Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Blog Domain/URL

From now on to get to my blog, go to!  I have a new domain name and url!  Everything else should stay the same, so you will still be able to access everything that was on my blog.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More On Breastfeeding...

Through my discussion with the Lactation Consultant last week and talking to my midwife about it, I have decided to purchase a few more items that will help with breastfeeding (if need be!).  I have been avoiding the SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) because it has always seemed so complicated.  I was worried that it would make breastfeeding more stressful.  But I have been told numerous times by people who know what they are doing (LC's and midwives) that if I DO need to supplement, this is really the best way to do it.  So, Robert and I decided that because I want to try everything possible, that it would be worth investing the money in.  So, I bought one today.  We had some money set aside for "baby" items, so we had the money for it...  I just don't understand why they are so expensive because it is just some plastic, but if I can make breastfeeding work because of it, then it will be worth it :).  The reason why this is the best way to supplement is because the baby won't experience a bottle at all.  The issues that I remember having with Ethan were that he wouldn't want to breastfeed as much because he was getting his food much faster and easier with a bottle, so he was just frustrated all the time.  It made the times that we were breastfeeding much more stressful.  Plus, I would have to breastfeed, then bottle feed.  It made feeding twice as long.  This way, the baby will be feeding only at the breast, so it will ultimately make feeding less stressful.

I also purchased an herbal tincture that I have read (and been told by the LC and midwife) will definitely help with supply.  It is called Motherlove More Milk Special Blend.  The one I bought is a tincture because it absorbs much faster and better than capsules.  It is considered to be much more potent.  It contains the herbs Goat's Rue, Fenugreek Seed, Blessed Thistle, Nettle Leaf, and Fennel Seed (each link contains information on the website- great info!).  Goat's Rue is the most important one because this out of all herbs have been shown to even produce milk in mothers who are adopting babies!  It stimulates development of actual mammary tissue.  The most awesome thing is that I got a 2 oz bottle for $8.99 because they had it marked wrong at Central Market :).  I actually bought two of them for $18!  They are normally at least that for one :).  So, I should have plenty to last me a long time, and I paid less than half for it. 

My plan is to start the herbal tincture and pumping after each feeding immediately and hope that I don't have to supplement.  But, if I do have to, then I am already set and don't have to worry about purchasing the SNS.  If I don't have to use it, then I can take it back and get my money back.  That would be ideal for many reasons! :)

I also ended up buying some brewer's yeast at Central Market (got just the amount that I needed in the bulk section!) to make some Lactation Cookies (although I plan to modify the recipe quite a bit to make them healthier... I may even try to make some lactation muffins or something!).  I think between pumping, herbs, and food items that help produce more milk, I should be set.  And if not, then I know I did EVERYTHING I could.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Post: Breakfast Mixes, Protein Bars, Meal Planning

Yesterday I ended up making:
~ 5 batches of whole wheat biscuit mix
~ 3 batches of whole wheat pancake mix
~ 4 batches breakfast cookie mix
~ 4 batches peanut butter baked oatmeal mix
~ 2 batches of protein bars (made them and will put them in individual bags to freeze)
~ Breakfast taco filling (actually, Robert made this)

The protein bars are AMAZING and EASY.  Let me explain how I made them (just a little different than the recipe from Passionate Homemaking):

Place these ingredients in the food processor and pulse until almost a paste:
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
In a pan on the stove, melt 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 tbsp maple, 1 tbsp honey, and 3 tbsp vanilla.  Pour this mixture into food processor and pulse it all together.  Spread into baking dish and chill in refrigerator.  Melt 1/8-1/4 bag chocolate chips and spread in thin layer over bars.  Chill for at least 30 minutes.  Cut and eat :).  You can freeze these as well!
These taste so much better than the "store bought" kind and are much less processed. 

Today, I spent the afternoon working on my meal plan and organizing many things.  Here is what I came up with (though still a work in progress!):

I made a spreadsheet on google docs titled Meal Planning, and it has three different tabs: List of Meals for the Month, Weekly Meal Plan, and Shopping List.

Each month, I will come up with a list of 21 meals for the month.  I realize there are 30-31 days, but we always end up having tons of leftovers. 

With that list of 21 meals, I will make my weekly meal plan.  As part of my weekly plan, each day I included a way to write what I need to do to prep for the next day (if there's anything).

The third tab is my grocery list.  It is very short right now because I just did a big shopping trip last week.  I did decide that I'm going to go ahead and get some more chickens at the Farmer's market this weekend, and some fruit, but that's all we should need for a while :).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Freezer Meals Update

In the past two days, I have gotten a lot done, but I am tired now.  I think I have over done it!  I am adjusting my plan a little bit again because I don't know how much more I can do!

On Monday, I cut up veggies:
~ 2 bags of veggies for roasts (carrots, potatoes, and onions)
~ Veggies for black bean wraps
~ Sliced bell peppers
~ Sliced mushrooms
~ Veggies for shepherd's pie
~ Onions for meatloaf
~ Veggies for homemade pasta sauce

~ Bag of cut up squash and zucchini
~ Cut up potatoes, onions, and ham for Cream Cheese Potato soup

On Tuesday (with the help of Robert!), I cooked meat and put some meals together:
~ 2 Shepherd's Pies
~ 2 bags of prepared homemade pasta sauce
~ Meatloaf- prepared and frozen
~ Rice and chicken bake
~ Cooked black beans and bagged them in several small bags
~ Cooked pinto beans and bagged them in several small bags
~ Cooked 3 pounds of pan sausage... using one today in breakfast tacos to freeze.  The other two will be for pizzas.
~ Cooked 2 pounds of extra ground venison
~ Cooked 2 pounds of extra ground turkey
~ Cooked 2 whole chickens and pulled meat from bone (Robert is going to cube it all today)... froze the broth as well.

We still have (uncooked, frozen) 3 pounds of grass fed beef, 2 1/2 pounds of ground Turkey (this is from a while back... not a fan of it, but we have it), about 5 pounds of ground venison, 1 pound of nitrate free bacon, lots of pinto and black beans, etc.  Unfortunately, we're out of chicken :(.  We'll see if I decide to buy any more or not... it's pretty expensive for quality pastured chickens. 

