefulness which ties in very well to being environmentally friendly.

However at the same time I have seen many people go to what I consider a too far extreme. Sometimes it seems that they are worshipping what God has created rather than God. (Just like it says in Romans 1:25) Also there are some that seem to want to place animals and sometimes even plants on the same level as humans which I believe is contrary to what is taught in this scripture: "And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so." Gen. 1:28-30 We also see in Gen. 9:3 that God gave us animals for food as well.

As far as politics go, I am for small government so I don't prefer that lots of laws are made but I myself want to live in a way that is caring for God's earth to the best of my ability and I want to encourage those I am around to do that as well. I thought I would share a few of the things that I do to be careful with our environment and I would love it if you would also share what you do with me. One thing I have noticed is that many people have different ways that they are careful of the environment around them. Some are very dedicated recyclers, others never use any chemical for cleaning or other household stuff, others buy cars that get very high MPG or they might ride their bike or walk most of the time. I think an area that we have to be careful in is that we don't look down on somebody else because they are not doing the same things we are doing, instead I think we should look to see what we can learn from them and hopefully all of us can learn from each other. Also we all have to make our own choices for what works for our family. Some things are more time consuming and you simply might not have that time to spend right now. Anyway with all that said here is some of the things I do or am dreaming of doing:

Concerning Energy:

  • We have replaced most of our regular light bulbs with florescent ones. My goal is to get the rest of them replaced as the old ones burn out.

  • I hang some laundry out on the clothes line. My goal is to really up the percentage of times I do that this year, also to hang up clothes inside some in the winter instead of using the dryer.

  • I try to keep our freezer pretty full which helps with energy efficiency.

  • When I am thawing some food I try to think ahead and have it thaw in the fridge which helps cool the fridge more and also rather than using the microwave which requires even more energy.

  • I have a baking day so that I can bake a lot in my oven at once rather than turning my oven on various times through out the week to bake just one thing.

  • We also keep our water heater at as low as is safe temperature wise which saves on electricity.

  • One of my goals and something I am trying to work on is to turn of lights more often so that I am not wasting electricity that way. I love light so this has been a hard one for me but with us having longer days now and big windows I am coming to realize that I don't really need the lights on all of the time.

Concerning Food:

  • I grow a garden without any chemicals each year. We get a lot of food from that, I am hoping to up my yield each year. We also have planted apples tree, blueberries and strawberries which we hope to get food from before long.

  • I make the majority of our food from scratch which makes less trash (from packages) and also I am able to use more wholesome and earth friendly ingredients.

  • I buy local hormone free milk from a bulk tank so again there is less trash.

  • A goal I have for this summer is to try for a month of so to eat a local food diet consisting of food from our garden, buying from the farmer's market and finding local, hormone free meat. We already eat some hormone free meat but I am hoping to get it figured out so that I can buy all hormone free (and hopefully local) meat.

Concerning Reducing Trash:

  • We do a lot of recycling. We take newspapers and other papers and cardboard, bottles, cans and other plastic to the recycling center.

  • We use cloth diapers a lot of the time. (My general way of doing it has been to use cloth at home and disposable when we go some place but sometimes I have gotten lazy and used disposable some at home as well. I am trying to be more strict about that with myself. I am also hoping we will be all done with diapers soon!!)

  • We also use cloth napkins much of the time, rags instead of paper towels, hankies (some of the time we have kind of gotten lazy on that one lately), a diva cup, we rarely use paper or Styrofoam plates, I am working on getting in the cloth bag habit (I have a bunch now and I use them some but I have trouble always remembering to bring them in the store.) and just trying to reuse everything as much as possible and not choosing throw away items. (Another thing on this line that I have thought about but not tried yet is cloth toilet wipes ~ using recycled fabric of course.)

  • I am trying to stop buying much in general which eliminates much of the trash that comes with packaging on new items.

  • I reuse nearly all old clothes to make something new out of them like a rag, a rug, clothes or a quilt.

  • We use scrap paper for most drawing and craft projects.


  • We have been working to plant a lot of flowers and trees. All the plants around us clean up the air as well as attract good bugs and pollinators which helps everything produce better.

  • I try to watch how much driving I do, stay home a lot and combine errands in one trip. Also keeping you car with properly inflated tires and in good running condition helps you gas mileage to be better. I also try not to speed or gun my engine when starting and try to be aware of stop signs coming up so I don't overuse my brakes. All of that helps to reduce gas consumption. One of my goals in this area is to ride more places on bikes.

