Friday, 29 June 2012

This is how I do housework.


It all started with a hole in the bag of oats.

I was pulling it out of storage to soak them for breakfast tomorrow, and they started spilling on the floor. Time to use a different container! Dig through the garage for spare mason jars, but they were a bit dusty.

Wash them, and dry them. Floor is now covered in oats, and needs to be swept.

Can't find the broom, so send kids hunting while toddler falls over and needs comforting.

Broom located, but really should wait until after pouring the oats into jars before sweeping, because of inevitable spills. Start pouring the oats, but really need the funnel. Go to the garage to dig out the funnel from one of the boxes of jars (not before checking the more logical place of the canning pot where all the other canning accoutrements are stored).

Start pouring oats into jars. Kids notice, and want to help. Organise their help, and while they are pouring, retrieve a painted figurine from toddler that belongs to her big sister (and who would be most displeased to discover the 2 year old playing with it).

Break up a fight over jars and oats and whose turn it is.

Feel pleased that floor hasn't been swept yet, since kids spill oats while helping.

Notice an open bag of lentils, decide to put lentils in a jar, too. Choose a jar that is too small. Find a bigger jar in the garage.

Put jars away, but in the process wipe down the counter where they are being stored. Sweep kitchen floor, shake rug outside.

Begin sweeping and clearing dining room. Arrange stuff in piles – dirty clothes, toys, paper and other rubbish, etc. Put things in proper places.

Spray and wipe down table. Put the cloth in the wash, and decide to put on a load of laundry because the toddler had a few accidents today.

Need a new dish cloth to wash dinner dishes. Look in the dryer, start folding the tea towels while looking for a clean cloth.

Find the cloth, put the tea towels away.

Finally ready to start washing dishes, but the toddler needs to go to bed.

Will most likely fall asleep with her.

And the dishes still won't get done, but at least the oats are soaking for breakfast.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

My Guest Post at Women in the Scriptures!

You guys.

You. guys.

You guys! I was asked by Heather at Women in the Scriptures to write a guest post on her blog. And I actually managed to write something coherent and interesting.

Please go read it, while I sit here with a GIGANTIC grin plastered on my face.


Fighting Against the Tide

I don't home educate my children because I like to be weird.

It's a lot easier to do what everyone else is doing. Heck, if my kids were in school, I'd only have my two year old with me for several hours every day. We could go to play groups, take naps together, go shopping, meet friends for lunch, etc.

If my kids were in school, I would have lots more things to chat about with my friends and neighbours. If my kids were in school, I wouldn't constantly try to wring out an educational purpose in everything they do (they are making mud pies...um, cooperation! viscosity! weights and measures! MATH!!!).

If my kids were in school, I wouldn't have to fight against every supposition that society has about children and how they are supposed to learn, behave and live. I wouldn't have to fight against the local authority who thinks they have the right to inspect our home and how we teach our children. (they are not responsible for my children's education, I am)

If my kids were in school, I wouldn't have conversations with strangers in the street about how much I must hate having them around. (I don't)

If my kids were in school, I could blog more.

If my kids were in school, I might even have the time to get a job.



If my kids were in school, I wouldn't have first hand knowledge of their unbelievable ability to soak up information at a break-neck pace. I wouldn't be able to witness my nine year old teaching my five year old about plankton and life cycles. I wouldn't get to see my seven year old spend most of the day reading chapter books, when only a few months ago he barely read comics.

If my kids were in school, I wouldn't have the time to teach my kids about gardening, or cooking meals, or preserving foods for winter, or Ancient Egypt. (I know; they used to go to school and they barely had time to get homework done and into bed for the next day)

If my kids were in school, I wouldn't have the pleasure of hearing their endless knock-knock jokes and watching their intricate, character-based pretend play.

If my kids were in school, my toddler would miss them terribly. She cries when the girls go to Brownies and Rainbows, and follows her siblings around like a sweet little puppy.

If my kids were in school, I would not enjoy my life nearly as much.



I have to remind myself of why I do this, from time to time. It's hard work parenting 24/7, and a 6 hour break, five days a week, sometimes sounds appealing. It's also difficult knowing that we are such a small minority. There are two other families in my town that home educate, but none nearby. We get "looked at" a lot when we are out and about, and sometimes you just don't want the extra attention!

This is the right choice for our family, and the children are thriving. I love having them home with me, and that is what I hold onto when I get tired swimming upstream.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Five Things For Friday: Food Edition

-1-

My goal


Canning season is starting! Here in Britain, summer is a bit of a misnomer, but the fruits are still ripening and you can always buy food from the supermarket if your garden isn't producing.