My plan for the rest of the freezer meals is to just make the specific meals for dinners the next week or two and make a double or triple batch (depending on what it is):
~ Creamy Mac N Cheese (triple batch, freeze two)
~ Pizza (make 3 batches of dough and sauce and freeze)
~ Chicken Divan (double batch, freeze one)
~ Spinach Rice Casserole (triple batch, freeze one)
~ Broccoli Chicken Bake (double batch, freeze one)

I still plan to make several breakfast mixes and things.  Robert is off today and tomorrow, so I want to get as much done as possible (with his help!).  Here is the plan for this:

Today, Wednesday:
~ Biscuit mixes
~ Banana Muffin mixes
~ Pizza dough (in the bread maker on dough setting!)
~ Breakfast cookie mixes
~ Breakfast tacos (Robert's making some tacos for breakfast and we're just doubling the batch)

Tomorrow, Thursday:
~ Granola and bars
~ Protein bars
~ Peanut butter baked oatmeal mix
~ Whole Wheat Pancakes (several batches to freeze)

~ Whatever I don't get to on Wednesday and Thursday :)

37 Week Appointment

My midwife came yesterday for my 37 week appointment.  Things are looking great.  She's thinking that Levi is about 7 lbs right now, which puts him about where my other kids were at this point.  She checked me and I am 1 cm dilated, about 50% effaced, and the baby is VERY low (already at about 0 station if you know what that means!).  She thinks that the cramping that I had the other day was from the baby dropping (since she had seen me the day before and he wasn't as low).  So, the cramping wasn't in vein :).  She thinks that it could be another 2 weeks or so, but that he could come any time.  If he waits 2 weeks, that means that all of my kids will be born at around the 39 week mark.  She doesn't seem to think that it will be longer than 2 weeks, though, which means no matter what, he'll be here SOON!  I can hardly believe that it's almost time!! 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Household Notebook

Today I spent a little while re-organizing my Household Notebook so that I would start using it again :).  It didn't take a whole lot of work because I try desperately to keep it simple.  If you spend too much time organizing, it can make things more complicated... and you don't end up getting anything else done!  So, again, my goal is SIMPLE.  Here are some pictures of it (nothing is filled in because I just started it over!):

The daily docket I actually found on a blog titled Simple Mom.  She has a lot of great resources for organization.  The whole idea behind the "daily docket" is that it is a simple way to organize your day without making a rigid schedule or putting too much on your list.  And, it helps you to focus on your priorities.  I love it. 

This is my weekly master checklist.  This was actually created when we lived in our old house, so I will need to adjust it some (because we have more rooms now!).  I don't plan to worry about this for a little while since I will be having a newborn soon :).  I will need to get back into some kind of normal routine first!

Here I will put my weekly menus as well as monthly menus.  Right now all that is in it is my meal plan for after we have Levi. 


Behind the plan is 19 pages of recipes.  These are the most common meals that we fix. 

This is my list of household staple items for my monthly shopping (to make sure that I have all of the things on this list each month).  I will use this to make my shopping list.

This is the information from the Farm where I buy my raw milk, eggs, and some meat.

This is an order form for some grass fed beef.  I will order from Wild Type Ranch as well as Dyer Dairy.


I have a spreadsheet made of our monthly budget (it's on the left, inside the page protector), but we will use this one each paycheck to budget everything that we need at that time.

There's not a whole lot here right now... I plan to pick up on this next fall.  I have decided that it's not realistic right now :).

This is a blank lesson plan form for homeschool preschool.

I have a second notebook that I don't really use very much, but it contains a lot of resources and information.  I will be updating it soon and I will show pictures of it :).  I will call it my resource notebook. 

Revised Plan for Meals after Levi's Birth

Breads, etc:
(make ahead and freeze)

  • Leftovers
  • Dining hall "take out"
  • Sandwiches
  • Boiled eggs, cheese, fruit and/or veggies
  • Grilled cheese
  • Shepherd's Pie (make ahead and freeze, baked)
  • Chicken and dumplings (make ahead and freeze, baked)- this is not the recipe that I usually use, but I figured this would freeze better than mine.  The one I make is more like a soup, and this one is more like a casserole.
  • Beef and Spinach Quiche (make ahead and freeze, baked)
  • Three Cheese Baked Spaghetti (make ahead and freeze, unbaked)
  • Cream Cheese Potato Soup (cut up the potatoes, onion, ham and freeze) 
  • Broccoli Chicken Bake (make ahead and freeze, unbaked w/rice on bottom)
  • Chicken and rice bake (make ahead and freeze)
  • Chicken Divan (make ahead and freeze)
  • Spinach Rice Casserole (make ahead and freeze, unbaked)
  • Meatloaf (make ahead and freeze, unbaked)
  • Pizza (make pizza dough and freeze; make sauce and freeze)
  • Venison roast (cut up potatoes, onions, and carrots) x 2
  • Venison veggie soup (with leftover venison roast; cut up all veggies) x 2
  • Pasta and homemade sauce, veggies (make homemade sauce and freeze)
  • Homemade mac n cheese (make ahead and freeze, unbaked) x 2
  • Beans and cornbread (make beans ahead and freeze)
  • Burritos w/beans, rice, and cheese filling (make ahead and freeze individually wrapped)
  • Soft Tacos
  • Grilled venison backstrap, baked potatoes
  • Oven Roasted Chicken, veggies
  • Breakfast for dinner (as often as necessary!)
  • Black bean wraps (cook black beans and freeze; tortillas will be made and frozen as well; chop up all veggies)
  • Black bean quesadillas (same as above)
  • Taco Salad
If you want these recipes all together, click here

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Conversation with a Lactation Consultant