  • We use natural cleaning solutions for the most part. I will admit I do still use some bleach and I am wondering whether I should try to get out of that habit.

I know there are other things we do as well but this post is getting long and my brain is getting tired. Now I would love to hear what you do or any suggestions that you have!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Works for me Wednesday ~ fixing hair

Lately we have been trying to be more creative in fixing Mara's long hair. I found this cute book at the library which has been quite fun for giving us new ideas. It also has very nice instructions which I think are quite easy to follow.
I thought I would share one style that we enjoyed using from this book. It is the French Rope.

To start you gather a handful of hair from the top of the head and divide it into 3 sections (like for a french braid). Cross the right and then the left over the center like you were starting to braid. Then add a little hair to both the right and the left sides.
Twist both of the outside sections to the right. Then cross the right strand over both of the other sections. *Again add for hair to both the right and left sections and twist them to the right and then cross the right section over the others. Repeat from the * until you have roped all of the hair.
This is the finished product. If the hair you are doing is quite long then you can have a long rope past the french roped section. With this hairstyle it feels like you do need a third hand but it gets easier.
Anyway with 2 girls, a helpful book like this works for me!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A lot of pictures from the last few days

The past few days have been full of a lot of family time. My brother Peter and family came to visit from California, My sister Martha and her kids from North Carolina are here for an extended visit and My sister Anna and family came up from the Twin Cities. We had a lot of good times and I thought I would share some of my pictures.

On Saturday for our mid day meal we had a hotdog roast out at Mom and Dad's. Above are some of the cousins roasting their hotdogs. Below are the hotdogs. The weather was truly beautiful. There is still snow on the northern slopes and various shaded places but a lot had melted since the week before and it was very nice sweatshirt weather.

Here are the three littlest cousins (Megan, Gregory and Lars) climbing a fence.
On Saturday night we had a fun time making music together both with instruments and then our voices. It was very fun to have Peter back to play the banjo.
On Sunday after church we took this picture. It didn't turn out to great, it seems that getting all 23 of us (with a dozen kids) to all look at one time and smile is kind of impossible for us.
On Sunday night after church everybody came to our house to have tacos. This picture is of my brother Peter and sister-in-law Holly.

We also had Megan's official birthday cake. The cousins were very excited about singing to her and many of them gathered round and started singing very loudly. Megan got very scared and bawled all the way through her song.

On Monday we all went to Duluth. On the way there we stopped at Brewed Awakenings a coffee shop in Grand Rapids. (My siblings Peter, Anna (and family) and Martha (and family) all used to live there.) Martha was a barista at that coffee shop several years ago. Some friends from Grand Rapids came to meet us and visit a little.
Here are Dad, Aaron, Mom, Megan and Luke at the Coffee shop.
After the Coffee shop we then headed on our way and went over to Superior, Wisconsin to the Train Depot where Travis (my brother-in-law) needed to report for work. This is a picture of his engine. Peter, Nic, Harrison and Jonathan are in there with him at this time but you can't really tell in the picture. :-)
For lunch we went to India Palace in Duluth. It has been a favorite restaurant of some of my siblings. I had never been there before but enjoyed the food quite a lot. Above is a picture of my Chai tea which is very good.
Here is Luke and his meal of I believe Scallop Massalla and garlic chapati.

We then went to explore a park on the shore of Lake Superior. Here is part of our group.

Here is my sister Anna and I.
My cute niece Molly.
My Nephew Harrison.
My sister Keren and the way she and I looked most of the day. :-) (with a camera in front of our face.)
My Mara girl.

Aaron boy.
One of the beautiful crocuses we saw blooming.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A little trip

This week Ken had an insurance board meeting and conference down in the Twin Cities, so as usual our whole family decided to tag along. Here is what I have been up to for the last few days.
On Tuesday we left a little before noon in the hopes that we could get Ken where he needed to be by 4:30 for Board member pictures. Then I would take the kids to my sisters and drop them off and I would go back to eat at a banquet that they were having for board members and spouses. Unfortunately just as we were getting into the cities at around 3:30 our van decided to die when we were in the far left lane of traffic. Ken had hoped to be able to coast over to the right shoulder but the traffic was far to heavy and we weren't able to so we had to go to the left shoulder. A policeman came soon and kindly called a tow truck for us. He also hung around. We realized that our whole family wasn't going to be able to ride in the tow truck nor be able to stay in the van so the policeman called another one and they offered us rides.