I managed to score a great deal on a box of 50 pears and 50 apples - all for £5. The pears were very ripe, so I canned them immediately. 

This is my first try at canning foods, and I'm doing it without sugar. My ultimate goal is to have a pantry stocked to the brim with lovely foods that we can eat during the winter months. Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to grab a jar of home-canned peaches off the shelf instead of running to the store for fresh fruit? No added sugar or preservatives, just peaches in a bit of lemon water. 

I'm hoping the sugarless preserving actually works. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for the next 5 or 6 months in the hopes that the food doesn't taste bland and we don't end up with botulism....!

-2-

Like these, but not cut by steel

I'm not a big fan of oatmeal. I've tried to like it, and have added all sorts of things to it to make it more palatable, but the mushiness just gets me down. I start out strong, and get through half a bowl until my resolve crumbles and I'm seriously regretting ever cooking it in the first place.

Also? All those people who say that oats fill you up until after lunch time must have been eating a different sort of oatmeal / porridge than I have ever eaten, because I get hungry really fast after eating a bowl. (Although maybe it's because I can never force myself to eat enough...?)

However, I had never tried oat groats before. Oat groats are the whole grain, before being cut (as the picture above), rolled, steamed, sliced or ground. 

I've eaten whole wheat and enjoyed it, and thought that oat groats might be similar in taste and texture (update: not really similar in taste, but cooked grains are slightly chewy). I managed to purchase a 5kg bag at a reasonable price, and went to it.

You have to soak the oat groats overnight and boil them for about 20 minutes the next day. 

They are delicious!! I eat them savoury, with a bit of melted butter, salt and even hot sauce or soy sauce. I might try them as a mildly sweet pudding, similar to rice pudding, with bananas as a sweetening.

I have a tub of cooked oat groats in the fridge, and just spoon out a portion for breakfast. Yum! Wholesome, sugarless, and easy. Perfection.


-3-

I couldn't find a free stock photo of cornbread

We are reading the Little House books, and thoroughly enjoying them. One of the aspects of the books that most interests me is Ma's cooking. There are all sorts of strange and wonderful foods described in the books, and it makes me feel like I have a lot to learn! The first book mentions that Ma grew up in a city and didn't live in the wilds until she married Pa. Wow! How did she know how to preserve all her foods like that? I am very impressed.

The other night I decided to make a Ma-inspired meal, based around cornbread. The last time I made cornbread, the kids were not particularly interested. (I don't blame them; I always find it so dry.) But this time, they gobbled it up! They were so excited to eat the same foods that was talked about in the books.

I need to locate a book that talks about other kinds of food. The joys of eating beans and lentils, maybe?

-4-

A good addition to your food storage, if the kids will eat it

Speaking of lentils, my family aren't huge fans. I don't remember eating them as a kid, and don't really have an idea of what to do with them.

But the best way to learn is by doing, so I've become brave and started adding them to my soups. This is how I've gotten my texture-hating son to eat lumpy soups: I spoon out a smaller portion into a different container and use my hand blender to whisk it up into a smoother soup. I give him a toddler-sized amount in his bowl (he will invariably say "That's not enough!", thereby setting the stage for him to want to eat it) and tell him this is the more smooth version and he can try the lumpy version later, if he wants.

The last time I used this method, he not only had two servings of the smooth soup, but ate a few bites of the lumpy soup as well! Ever so gently, his palate is extending. One of these days he will eat those home-made beans. I am determined.

-5-

Not my granola, but looks tasty
I've also made some granola recently. In my efforts to steer clear of store bought, sugar laden breakfast foods, I'm planning on getting the kids used to eating homemade granola.

I made the mistake of adding dried fruit to the mix, and while the kids enjoy eating dried fruit on its own, they don't enjoy it in their cereal. Unless it's expensive dried fruit, like blueberries or mango!

The recipe was from a website that I don't have bookmarked, so I can't provide a link. However, I will type it out here, with my own modifications. It originally called for a lot more sweeteners than I used, which probably helped it clump up like store-bought granola. Mine isn't clumpy at all, so it's more like muesli. But tastier; I think muesli tastes like dust....