    My midwife has been encouraging me for a while to call a specific lactation consultant that she uses to just discuss the breastfeeding issues that I've had in the past.  I finally called her on Wednesday, and she called me back yesterday.  We probably talked for at least 15 minutes, which was really sweet of her considering I wasn't paying her :).  I told her of the supply issues that I've had in the past, and she was very helpful; although, I actually knew most of what she was saying because of the book The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk.  She referred to it several times, and told me about the website that goes along with that book.  Apparently, there is no need to buy the book because all the information that I need is on the website :).  It's amazing how much more I've learned about breastfeeding with Kristen (my midwife) and this book/website than I have ever known... and this is my third child!  I've learned the correct way to supplement, I've learned that pumping at the end of a feeding is the best time to pump, that a fenugreek tincture is much better than the capsules, etc.  The best way to supplement, really, is with using a system called an SNS (supplemental nursing system).  It requires you to tape a tube to you that hangs off the end of the nipple so that when the baby is sucking, he/she is receiving some formula as well.  I'm not sure that I can do that... it almost seems more stressful to me and I'm not sure that more stress is a good idea.  So, we'll see if I decide to do that.  But, if I don't use that system, using a bottle with a short nipple and wide base, at the beginning of a feeding instead of the end, is another good way to supplement.  The idea is to give the baby a tiny bit of formula (like maybe a half ounce), then have them finish at the breast.  This way, they feel satisfied with breast milk and not formula through a bottle.  If they are still a bit hungry at the end, increase the formula next time just a little bit.  Eventually, the idea is to decrease it so much that you're not having to supplement at all.  And, after a while, it may only be necessary in the evenings which seems to be the time of day when supply is the lowest.  Middle of the night and morning feedings are the highest in fat content and quantity.
    I've also been encouraged (by my midwife and the lactation consultant) that even if I can't breastfeed exclusively, that I can still breastfeed (I realize that I've mentioned this before!).  Even if I'm breastfeeding 50%, that's still 50% breast milk that my baby is receiving... which is SO beneficial.  As I've said in the past, I've always seen breastfeeding as black and white... if I couldn't do it exclusively, I didn't think I could do it at all.  I also learned that sometimes if you keep trying and working at it, it is possible to eventually be able to breastfeed exclusively.  Which, I figured if I couldn't get enough at the beginning that it wouldn't ever be possible.  It just takes a lot of work!  And, that work is worth it even just to have the closeness that you can have with nursing.  Since this will probably be our last baby, I really want to make it work... even if it's just some.  I'm SO looking forward to being able to try again :).  Can't wait til he's here!

    A Week of Rest

    Yesterday I came home after cramping all day... I called my midwife and she told me to take a few days of doing nothing because she really didn't want the baby coming quite yet.  She would normally deliver at home at this stage, but because I'm so far away from a hospital, she wants me to try to keep him in at least another 5 days or so :).  So, I put off my plans of going to Costco to stock up on food, and rested.  It was kind of sad because I had been looking forward to it all day :(.  I ended up feeling worse in the evening and really thought that maybe I was going to go into labor.  After a bath, some time to rest, and drinking a lot of water and eating dinner, I started feeling better for the most part.  Today, my mom came and took the kids for the weekend... so today I have just been laying around, watching movies, taking baths, napping, etc.  I haven't done this in a long time... in fact, I'm not sure how much I like it... but at least I'm feeling better (for the most part).  I'm having lots of braxton hicks contractions, but they aren't crampy now at least.  We'll see what happens :).  I really think that I probably won't have him tonight or even in the next few days, but I think it'll be somewhat soon.

    The plan the next week or so is to just take it easy.  I will be doing maybe one thing a day off of my "to do list," hoping to at least get the essentials done before Levi makes his way into this world.  A friend of mine will be coming sometime next week to help me by making some freezer meals and things, so that will be really nice :).  I might be blogging more since I can't really do a whole lot else... so if there are lots of new posts all of a sudden, that's why :).  I'll just have to let the kids play and watch movies and we'll all just hang out.  I think this will be good for me since I haven't had a chance to rest because of all that has been going on. 

    I might spend this week resting, only to end up not having Levi until 40 weeks :).  That would be okay!  The longer the better, really.  I just can't wait to hold him, love on him, and nurse him :).  Soon!

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    36 weeks and counting- Still so much to do!!

    I had my 36 week appointment with my midwife today, and it was pretty quick and easy.  Everything still looks great, and now we're just waiting.  If I go into labor at any point now she will deliver at home (before this she would have had me transferred because of it being too early).  She doesn't think it'll happen yet, but she wants me to be prepared just in case :).  I think she's thinking it will happen a little early because the last two babies came 5-7 days early.

    The funny thing is... I am ready (physically... ready to not be pregnant anymore), but I'm really not ready.  I have a lot to do still!  I know that this baby will come when he wants, but I have a long list that I need to complete soon.  My plan is to work on it all this weekend.  Here's my list:

    ~ Prepare the "birth bags"- I need to have 4 different bags: 1) Sheets, 2) Towels, 3) Baby clothes, diapers, etc, and 4) Extras- heating pad, chapstick, baby soap, etc.  All items need to be washed, then placed immediately into bags.
    ~ Go through birth kit to get myself acquainted with everything
    ~ Make/buy some snacks for myself and some easy to cook foods for midwives, etc.
    ~ Clean the house (especially the bathroom and bedroom)
    ~ Finish Levi's room!  He won't be staying in there at first, but it will feel good to get it done.  Paint the white area where we took the wall paper border down, wash his clothes and put them away in drawers, put crib together, etc.
    ~ Wash all parts of breast pump
    ~ Buy a few warmer outfits for Levi (we have a lot of spring/summer clothes, but not many winter!)
    ~ Buy cheap pack of wash cloths, natural baby soap
    ~ Start working on freezer meals, bagged mixes, etc.
    ~ Start doing relaxation exercises that my friend, a Bradley Birth Instructor gave me!

    Okay... so my hope is to get this stuff done... we'll see if it actually all happens this weekend :).  It is only a goal!!

    Sticking with Traditional Fats

    One of my favorite blogs has been doing a series on fats, and like many times, I think she does a much better job of explaining things than I do :).  Her blogs are filled with a lot of info, and it is all easy to understand :).  Check out these blogs on why to eat traditional fats:

    Fats to Eat, Fats to Avoid... or Why I Love Butter
    Huge, but Easy Step Towards a Nourishing Diet: Stick with Traditional Fats, Part 1
    Huge, but Easy Step Towards a Nourishing Diet: Stick with Traditional Fats, Part 2

    We started using butter a long time ago, and coconut oil we started about a year ago.  It took us a lloonnggg time to get used to it, but now we use it in almost everything.  We love the smell and taste of it!  It can also be used for lotion or diaper rash cream!  It's wonderful stuff.  The hardest thing for us to stop using was canola oil... cause lets face it, sometimes it's just nice to have an oil that is practically tasteless.  But, it is horrible stuff.  Now, we only use butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.  It keeps things simple as well!

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Meal Plan for Week of January 18-24

    Last week I planned breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we stuck with the dinners (for the most part), but I ended up just doing whatever on breakfast and lunch... so I'll plan a list like I used to and just choose from the list (except for dinners)!  We will have several leftover nights because we have some in our fridge, and we don't end up eating much of the meals that I do make, and we always have lots leftover.  This week, I will be making an extra of a few of the dinners, etc to begin freezing them in preparation for Levi's birth.  I decided that doing a little bit at a time like that might be the best way to do it!