Above is Jonathan and Megan and the policeman that they and I rode with.
Here is the policeman that Mara and Aaron rode with. Aaron wasn't so sure about the ride. I tried to encourage him by telling him that since he wanted to be a policeman someday now he would be able to know what it was like to be in a police car. That didn't help because as he said "I don't want to be the one that rides in the back!". By the end of our ride he seemed to be enjoying it a little more.
We went to a Ford dealership to get the van fixed. It was a very nice place with a beautiful customer lounge which included a separate room (with glass walls) for the children to play in. It had a lot of toys and a kids movie ("Cars") going. They also had Starbucks coffee, bottled water, cappuccino and hot chocolate all for free.
There was also this little popcorn cart with popcorn for free. They also offered to drive us to a nearby mall while they fixed the van.
We had a fun time looking around at the mall. It was very nice with plants and trees all over. There were tons of orchid plants that were all blooming. They were gorgeous. There was an elevator with a glass wall and a waterfall going down the whole side. You also had to walk across a little bridge to get on as there was a "moat" around it.

There were escalators which the kids had a blast getting to go on. (Can you tell we are from the country?) Megan wasn't so sure about them though. Ken had to carry her and then when we got to the bottom she had to carefully check it out. After looking around a bit we had supper at an Applebees that was in the mall. Our evening didn't turn out as we planned but we had a lot of fun anyway.

When we did get to Anna and Travis' around 7:30 we decided to have our little birthday celebration for Megan then. (Her birthday was the next day but Ken was going to have a super long day and we didn't think it would be nice to wake the kids up at 6 am in order to open presents.)

For breakfast on Wed. morning I made coffeecake with Juneberries in it to use as Megan's birthday cake (I decided I would do a regular cake on Sunday when Ken will be around as well as all of my family). Megan had no idea what to do with the candles on the cake. Gregory (her cousin on the right of the picture who is almost 3) quickly helped her out by blowing them out. We decided to give her another chance to try but she still didn't get it so Harrison did the job.

On Wed. morning we went to visit the flower wholesaler where I get flowers for my business (they deliver them to me). I wanted to look for some supplies and I thought the kids might find it interesting. Above is my sister Anna and several of the kids in the plant area.

After that we went to the Bakken, a museum that teaches about electricity. It is in a super cool old mansion in Minneapolis. There were a lot of neat things to see and do to help us to learn more about electricity. Anna had been able to get quite a few free passes from their library so it was a very economical outing.

This is the whole group of us except for me. We loved admiring all the neat architecture and I took tons of pictures but I decided not to bore you with all of them.

Here is Megan playing with some magnets and a tv screen that would turn all different colors when you put the magnets on it.
The day was pretty fun (except for driving through the city traffic, it made me very thankful for living in Bemidji.) It wore us all out. Above is a picture of a worn out Gregory and Megan.
That evening we went to church at Woodbury. We went early and ate at the Wednesday night cafe. (Ladies in the church take turns making a meal to serve before church, everybody pays a fairly minimal amount to pay for the food.) At church I enjoyed the beautiful singing and a class on John chapter 3.

On Thursday we all went on a 5 mile bike ride around a lake not to far from the Edward's house. In the middle of our ride we stopped and let the kids play at a park. Here are Margaret and Mara doing the "spider".

Here is Aaron swinging. I had hoped to take a lot of pictures but my batteries went dead. We saw some beautiful scenery, there were neat bridges going over streams and then we saw a lot of ducks, geese and loons. At one spot I counted 15 loons. It was so fun to hear their cry. I guess they are on their way north. Once they get to their home for the summer they will no longer be in the same lake, each couple has their own lake.

For our biking the 4 big kids each rode a bike (thankfully the Edwards have a lot of bikes) and then Aaron got to ride on a tag-along (a one wheeled bike that attaches to the back of another bike) behind Anna. He was able to pedal and told Ken that he had pushed Aunt Anna all the way to the park (but that he rested on the way home) I don't quite think he was supplying all the man power going there but they did check it out and if she quit pedaling he was able to keep them going. It is quite the cool contraption. Travis pulled a trailer behind his recumbent bike with Bea and Gregory in it and I pulled Megan in another trailer.

On Thursday afternoon my friend Christy(and kids) was able to come over for a little while so that was fun! I always enjoy getting to visit with her. We ended up leaving for home a little after 6 pm.

This weekend is also going to be busy. Ken is headed over to Moorhead for the district Republican convention tomorrow, Anna and kids are on their way up here to stay at our house and my older brother Peter and his family from California are flying in tonight. We are looking forward to lots of good family time as all 6 of us kids will be home!


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