Simple Home Made Granola

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbs vanilla
8 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or other nuts (I used mixed chopped nuts this time)
1 cup of desiccated coconut
2+ tsp cinnamon (I was very generous with this amount)
1/4 - 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dried fruit (I used a mixture of apple, raisins and peaches, cut into tiny pieces)

1. Heat oven to 350F/175C
2. Mix oil and honey in a saucepan, warming to combine
3. Mix all dry ingredients, except fruit, in a lightly oiled, large roasting pan (I used a giant disposable turkey roaster with high sides, which worked beautifully)
4. Pour the honey and oil mixture over the dry ingredients, stir until coated.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, bake for 10 minutes more.
6. Remove from oven and add dried fruit. Stir and let cool completely.
7. Store in airtight container.
8. Makes 10 cups.


This post is brought to you by Women in the Scriptures, and her Friday blog hop!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Living Chemical Free, Part 6: Oil Cleansing Method

Previously, on Living Chemical Free:

Part 1 talked about washing hair without any shampoo, with additional uses of baking soda listed in Part 2.

In Part 3, I give you my homemade deodorant recipe.

Part 4 gets a little nutty. Soap nutty, that is. Oh, I should have been a comedian!

And if you want to dump the toothbrush and toothpaste, in Part 5 I'll give you alternatives to black teeth.


Oil Cleansing Method

Today I want to talk to you about your face washing routine. Do you use a cleanser? When I was a teenager, my mom took me to the Clinique counter where I got a simple set of makeup and a foaming cleanser to wash the stuff off.

I don't have any horror stories to tell about washing my face. Sometimes I did it, often I didn't, and I had the average amount of facial breakouts as a result.

However, something that annoyed me when I realised it in my late teens or early 20s, was when I noticed that my blackheads weren't going away. Nope. They took up residence in my pores when I was 13 or so, and got comfortable.

I've tried a few different things. Popping them doesn't yield permanent results. (I know, gross, but seriously - we all do it) Those cool little sticky strips that pull out several dozen blackheads at once don't, either. Face masks, toner washes, hydrogen peroxide, homemade oatmeal soaps, and so on. Nothing made much of a difference.

But where those other concoctions went wrong was at the very basic level of chemistry: like dissolves like. In a nutshell, that link states that the same molecules, arranged in different but similar solutions, become "miscible" when combined together. They are pratically interchangeable.

When I came across the idea of the oil cleansing method, and people touted it as a way to get rid of blackheads, I was intrigued. I am now in my 30s, and those blackheads are not going away. If someone told me I would still have zits and blocked pores at this age when I was first going through puberty, I probably would have cried.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have tried oil cleansing a grand total of two times. I can't guarantee that it gets rid of blackheads entirely, because I think you would have to do it regularly, a couple of times a week or even daily for a long stretch of time before getting consistent results. But! I did see a real reduction in blackheads.

I think I really need to incorporate this into a weekly routine, because it has to be worked around my hair washing schedule. As much as I appreciate the chemistry component of using oil to wash oil off my face, I still don't want it getting in my hairline on a non-wash day.

So my plan is this: On a hair wash day, when I wake up, I need to prepare my baking soda mixture first thing so it is cooled enough to pour on my scalp an hour or so later. After that is mixed, I can take a few minutes to wash my face.

1. I've already mixed the oil in advance and left it in the kitchen (be prepared to label the jar, because to my family it looks like honey!). This website has a great list of oil ratios to use, depending on skin type. You want to use a mix of castor oil and a carrier oil (olive oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, etc); I used half castor oil and half olive oil because I thought it was a good starting point. If you have oily skin, increase the castor oil to 2/3 and decrease the carrier oil to 1/3. If you have dry skin, do the opposite - 1/3 castor oil and 2/3 carrier oil.

2. Get a bunch of face cloths wet and ready. One of the main reasons I do this in the kitchen is because you want the cloths hot and wet to steam your skin a bit. Rather than waste a bunch of hot water, I zap them in the microwave for 10-15 seconds at a time, when I'm ready to use one.

3. Wet your face with hot water, pour a little oil in the palm of your hand, and start massaging it into the skin.

4. Rub the oil into your face for a good 10 minutes. Make sure to focus on the areas that give you the most trouble - for me it is my nose and chin, and if I don't take the time to rub the oil into those areas thoroughly, I don't get the best results.

5. Get a hot, wet cloth and hold it on your face for a minute or two. Then start wiping your face.

6. Once the cloth cools down, heat another one and wipe your face again.

7. Repeat the above step until you have washed all the oil off.

8. Enjoy the feeling of sparkling clean skin! Marvel at the lack of blackheads (maybe)!


A small warning: Some people online mention a settling in period, much like giving up shampoo, where the pores of their skin become unclogged but the skin keeps over-producing sebum in reaction to using harsh soaps and cleansers. This could make someone feel disheartened and think that the oil cleansing is making his/her face WORSE.