    So, here's the plan:

    Whole wheat biscuits
    Peanut butter baked oatmeal (a lot leftover from Saturday)
    Homemade yogurt and granola
    Eggs and toast
    Peanut butter and honey sandwich 

    Boiled eggs, cheese, fruit/veggie

    Monday, January 18th
     Potato Ham Soup (with leftover ham- cut up extra potatoes and ham and freeze)

    Tuesday, January 19th
    (camp game night)
    Breakfast- bacon, eggs, toast

    Wednesday, January 20th
    (parenting class at church- excited about it!!)

    Thursday, January 21st
    Shepherd's Pie (make an extra to freeze)

    Friday, January 22nd

    Saturday, January 23rd
    Chicken and rice bake (make an extra to freeze)

    Sunday, January 24th

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    My New Grain Mill

    I bought the grain mill attachment for my kitchenaid stand mixer (it was the cheapest way to buy a grain mill), and I was a little nervous after I read the reviews (of course I was silly and read them AFTER I ordered it!).  I figured that because it was made by kitchenaid, that there wouldn't be any reason to read the reviews!!  Many of the reviews said that you have to grind it a few times, that you can only grind a few cups then have to let it rest for an hour, that it heats up quickly, etc. 
    I received it and used it immediately (after I cleaned it of course!).  I was pleasantly surprised!!  It grinds kind of slow, but it never got hot when I used it!  And, I ground enough flour to make muffins and bread in one evening with no issues.  It never even got warm.  Not only that, but it made the lightest, most fluffy loaf of bread that I've ever made!  It definitely makes a difference to use fresh flour.  I think the problem is that people probably try to grind a bunch to save, but there's no reason to do that.  You might as well buy a bag of flour at the store if you're going to do that.  The point of having a grain mill is to just grind what you need that moment because the nutrients oxidize out of it very quickly!  So, if all I'm doing is grinding what I need at the moment, I will have no issues.

    I'm excited to finally have my grain mill.  I plan to use it OFTEN!  It will just stay set up on my counter :).  The bread that I make now is so easy that I could make a loaf every day and it wouldn't be an issue... and at the rate that we go through homemade bread, that may be reality very soon!  It tastes so yummy and provides so many nutrients. 

    My First Attempt at Homemade Yogurt

    I have seen many "recipes" for making homemade yogurt, but just wasn't sure which one to try.  A friend on facebook posted that she was having homemade yogurt for breakfast, so I asked her which recipe she uses, and she sent me to some videos on You Tube.  I'm so glad that she did because it turned out wonderful, and it was EASY.  Check these out:
    Homemade Yogurt Making Part 1
    Homemade Yogurt Making Part 2

    And, I haven't made this yet, but it looks easy so I will probably be making it soon: Yogurt Cheese

    A few questions that I asked my friend before I made the yogurt were:

    Why heat it to 180 degrees?  Doesn't that pasteurize it?  Isn't that what we're trying to avoid?
    She said that it does sort of pasteurize it, but it doesn't turn out as well if you don't heat it to 180.  When you add the yogurt to it, it adds good bacteria so it's fine.  She said that she tried just heating it to 120, and it was watery when she finished... so, I just did it as the directions said to.

    How long do I let it sit?  I don't want it to be sour.
    The longer you let it sit, the more sour it is.  So, I made mine in the evening and let it sit all night.  When I got up in the morning I stirred it and put it in the refrigerator.  It came out great.  It was NOT sour.  Some people let it sit for up to 18 hours and it turns out fine, just a little more sour.  Really, the longer you let it sit the more good bacteria there is, but I just don't like sour yogurt :).

    Do you have to buy the yogurt culture, or does it work with just a plain yogurt.  If so, how much do I use?

    You don't have to use a yogurt culture.  She used Dannon yogurt, and I actually ended up using one that is made in Austin: White Mountain Bulgarian Yogurt.  This yogurt says on the jar that it's a good one to use as a starter for homemade yogurt.  I used a tablespoon full and just stirred it in real good. In the future I will use a tablespoon from the previous batch.

    Here are the steps, written:
    • Pour two quarts of milk in a saucepan
    • Heat slowly to 180 degrees (I just used a plain old kitchen thermometer)- bring to the point just before it boils
    • Let it cool to 120 degrees
    • Boil water, use it to heat up the jars and the cooler
    • Pour water out
    • Place towel in the bottom of cooler
    • Pour warm milk into 1 quart jars
    • Mix a tablespoon of plain yogurt into each jar
    • Place in cooler, color with several towels
    • Let it sit for 8-12 hours
    • After it sits, stir, and place in refrigerator
    There are many ways to eat homemade yogurt.  Some people just eat it plain.  That wouldn't work for me or the kids, so I experimented.  I added agave nectar and real vanilla to it, and it is YUMMY.  Some other natural sweeteners that you could add are maple or raw honey.  You can also add blueberries, strawberries, bananas, etc.  You can eat it with homemade granola.  It's very good and good for you!!

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    35 Weeks and 1 Day Preggo, etc...

    I started back to work this week, so blogging has been the last thing on my priority list :).  I will be off this weekend, though, and I have several things that I want to write about!!

    I will start tonight with an update on baby Levi :).  I had an appointment today with my midwife.  I am 35 weeks and one day today, and I begin my weekly appointments already.  I can't believe I'm so close!  She checked everything out, and things are looking wonderful.  Levi is in the perfect position, with his head down low.  I'm measuring right on at 35 weeks, my blood pressure is perfect, heartbeat is perfect, and baby is active (more and more each day it seems).  Of course, for the most part, he's still pretty mellow during the night!  I'm still not sleeping great, but at least it's not his movements that are keeping me awake like with Ethan :).  I have only gained 15 pounds so far, but she's not worried at all because the baby seems to be the perfect size (and I only gained a total of 17 pounds with Ethan, so it's not abnormal for me).  This pregnancy is the first one out of the three that everyone HASN'T been telling me how HUGE I am (with the exception of a few people).  In fact, many people tell me that I don't look 35 weeks pregnant.  So, that makes me feel good.  With the other two, I heard all the time that I looked further along than I was.  Here's a pic that Robert took just a little bit ago (keep in mind that it's about 9:30 at night and we just got home from town about 45 minutes ago... and I worked today!):

    Tonight, we picked up some of the last items that we will need for little Levi.  We went ahead and bought some disposable diapers because the BumGenius "One Size" are a bit large for a newborn (although they do start fitting pretty quickly).  I bought some breast pads, nipple cream, and another crib mattress (Ethan is using the one that we had in his toddler bed).  Of course, I'm not sure how soon we'll actually use the crib, but it's good to have.  It may be good for naps :).  We have all of the clothes that we had for Ethan (mostly all borrowed from a friend), but I'm a little concerned that many of them won't work for the season.  We will make it work, even if that means he wears "sleep and plays" a lot.  We still need to do a little bit of work in the nursery, but it shouldn't take long to put together.
    Next week when I meet with my midwife, we will be discussing my plan of "action" for making breastfeeding more successful than with the last two babies... even if that means only 50% of the time.  I want to be able to continue this time no matter what... even if that means I can't do it exclusively.  I will be calling a lactation consultant to discuss my past situations and see what I can do differently.

    I'm real excited about some new things that I have "collected" over this pregnancy to try with Levi.  I bought a new breast pump (quite a while ago now!) that is MUCH more comfortable than the one I had with the last two... which will be good because I plan to start pumping in between feedings immediately to increase milk supply.  It is the Playtex Embrace Double Electric Breast Pump (which I bought for $140 on sale!).  Also, I bought some Fenugreek Tincture, which is an herbal supplement that helps increase milk supply.  I have used the capsules in the past, but my midwife says the tincture is much more potent and will work much better.  I still need to purchase my own The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk book because the one that I read I borrowed from my midwife.  This is an excellent book to have for reference.   
    I recently received my Sleepy Wrap that I ordered through a friend right before Thanksgiving.  I'm excited about that because I hear they are SO comfortable and they keep the baby nice and close so that they don't "dangle" when I bend down (which will be very beneficial since I have two other children).   I also have an Udder Cover nursing cover that I got for free (just paid shipping)!  I'm real excited to try these new things out with Levi!!  I think they will make things a bit easier and more comfortable. 

    All that I need to do now is put together my homebirth bags, which include a bag for towels, a bag for sheets, and a bag for baby things (blankets, clothes, diapers, etc).  I have received my birth kit, so I'm all set there.

    I still have a little bit of preparation around the house, such as planning meals (and making some to freeze), some organizing that I would like to get done before the birth (so I don't have to worry about it afterward), stocking up on some items, etc.  I will work on those one day at a time.  I am pretty busy now that I've started back at school, so I just HOPE that I have time to do these things before Levi makes his presence known, but I'm not going to stress about them.  Everything that is NECESSARY is done... so that's all that matters :). 

    Stay tuned the next few days if you're interested in my first homemade yogurt experience, my new "love affair" with my grain mill, more information on nutrition, updates on how I'm doing with my goals, and the meal plan that I have for after I have the baby.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Dangers of Borax

    Lately I haven't been making my own laundry detergent for many reasons.  One, I found a natural detergent that I love and it is pretty inexpensive (ECOS Free and Clear- $10.99 for 100 loads at HEB).  It works well on Ethan's diapers, so I've just continued to use it.  Two, borax is in every single homemade detergent recipe that I have found, and I have read that it isn't very safe.  Here is a link that discusses this: Nature's Moms, The Dangers of Borax.
    Today, though, I found a great homemade detergent recipe that does not contain borax (I'm a apart of a website called Cafemom, and a mom shared it).  Here it is:

    2 gallons Water (hot)
    1 bar Soap (grated)
    2 cups Baking soda (yes baking soda–not washing soda)
    • Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
    • In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well.
    • Then add the baking soda, stir well again.
    • Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.
    I will probably continue using ECOS for Ethan's diapers because his skin is VERY sensitive and baking soda isn't pH balanced (and ECOS is), but for everything else, I plan to start using homemade soon.  I'll let you know how it turns out!!

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Nourishing Our Children

    I found a wonderful article today based on the principles of the Weston A. Price foundation.  It is titled Nourishing Our Children: Our Food Pyramid.  It goes into detail of what the best types of foods are and why.  I'm still working on getting to the point of feeding my family all of this, but it's a good place to start :).  

    This Week's Meal Plan

    This week's meal plan is from groceries that we already have (for the most part!).  It's nice to get back into the swing of things.  Last week, we planned meals for Monday-Wednesday and didn't finish the plan.  So, what did we do?  We ended up eating out Thursday and Friday we ate in the dining hall (which I have planned to NOT do for dinner!).  So, we NEED a plan!! 

    Monday, January 11th
    Breakfast: Homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs
    Lunch: Dining Hall
    Dinner: Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken, whole wheat pasta, squash

    Preparation: Mix cold/wet ingredients with prepared biscuit mix and bake; Thaw chicken (pull out Sunday; begin chicken 8 hours before dinner)

    Tuesday, January 12th
    Breakfast: Homemade Chocolate Swirl Muffins
    Lunch: Sandwich, yogurt, fruit, cheese cubes, boiled egg (teaching)
    Dinner: Leftovers

    Preparation: Bake muffins (Monday)

    Wednesday, January 13th
    Breakfast: Egg sandwich
    Lunch: Sandwich, carrots, crackers, mixed nuts, boiled egg (teaching)
    Dinner: Pasta and homemade sauce, steamed broccoli

    Preparation: Thaw ground beef (put in refrigerator Tuesday morning)

    Thursday, January 14th
    Breakfast: Egg wrap, fruit
    Lunch: Cottage cheese, carrots, boiled egg, crackers (teaching)
    Dinner: Homemade Sloppy Joes

    Preparation: Bake buns (Wednesday)

    Friday, January 15th
    Breakfast: Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal
    Lunch: Dining Hall
    Dinner: Leftovers

    Saturday, January 16th
    Breakfast: Sausage and homemade whole wheat pancakes
    Lunch: Dining Hall
    Dinner: Rice and Beans

    Preparation: Soak and slow cook beans, thaw sausage (put in refrigerator Friday)

    Sunday, January 17th
    Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos
    Lunch: Out with friends? (if not, leftovers)
    Dinner: Seven Layer Taco Salad