It was suggested that the person stick with it, and wait for a week or two before making a judgement. There should be a substantial difference in the skin's reaction by then.

For another discussion on the oil cleansing method, go here.

This post is more of an informative type one rather than a personal recommendation. I haven't done it enough to say "Yes! It's totally awesome and has changed my life!"

I haven't ever worn makeup regularly or washed my face with soap morning and night. I have often felt bad about the washing thing, like I was slovenly or something, but now I don't think so. Recently someone thought that I was in my early 20s, so my makeup-less, soap-less face must be doing ok from an ageing standpoint!

Or, maybe, those blackheads and zits give me a youthful appearance. Who knows.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Five Things for Friday: Things I Learned When My Daughter Was Sick

Friday blog-hopping again.

-1-

This week, my 9 year old daughter was sick. She went to bed early on Tuesday, and stayed in bed all day Wednesday. Her symptoms made me think she was suffering from a mega migraine, so I took her to the doctor on Thursday morning. She was prescribed anti-nausea medication so she could keep the ibuprofen down and get rid of the headache.

It didn't work, and she grew worse by mid-afternoon. I used the NHS Direct symptom checker and was advised to call immediately. The nurse on the phone asked me to get her to hug her knees and touch her chin to her knees. When she couldn't do it, the nurse immediately called an ambulance. Meningitis was suspected.

This was, understandably, very worrying for me. My daughter was ill and there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it, but wait for the ambulance.

At this point, I learned that I am not organised enough and need to keep my house in order so we can be better prepared in emergencies. This will take a lot of work.

-2-

While at the hospital, my daughter was given the best possible care. We didn't have to wait very long for anything, from the ambulance to the A&E staff to the children's ward. The staff treated her with great respect and dignity, and explained every procedure to her before carrying through with it.

The doctor wasn't sure if it was meningitis, but explained that it was best to treat it as if it was, and scale back treatment appropriately from there. I felt like we were in a bit of a whirlwind of medical treatment, but I also saw the professionalism of the staff and took comfort that this was just another day on the job for them.

I learned that my appreciation for modern medicine and the NHS is fervent and loyal. No matter its current flaws, the NHS takes care of urgent cases promptly and efficiently. I am incredibly grateful.

-3-

When I was told that my daughter would need a lumbar puncture in order to tap spinal fluid and find out what was going on inside her body, I was incredibly worried. Needles in the spine just doesn't sound good!

As I explained things to my daughter, she told me she was afraid. I learned that I am capable of handling my fears and taking on my child's in order to make her feel safer. I never hid the truth of what would be happening, but I was able to keep her calm in the face of pain and the unknown. She leaned on me, and I leaned on God.

-4-

I am in awe of how my daughter handled the situation. We talked a little bit about visualising her fear as a package that she can give to me to hold for her, and during the lumbar puncture she told me her package was in the shape of a large, shining white ball. I asked her what she was going to do with it, and she said she would pop it, and the fear would come out and go into the bin (trash can). 

I never would have imagined that scenario, but she was able to use that visualisation to calm herself and stay still during the 3 attempts. Yes, they put a needle in my baby's spine three times. Ugh.

I learned that my nine year old daughter has inner reserves of strength and resilience that I never thought possible. I truly look up to her for that, and hope that I can help her keep hold of that part of herself and make it stronger as she grows.

-5-

I learned about the power of prayer and positive thinking. When I sent messages to my friends and family about her illness, the flood of well wishes and prayers literally buoyed me up. Knowing that there were people on their knees in behalf of my child was humbling and fortifying. 

Many times in my life I have heard about other people saying they could literally feel the prayers of others helping them get through a tough time. I always thought it was a lovely idea, but never really experienced something so literal. Now that I have, I am 100% certain that prayer is powerful.



My daughter is doing great now. She definitely does not have bacterial meningitis, but she may have had viral meningitis. She is at home for the time being, but will need to go back to the hospital tonight and tomorrow for more medicine and observation. While I type this, she is upstairs laughing with her brother, so I think she'll be okay. :)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Miscarriage, Nearly 3 Years Later

(This post is very religious in nature - specifically my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - but is my opinion only and is not indicative of official doctrine of the Church.)


After my third child was born, I had an IUD fitted. My husband and I decided that we wanted a longer pause between children and, for a short time, even considered fostering as an alternative to having more of our own children.