    Preparation: Bake potatoes for tacos, thaw ground beef

    Raw Milk

    Yesterday, Robert and I drove out to Dyer Dairy in Georgetown to pick up my reserved batch of raw milk.  I have tasted the milk, and I knew that I loved the way it tasted, so we went ahead and picked up enough to last us a while (we put some in the freezer).  They actually milked it yesterday, so it is completely fresh.  Several things that I love about this particular farm is that they are Grade "A" (see below the benefits of being grade "A"), they are inspected MONTHLY (which means everything is looked over AND they test the milk), and they are the least expensive that I have found in the area (at the same price as the organic milk I had been buying).  Also, when it took a little longer for us to show up yesterday, they actually called me to make sure I was coming so they didn't sell the milk (the only reason they even had my number is because I called them once).  They care about their customers.  When I got there, I was amazed.  About 2 1/2 months ago, they set up The Mercantile at Dyer Dairy.  It's a little "store" and they sell a lot of things that I have been looking for.  Not only do they have raw milk, they sell fresh eggs, grass fed beef, bulk beans (of different types), raw honey, raw cheeses, etc.  Their grass fed beef is now officially the cheapest I have found (CHEAPER than ground beef in the grocery store!!).  Their organic bulk beans are a great price, and their raw honey is cheaper than I have found any where else (at $11 for a quart).  It made me very happy :).  The only thing that they don't sell that I need to find is whole chickens.  They had free range turkeys for sell (at $2 a pound!), so maybe they also sometimes sell chickens.  We'll see!  I should ask them :).  I have been buying them when they go on sale for 99 cents a pound at Sprouts, but they aren't cage free.  So, I would like to find a local source in my price range. 

    The safety and benefits of raw milk have been a question many times.  That is really because of a lack of information (just like with homebirth!).  Most people have just gone on what they have been told for years (and I had too, until recently).  Yes, when pasteurization first began, it was because people were getting sick from raw milk.  But, it was because of the horrible farming practices that were happening, not because of the actual milk.  So, instead of fixing the issue by correcting the bad farming practices, they just started pasteurizing it (which depletes the milk of most of the nutrition).  I have given information on raw milk in the past, but the blog titled "Miraculous Milk" goes into all the details of WHY to drink raw milk.  Not only does he give a great breakdown, he gives many other resources to check out.  He did a much better job than I can, so I'll just leave you to read up on it on your own :).  One really cool thing is that you can actually live on raw milk alone and thrive!

    Below are the standards that must be met in order to be a Grade "A" Raw Milk Facility (this is directly from the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Raw Milk Fact Sheet):

    If a condition is found that poses an imminent health hazard, the department is required to suspend the dairy’s permit immediately (217.26d)
    •Samples of the milk are collected at least every six weeks and tested for: bacterial counts, coliform counts, somatic cell counts, water adulteration, and cooling temperatures. (217.27)
    •At least twice every six months, the samples are also tested for pathogenic bacteria
    •At least four times every six months, the samples are also tested for antibiotics

    Grade A raw milk must meet the following standards (217.28)
    •Cooled to 45 degrees or less within 2 hours (also regulated in 217.29s).
    •Somatic cell counts not to exceed 750,000 per milliliter (ml) for cow’s milk or 1,000,000/ml for goat’s milk.
    •Bacteria limits of 20,000 per ml (not applicable to cultured products).
    •Coliform not to exceed 10 per ml.
    •Pathogen limit of zero.

    Section 217.29, Sanitization Requirements for Grade A Raw Milk, has 20 subparts, which have in turn multiple sub-subparts, of rules (217.29). Some highlights include:
    •Abnormal milk shall be discarded, and animals which show evidence of abnormal secretion must be isolated from the non-abnormal milk and equipment cleaned (a)
    •Milk barn must meet detailed construction and cleanliness requirements (b,c, e-g)
    •Animal yard shall be properly graded to prevent standing pools of water or waste, housing areas maintained to prevent soiling of animals udders and flanks (d)
    •Clean water in sufficient quantity for the dairy operations (h)
    •Containers, utensils and equipment must meet standards for construction (type of materials), cleaning, sanitization, storage and handling (i-m)
    •The animal and the milking equipment must be free from contamination (n-p)
    •People doing the milking must have clean hands, wear clean outer garments, and be free of infection (q, r)
    •Effective insect and rodent control is required (t)
    •Animal Health: All herds shall be tested and found free of tuberculosis and brucellosis before any milk is sold; herds shall be retested at least every 12 months; cattle herds participate in brucellosis ring testing by Texas Animal Health Commission. For other diseases, the department may require physical, chemical, or bacteriological tests. (217.20)

    For me, this is enough to know that what I am drinking is safe and healthy.  The thing is, pasteurized milk has been known to contain harmful bacterias and to cause sickness in thousands.  Just because it's pasteurized doesn't mean that it's completely safe!

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Free Cloth Diapers

    Now that we're getting back to "normal life" after moving and everything, we have gone back to using cloth diapers.  We plan to definitely use cloth with Levi as well because it saves so much money (especially since I will be staying home).  We were going to buy the new Flip system (which look awesome), but a friend of mine said that she had some diapers that she could give me.  Well, I picked them up today, and there are THIRTY in the bag.  And, they are in AWESOME shape.  All but 3 are the same diapers that we use already (the BumGenius 3.0)!!!  The other 3 are called Wahmies, and they seem very similar to the BumGenius.  She could have sold these and made a lot off of them, but instead she gave them to us :).  I am so thankful.  We won't need to buy another diaper ever again!!  So, add the 30 to the 15 that we already had, and that makes 45 diapers!!  That will come in handy with a newborn :) (and having 2 in diapers).

    Two Different Blogs

    I used to have two blogs and I combined them because I hated having to keep up with two.  Lately, though, I've come to the realization that sharing personal and family things online to everyone probably isn't a good idea (for several reasons that I won't get into).  I could just stop sharing anything personal, but it helps me to process things and to have friends and family respond to it.  So, I've decided to create another blog in which only people that I invite will be allowed to read. 

    From now on, you won't find much reflection or information about myself or my family on this blog.  If I don't feel like it matters whether or not everyone reads it, I will post it.  If there are things that I don't want EVERYONE to know, but I would like to share (for whatever reason), then I will post it on my personal blog.

    You will still find information about whole foods nutrition, natural living, recipes, etc on here.  And, I will still share some personal things (like the birth of Levi especially!), but will limit it.

    Thanks for understanding. 

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Joey's Birthday

    Tomorrow would have been Joey's 29th birthday. Now that life is getting back to "normal," it's starting to hit me that I will never see him again. That's a tough reality to face. Tomorrow's going to be a tough day. I'm glad that I have to go to training at the school...

    My New Favorite Honey Whole Wheat Bread

    I was in search of a whole wheat bread recipe that was easier because I felt like if I could find an easier one, I would want to make it more :). I searched several of my favorite blogs and found this one. I made a few little changes and came up with a new recipe.

    I decided to utilize my bread machine, not to make the actual loaf of bread (because my machine makes them round…), but to do the dough "part."

    So, I put these ingredients in my machine, in order:
    • 1 cup warm water
    • ½ teaspoon soy lecithin (part of the dough enhancer)
    • 1 tablespoon milk
    • 2 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil, melted)
    • 2 tablespoons raw honey
    • 2 tablespoons sucanat
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 3 cups hard white wheat flour
    • 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
    • Sprinkle citric acid and ginger
    • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
    Once the dough cycle has been completed in the bread machine, I punched it down (a little), and shaped it into a loaf. I placed it in a greased loaf pan, put a towel over it, and placed it in my oven (with the door slightly open) on about 170 degrees (just warm enough to let it rise again). Once it has risen to be just above the top of the pan (after maybe 20 minutes), I turned up the temperature to 350, closed the door, and set my timer for 30 minutes. Once out, I took it out of the pan and placed a towel over it to keep the crust soft.

    It came out beautiful and yummy.
    If you don't have a bread machine, you can follow these steps:
    1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add flour, citric acid, ginger, and yeast and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (about 10-15 minutes).
    3. Place dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes (in a warm place).
    4. Punch dough down; knead for a few minutes until smooth then form into a loaf.
    5. Place in greased loaf pan and cover. Let rise in warm place until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
    6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

    Whole Wheat Drop Biscuits

    I found this recipe on Recipezaar and made them this morning (with a small change). They were AMAZING! I ended up making several bags of mix so that all I have to do is mix in the cold/wet ingredients and throw them in the oven. They are easy, light, and soft!!

    • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I use hard white wheat flour)
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ cup butter
    • ½ cup cold buttermilk (I just measure ½ cup milk and add 1 ½ teaspoons of vinegar to make my own)
    • 1/3 cup cold milk
    • ¼ cup flour (for dusting)
    1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees and grease a round cake pan.
    2. Melt butter in microwave and let cool while mixing other ingredients.
    3. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
    4. Mix cold buttermilk, milk, and butter, stirring until butter forms small clumps.
    5. Pour extra flour onto a plate. Rub your hands in the flour to dust well. Spoon lump of dough onto the flour, sprinkle with flour, pick it up and gently toss back and forth between your hands. Place in pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Make sure to keep the biscuits close together because it keeps them soft. They will come apart easily when they are cooked.
    6. Bake 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    The Process of Grieving

    I've never lost anyone close to me before.  I guess that's good, and pretty normal.  But, it has made this whole grieving process interesting for me. 

    One of my aunts told my mom that she doesn't think that I've dealt with the loss of my brother yet.  She thinks it's going to hit me all of a sudden one day. 

    Maybe she's right.  My brother's death STILL doesn't seem all that real to me.  It really just seems like he's away.  And, I think that's okay.  I delight in focusing on the good things that are going on in my life right now, and I don't think that's bad.  I feel like people expect me to be falling apart and act like life is horrible.  I can't feel that way.  I know that God is in control, and He will be there when/if it's time to "fall apart."  Until then, I need to just live life for my family and focus on the blessings that He has given our family.  It doesn't mean that I didn't/don't love my brother.  It just means that that's how I am having to live right now. 

    I have little moments throughout the day in which I think about my brother, think about the horrible way he died, think about the difficulty for my parents, think about how much life will be different without Joey here (especially since I have no other siblings), etc.  I have moments in which I cry, especially when Karis says something about him.  A week ago, Karis was talking about her uncle Joey.  She said, "one time I tickled Uncle Joey and he laughed a lot."  It makes me happy that she can remember him laughing.  I think it helps her to remember the good times as well.  She's young, but she knows that he has been VERY unhappy over the past year, and she knows that he has been "sick."  She knows that he's been in the hospital a lot, and that he hasn't been himself.  But, she also knows that he loved her and loved to play with her.  I think she really misses him, but luckily kids can handle death pretty well.

    I choose to be happy for Joey.  I choose to know that He's in a much better place, praising God.  I choose to just be there for my parents whenever and however I can. 

    I choose to be honest and say that I don't know HOW to grieve, that I am just doing the best that I can, and to focus on the blessings that the Lord has given our family.

    If this doesn't even make sense, that's okay.  It doesn't really even make sense to me :).  I just wanted to try to write what was going through my head.

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Goals for 2010

    I have many goals for this year, and as I think through them, they are things that I've already begun or put a lot of thought and energy into.  I just want to make them more a part of my life.  If I don't meet every one of them, I won't worry about it; this is just a good place to start.  After I have Levi (which is very soon), some things will have to be put on hold, and I'm okay with that.  The most important things that I need to focus on are 1) My relationship with Christ, 2) My relationship with my husband, 3) Raising my kids up in godliness, 4) Loving and ministering to others, and 5) Feeding my family nutritious foods (this one is important, but the least important of my priorities). 

    Personal/Spiritual/Family Goals:

    ~ Spend time with Jesus before the kids wake up every morning.  I was doing really well with this until the past month.  I hope to get back into this routine.  It sure makes a difference!
    ~ Do actual Bible STUDIES.  Don't just read through, but actually study it.  Robert and I have been reading Nehemiah and reading the Matthew Henry commentary on it.  We plan to do the same with Esther next :).
    ~ Continue to make intentional efforts to let things go that don't matter and not allow others' opinions bother me (ask myself- "will this matter in 2 weeks?")
    ~ Read more.  Actually finish the 5 books that I have started but not finished!
    ~ Spend less time online (did really well for a while; been online a little more the past few days!).  I plan to do this by limiting my time to a little bit first thing in the morning before the kids wake up and during their afternoon nap.  We'll see how that goes :).
    ~ Spend very little time with the TV on.  It'll help that we will most likely get rid of our Dish Network and just buy a converter box and use an antenna.  All we will get is local channels!
    ~ After the baby is born and it's okay to do this, start exercising regularly.  Do this not to "lose weight," but to just be healthy and feel better.  Take the kids for walks; go for family walks in the evenings when possible.
    ~ Cut down my sugar intake.  Get back to rarely having sodas.  Drink water in the dining hall instead of sweet tea!
    ~ Drink mostly water.  When drinking coffee, drink only water processed decaf. 
    ~ Spend more time playing with the kids.
    ~ Focus on training my kids up in godliness.
    ~ Begin doing some more actual lessons with Karis.  She is so eager to learn and pretty much picks things up on her own, but she enjoys actual lessons as well and I think she would greatly benefit from them.  This will begin my preparation for homeschooling her (which I might actually start in the fall!). 
    ~ Don't focus on having a spotless house every day.  Just do a few things each day (sweep, load dish washer, quick clean up, and one load of laundry) and let it go for the most part!  It is more important to focus on training up my kids, playing, and making nutritious food!
    ~ Spend specific times planning and organizing (plan this with Robert's schedule- a time to get away!).