In the end, however, we decided to try for our fourth (and at that point, what we thought would be our last) child and put the idea of fostering on hold.

Around the beginning of August I had the IUD removed, and less than four weeks later I woke up with extreme nausea and a positive pregnancy test.

I was incredibly surprised at the quick work my body seemed capable of, but gratified by it as well. No waiting, no charting, easy peasy.

Two days later, I started cramping and bleeding, and by the time my husband and I made it to A&E, their pregnancy test came back negative. I was pregnant, and then I wasn't. It was over.

It was a hard time for me. Physically, I was basically going through a miniature labour and delivery process, and mentally I had to stop those thoughts that had already etched themselves in my mind of "when the baby comes" and "this time next year" and "I can't eat that anymore", etc.

Even though I was only 4 or 5 weeks pregnant at the time of the miscarriage, and I had only really known about it for a couple of days before the loss, in my mind, I already had a child. I was preparing for the change and looking ahead to a new future as a mother of four children.

All of that was gone, and there was no way for me to quantify that life that never was. It was as substantial as a puff of smoke, but it left an indelible imprint in my heart.

My husband recovered faster than I did, and came to his own conclusions about the miscarriage. The age-old questions of when life begins and where do those spirits belong had been settled in his mind and his hurt was assuaged.

I wasn't so sure.

After the miscarriage, my body recovered quickly. The bleeding lasted about as long as a period would, and I bounced back enough to get pregnant again just a few short weeks later.

Mentally, I was not prepared to get pregnant so quickly. I was determined to do so, and went about it in an almost clinical manner, but it left me with such ferocious ambivalence that I ended up with morning sickness for the entire nine months.

As a perfect example of my feelings during those ten months (including the month of the miscarriage), I once had a vivid dream of being hugely pregnant and holding a newborn infant in my arms. The baby was mine, but I couldn't remember his name. In the dream, I knew I couldn't have both the pregnancy and the baby, and I woke up terribly sad. I woke up sad a lot of the time back then.

For a long time, I viewed the pregnancy lost and the baby growing within me as two separate entities. Of course I would, right? That is logical, and anyone would tell you that I have been pregnant five times, with four live children.

But my interpretation of my religious beliefs, which include a knowledge of the pre-existence and the idea that our souls have eternal permanence and significance, leads me to a different conclusion.

What if, instead of life beginning and ending at a specific and certain moment, there is fluidity between the two states of being? What if life and death are in fact twin states of being, mirror images of the same path, instead of extreme opposites? What if there is no beginning and no end?

My spirit was not formed alongside my body. I existed before entering mortality, and will continue to exist after death. Of this I am certain, and it brings me great comfort.

And what of my children? What of those spirits who have yet to be born into fleshy tabernacles? Do they inhabit their bodies the moment conception occurs? When do they become permanently tethered to their mortal bodies?

In the months after the miscarriage, and in the early weeks of my subsequent pregnancy, I couldn't get a firm grasp in my mind of what that interrupted embryo actually meant to me. Was it a child lost? Was it someone I would get to meet in the next life, his or her mortality - abrupt as it was - already achieved?

Many women who suffer pregnancy loss name the child. They often have a firm idea of what the sex was, even before it would have been possible to find out via medical means.

This was not the case for me. As time went by, and as I entered my 8th month of pregnancy (and the month of my previous due date), I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Perhaps it was time healing my wounds, and the anticipation of the living baby about to be born, but I think I was finally accepting what my husband felt all along. Our fourth child was already here. The pregnancy I lost didn't mean I lost the chance to raise a spirit child of God. For whatever reason, the timing wasn't right, or the embryo didn't develop correctly, and she waited for another chance.

Life is precious. It is not to be created and thrown away; we are given this almost unfathomable gift of creation, but have not been given the right to decide where and when it ends. God decides the outcome of our mortality. Although I believe that our entrance into mortality is a gradual process, and that there is a certain amount of fluidity between the mortal and spirit worlds, I also believe that each person has a different experience with this. A child could be stillborn at 22 weeks, while another could survive and (eventually) thrive after 22 weeks gestation. I do not claim to have the answers for everyone's situation, but I have come to terms with mine.

I am not missing a child. I have been pregnant five times, and have four living children, but we are all here. She was there all along, but it just didn't work out the first time.

This brings me peace. It takes away my fear of future pregnancies and possible miscarriages, and helps me to understand the Plan of Salvation that little bit better. I love the idea that birth and death are sacred ordinances that should not be treated lightly, and that are not fully understood at this point in our existence.