    "In the Kitchen" Goals:
    I'm super excited about this area because I have found some great resources recently for buying local, whole, grass fed, and raw.  Great opportunities are arising :).

    ~ Begin grinding my own flour (will begin as soon as I receive my grain mill and grain!!)
    ~ Try making homemade yogurt (with a crockpot recipe that I found).
    ~ Get back to menu planning and stick to it.  Just be more organized with cooking/baking.
    ~ Make most things from scratch (get back to this!).
    ~ Begin buying raw milk at Dyer Dairy Farm once a month.  Make homemade butter using the cream on top.
    ~ Buy local as much as possible.  I have found MANY avenues of doing this recently.  One source is Wild Type Ranch.  I can pick up their beef and eggs when I pick up my milk.  Their grass fed beef is the cheapest that I have found (if I buy 10 chub packs of ground beef, which is about 11 pounds, it is only $3.18 a pound!) !!  I can also buy some bulk items and seasonal fruits and veggies at Dyer Dairy.
    ~ Begin buying in bulk when possible.  This usually saves quite a bit of money!!  Find as many online sources as possible.  Most of my meat buying will be once a month or even less often than that.
    ~ Work on my grocery budget!  Cut out in other places in order to be able to spend more on quality foods.
    ~ Stick to my "lunch only" plan for the dining hall.  Be flexible, though, when things don't go as planned.  Just do the best I can!
    ~ Focus on nutrition before "organic" (meaning whole and grass fed).  Buy organic when I can.

    Ministry Goals:
    ~ Have our home always open for people to come hang out.
    ~ Be ready to listen when someone needs to talk.
    ~ Be ready to love people at any moment.
    ~ Don't speak negatively to or about anyone.  Try to find the good in everyone instead of focusing on the bad.  Discuss this goal with my friends so that we can all work on it together!!
    ~ Continue seeking unity here at camp and doing my part to make this happen.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Finally Have a Chance to Sit Down and Write :)

    This month has been a whirlwind.  From a horrible tragedy, to a wonderful blessing, to packing, unpacking and painting, to having a lot of company for over a week straight.  I just haven't had a chance to really sort through my thoughts.  I have had a LOT on my mind constantly, but I have a hard time being able to put the thoughts into words.  I have sat down numerous times to write a blog, only to not really be able to because of being pulled in different directions and/or not being able to put my thoughts into words. 

    A wonderful friend of mine gave me a book the other day that really explains my new perspective on life and my family.  It is called Let Me Hold You Longer, written by Karen Kingsbury.  It is a children's book, but I really think it was written more for parents :).  I read it and immediately started crying thinking of my mom, who, through experiencing last moments, didn't have a clue just how short my brother's life would be.  And, through the same tears, I realize that I don't take the time to really and truly love my kids the way that I should.  It definitely brought a new perspective to life for me.
    Here are the first few pages of the book:
    "Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts: First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.  But one day you will move away and leave to me your past, and I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts... The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips.  The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip.  The last night when you woke up crying, needing to be walked.  When last you crawled up with your blanket, wanting to be rocked.  The last time when you ran to me, still small enough to hold.  The last time that you said you'd marry me when you grew old.  Precious, simple moments and bright flashes from your past- Would I have held on longer if I'd known they were your last?"

    So much of the time I spend a lot of energy worrying about the house being perfect, food being whole/organic/natural, finding a way to afford natural products, etc, but I need to be putting more of that energy into loving, playing, and training my kids to one day be men and women of God.  Spending time with Jesus needs to be my first daily priority, then spending time with my husband and children needs to follow.  Everything else is good, but not as important.  Through all of the things that have been going on, I am SO thankful that God has allowed me the opportunity to be home with my kids very soon.  Money will be very tight, but it doesn't matter.  He has provided for all of our needs and MUCH MORE.  When I made the decision to stay home with my kids, I had no idea of the events that would happen the following months.  But, I'm so glad that God knew, and He put it strongly on my heart that staying home was what He was calling me to do.  I have NO doubt in my mind that we made the right decision.

    I am now due in a month and a half, and I'm getting nervous :).  I don't feel at all prepared for another little one, but ready or not, he's coming soon!  I'm ready to not be pregnant any more, but I'm not sure if I'm ready for the responsibility of a newborn, plus two others.  I know that God will give me what I need in order to handle it, and I know that it will be easier because I've done this a few times now!  My prayer is that everything will go smoothly, and that I will have no trouble breastfeeding. 

    The year 2009 was a pretty rough year in many respects, but I am hopeful that 2010 will be wonderful.  Not only am I having Levi, I get to be a stay at home mom, and we live in this new amazing home that I don't feel we deserve.  I also have an amazing family and amazing friends.  I have grown so much closer to some people that I am blessed to have in my life.  God has shown Robert and me that despite imperfections (which every place has), this camp is our home and will be for a long time.  Not just because of the new house (because we felt this way before we found out about it!), but also because of the amount of love that they have shown us.  We truly are blessed to be part of this ministry.  My prayer is that God will continue to show me how I can serve Him here and that He will give me opportunities to reach out and love others.  We are here to serve Jesus and others and not ourselves.  It has taken me a while to figure out my place here, but God is slowly making it clear. 

    Through the past month, something else is happening.  I'm finally figuring out who God has created me to be, what's truly important to ME (not just because someone else says it's important), the things that I want to focus on, and how to let the rest go.  It'll be a continual process, I'm sure, but I'm getting there.  I am learning to not worry so much what everyone else thinks.  It's not easy, but I make a conscious effort when something is bothering me to ask myself, "does it really matter?"  The "anxiety" that I've struggled with for so long is very minimal now.  You would think with all that has been going on that I would have been freaking out (because that's what I have done in the past), but God has given me a peace that surpasses all understanding.  God's grace and strength have kept me going and I just feel like a different person.  They say that hard times grow you; I've never had a time in my life that was as hard as losing my brother, and it really has grown me.  I pray that I won't lose sight of all that I have learned.