I think one of the reasons my church has no official stance on miscarriage is that each situation is undoubtedly unique. I take comfort from the scripture quoted in the above link:
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:3–5.)
May the comfort of the Holy Ghost and the love of God help us all to glory in our tribulations, whatever they may be.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Five Things for Friday: This Was My Week

-1-


This past week, my baby turned two. How did that happen? I am constantly bewildered on my children's birthdays. I don't understand how time has passed so quickly, and my tiny little newborn suddenly becomes a walking, talking, mind-of-her-own, full blown person. It's pretty amazing.

We had a low-key day, and thanks to Her Majesty's Jubilee celebrations, my husband even had the day off work! She had presents in the morning, we went out to breakfast, Daddy took her shopping with her birthday money (a cherished tradition) and we had her favourite foods: curry and fruit. 

She loves spicy food, so we compromised (the other kids don't like it at ALL) and had Butter Chicken. Mmmmm. The child also doesn't care much for cake (I know, it's an odd preference) so I made a rainbow fruit platter instead.

It was demolished faster than a cake would be!


I'm quite proud of how pretty it turned out.
The white is a small cup of cream to pour over the fruit.


About to blow out the candles

Happy birthday to my sweet little girl! We're so happy to have her in our family.

-2-


I was recently up at 3am -- I keep falling asleep at 8 o'clock and then waking in the middle of the night, then falling back to sleep again until morning -- and I did some online shopping.

I don't suggest this.

I made the decision to buy a couple of new potties because I kept buying the cheap ones for my toddler and they kept getting destroyed. Two of them got cracks in the base (I've been forced to tape it up for the time being) and one was completely shattered when one of the older children accidentally landed on it (ouch!).

It seemed like false economy to keep buying cheapie potties that I had to replace every few weeks, so I bought this fancy-schmancy round potty with an insert. Will it stand up to the rigors of my home life? 

Sometimes I think companies should hire my children for quality control testing. If it survives two weeks in my house, it will survive anything.

Anyway, delirious with odd sleeping hours and determined to buy a quality product, I went to Amazon and spent £15 on a pot to pee in.

I won't get it until next week, but it better be amazing. She'd better pee in that thing all the time, because right now she waits until the last second and that behaviour is getting old FAST.
Why is this so expensive? Who knows.


-3-


As previously mentioned, this week was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We had a four day weekend, and went to a party.

I dressed in red, white and blue, with a 50s style 'do, because any chance for me to dress up is worth taking.

I'm not much of a royalist. I think it's kind of neat that Kate Middleton ended up married to a Prince (modern day story-tale come true!), but I'm more of the opinion that people with lots of money should spread the wealth more. 

Recently, I took a trip to London with my daughter and we went to the Royal Mews. The pomp and circumstance, the expensive accoutrements that accompany the Royal Family over the history of this country kind of made me sad. So many people lived and died without enough food or a decent shelter overhead, while the Kings and Queens lived in luxury and rode in gold-plated carriages. It just doesn't seem right.

So I guess I'll always be more American than British, no matter how long I live here! But I do love the UK, overall. It is my home, and Elizabeth II, by default, is my queen.  

60 years in any job is probably worth celebrating.


-4-


The Wearing of Skirts continues. I started in the beginning of May as part of a fun challenge, and it turns out I vastly prefer wearing skirts compared to jeans or trousers. 

I have a wide variety of skirts now, from denim to corduroy, utilitarian to flowing and girlie, casual and formal.

They are more comfortable for me and help me to stay a bit more dressed up in my day-to-day life. Mentally, it helps me feel more prepared for the day and I actually look forward to choosing what I will wear rather than just throwing something on and not caring how I looked.

I'm happy with the change and probably won't go back to jeans any time soon!
I might just make one of each.


-5-


It's time for a hair cut.

I haven't cut my hair in a very long time, because I mostly hate it. I dislike the whole experience - small talk, people touching my face, the disappointment that a new hair style didn't magically transform me into the model in the picture (I'm not the only one, am I?), the cost at the end...

But I can't put it off any more. My hair has gotten pretty long by now, and it's all different lengths. More than that, it is getting major split ends. I can break my hair off at the ends and that's not a good thing! So I have to bite the bullet and get a trim.

It is with more than a little trepidation, however, because I'm finally starting to enjoy my longer hair! I recently learned how to do a fishtail braid! I am hoping to grow it out a lot longer so I can try other fancy things with it. Long hair is FUN and I never really noticed it before.

Run away!!



This blog post is brought to you by Women in the Scriptures blog hop. Join in the fun!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Living Chemical Free, Part 5: Alternative Ways of Cleaning Teeth

Living Chemical Free is BACK!


Go "no poo" with part 1.

Discover the many uses of baking soda in part 2.

Part 3 gives you tips on how to avoid deodorant altogether.

Part 4 has instructions on how to make laundry soap with natural ingredients.



Imagine you wake up in the morning, rub the sleep out of your eyes, and instead of grabbing one of these
you walk out the back door and break a stick off of one of these

Freaky weird, right? Not for most of the world! According to a 2000 article from the American Chemical Society:

Chewing sticks, pencil-sized sticks made from the root or stem of local trees and shrubs, are chewed on the end until they become frayed into a brush. People then clean their teeth with these frayed sticks - simultaneously removing plaque and massaging their gums.
"While tooth-brushing with toothpaste is arguably the most common method of oral hygiene in developed nations, a large portion of the world's population does not use toothbrushes," says Christine Wu, Ph.D., an associate professor of periodontics in the College of Dentistry at UIC and a co-author of the study. In many countries, including India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, chewing sticks are important tools for oral healthcare.

Hmmm. The Middle East, Asia and Africa? That is the bulk of the world's population, right there. Billions of people, over thousands of years, and they generally all have their teeth? There must be something to this!

I wanted to try it out, so I bought a pack of 10 sticks, known as Miswaks. For those of you who don't want to click the link, a Miswak is a teeth cleaning twig from Muslim countries, and its virtues are extolled by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad himself. I personally don't place religious significance on it, but I found it interesting that Islam refers to oral hygiene practices.


This was the packaging my sticks came in, a few days after my eBay order.

The sticks are surprisingly soft and supple. They don't feel like they are made of wood at all! The bark is smooth, and easy to cut away. 

In order to use a Miswak, you must cut a small amount of bark away from the tip of the stick, and then chew on the end to fray the wood into "bristles." 

I made the mistake of trying this out for the first time in front of the children; the taste is STRONG. It has a distinct antiseptic flavour that is nowhere near the taste of your regular foaming mint toothpaste! My reactions to the taste put them off for several weeks before they would even attempt to try it.

I got used to the taste, and now, it doesn't seem all that strong at all! 

Once the stick is frayed and ready for use, just scrub your teeth with it. Maybe put a splash of water on the end, but that's all that is needed. Easy! They also last forever; all you need to do to freshen up the end is cut it off and fray some new wood for bristles. It's sort of like sharpening a pencil, so the stick will last until you can't hold it anymore!

Why bother buying teeth cleaning sticks on eBay, though? I mean, toothbrushes are cheap and plentiful, and toothpaste has a pleasing mint taste. 

Well, toothpaste is often too abrasive, for a start. There is also the fluoride issue, which I don't really have enough knowledge to comment on, but many people wish to avoid that chemical as much as possible. (more power to 'em!)

Have a peek at the list of ingredients in your toothpaste. Kind of a long list, huh? Several unpronounceable ingredients? Some of them are likely to be toxic

If a stick from a tree works just as well (if not better) than a toothbrush (made out of petroleum-based plastics) and toothpaste (full of nasty chemicals), then why not give it a go? It won't hurt you and may be a perfect addition to your chemical-free lifestyle.

RePost: Home Education, Our Journey


I originally posted this at LDS Parenting, but wanted to share it over here since I closed down my Home Ed blog (too many blogs, not enough time!).

======================================================
When our oldest child was just a tiny baby, I found a book in the
library entitled "Free Range Education." As I read it, the Spirit really
testified to me that this was the way we should raise our children. My
husband was in complete agreement, and we spent many hours talking about
how we would educate them and things we would do together as a family.
It was exciting!

Life seems simple when your oldest child is an infant, however. When she
was 18 months old, we had our son, and I experienced post partum
depression. My memories of those months after his birth are tinged with
a black cloud and I felt I couldn't cope with anything in my life, let
alone home education. I sadly shelved the idea and started looking into
local nursery schools when my daughter was turning three; I was pregnant
with our third baby, and I thought that no "break" from small children
would likely tip me over the edge. I was also very afraid of PPD
striking once more and wanted some forced structure in my day that would
require me to actually get dressed in the mornings....

The Lord was patient with my insecurities. Even as I enrolled my
children into school and began my life of shuffling them from one place
to the next, in the back of my mind I wished for a way to return to my
dream of home education. I still didn't feel confident, even amid my
misgivings of sending my sweet daughter to full-time school at
four-and-a-half years old. Thankfully, around this time, I was blessed
with a new friend; she and her family moved to the ward from America,
and this amazing, sweet woman has home educated her seven children from
the beginning. I learned at her knee what wonderful experiences could be
had with home educating your children. As I got to know her and told her
of my desires to home educate, she was so kind in answering my questions
and addressing my concerns.

My dream to home educate, re-awoken through meeting my friend, had
blossomed into a fervent prayer after two years of friendship among our
families.
.
I also began to get angry about the pattern of our lives. Why was I
sending my children to school for 6.5 hours each day? Why were these
little ones coming home with so much homework? Why did I have to turn
into the "mean mother" just to get them out the door and then force them
into bed at night after only spending a few hours with them -- just so
they wouldn't be too tired for school the next day?

I thought about raising our family from an eternal perspective, and I
wondered how I could effectively raise my children in the gospel and
create a strong family bond if we never really spent time together.
Amid these thoughts forming in my mind, life continued apace. I gave
birth to our fourth child and my husband changed jobs. The job change
meant that we would move closer to his office, giving us the final
opportunity to literally change the pace of our entire lives and home
educate our children.

Looking back on these events in my life, I can see that I had a lack of
faith in many ways; with a stronger testimony and faith in the Lord, I
think we could have home educated from the beginning. Even so, our
family is benefitting greatly from the Lords blessings now, even as we
do our best to follow His promptings.

We moved to our new house at the beginning of the year, and we started
home education at the same time. I expected it to be incredibly
stressful for our children and that they would be terribly sad about the
move. Instead, they have grown closer together as siblings, and
genuinely enjoy each other's company.

I am a better mother now than I ever was before. I have that most
precious of resources - time. Gone are the days of rushing around in the
morning trying to find school bags, permission slips and that lone shoe.
Gone are the afternoons of enforcing home work, cooking dinner and
tucking them into bed before it gets too late. We can read that extra
chapter of a bed time story now. We can spend all afternoon colouring or
walking in the park. We can chat, and talk, and converse, and discuss,
and shoot the breeze.

So many people this year have called me "super woman" or ask "How do you
do it?"

I don't feel like super woman. Just ask my kids! These days they have a
front and centre show to The Imperfections of Mother. But I am so happy
living this life. I feel incredibly blessed to spend this time with my
children and guide their learning in all things - physical, temporal,
spiritual. My answer to the question of "How do you do it?" is: "How
could I not?"

Friday, 1 June 2012

Illness, Obsessions, Sleep and a Question

This has been kind of a weird week.

Nearly every night this week, I've fallen asleep with the toddler. If I did this in the past, I would generally wake up about 1am, stay awake for a couple of hours, then go back to sleep again. It worked, apart from the fact that I never saw my husband! Not good.

But this week, I stay asleep all night. I guess it's the heat, which I know better not to complain about, but it still has a wilting affect. We've been out and about trying to enjoy it to the max, so business coupled with blazing sunshine can really take it out of a person.

My husband came home early from work on Wednesday and spent the day feeling horrible. We high-tailed it outta there (I'm a terrible sick-nurse!) and left him to sleep it off. He stayed home on Thursday as well, and I've tried to give him a wide berth because if I get sick, I don't get much time off at all!

I spent the day yesterday working on another skirt. This time it will be a fitted, gored skirt with two layers. I am experimenting with French seams and Hong Kong seams. It will have a zipper and a separate waistband with a button enclosure. I am both enjoying the process (because I am learning as I go along) and terrified that I will completely mess it up.

The French seams are looking pretty amazing, if I do say so myself, and the waistband shouldn't be too tricky. The most worrying aspect of constructing the skirt is the two layers combined with the zip. They need to be joined together for the zipper installation, but I want them to be separate after that. If that makes any sense; it barely even makes sense to me!

Going from quilting, basic alterations and circle skirts to actually constructing a well-fitted garment from scratch is a daunting leap! I keep thinking about the next steps, and I'm pretty sure I dreamed about it last night. I really want to get it done this weekend, which will require me to actually stay awake past 9pm tonight. Wish me luck on that one.

I'm working on a borrowed sewing machine right now, and am anxiously awaiting the return of my machine from the shop. Thankfully it only needed a thorough servicing rather than anything broken needing fixing. Hurray for sewing!

Okay, and my question: Why does my toddler always freak out at me when I try to do the dishes? Every single time! Rawr.