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Posts tagged ‘food’

I was reading one of the blogs I follow, The Frugal Farm Wife, when I came across a post about 8 Shopping Errors and How We Fixed Them. I was intrigued. Basically, she looked at some receipts from a few years earlier, and was amazed at some of the things she used to buy but didn’t anymore. Things like hot chocolate mix, tortilla chips, etc. And I was inspired to make a similar list of my own.

First, the things we have in common:

  • Tortilla Chips. I haven’t bought these for a long time. Up until this month, we have been using tostadas instead. They run a bit cheaper than the chips do, and seem to have less fat. But we’re giving those up too. Fears about genetically modified food have definitely been a factor. I can make delicious millet tortillas (which my corn-allergic son can eat), so we’re going to try that.
  • Canned Beans. I bought these sometimes in the first couple of years of our marriage. No longer. My mom bought me a pressure cooker, and I’ve never looked back. I used to can my own beans, but that turned out to be more work than it was worth (90 minutes of canning time was just too much). Instead of keeping a couple of cans in the pantry for emergencies, I choose to make double batches of beans and freeze the leftovers. In fact, just yesterday I realized I had forgotten to soak beans the night before, so I pulled some out of the freezer, thawed them, and served them. Simple. Delicious.

Things I think I buy less of now:

  • Cold Cereal. I have become concerned about the iron shavings in fortified cereals, and as such have quit buying almost all of them. I do buy Rice Chex, mostly because they are gluten free (and rice has yet to be genetically modified, last I heard), but other than that, I stick with Kashi cereals. They are certified GMO free, and some are even organic! And sometimes they are cheaper per ounce than similar name brand cereals (such as Shredded Wheat). I try to only buy 3 boxes of cereal a month, and make it last. Now that I’ve gone gluten free, I think I may only have to buy 2 boxes. That’s a lot less than we used to buy, I think. Or maybe not. But it has changed, anyhow.
  • Juice. I used to buy the ready-to-drink juice bottles. But the price kept rising. Your average 100% juice bottle (I refuse to buy the cocktails and drinks) is over $3 a bottle at the cheapest grocery store in town. That’s ridiculous! I probably wouldn’t bother buying juice at all (and didn’t for a long time), but it’s the best way to get wheat grass down. So I buy the frozen kind and make it up as needed. I put 6 in my pantry list, but I expect we’ll only use about 4 in an average month.

Things that have changed significantly:

  • White Flour. I can’t remember the last time I put white flour in something and served it to my family. The last time I bought white flour, I made muffins for my husband’s coworkers and playdough for the kids (which turned out to be a real disaster–the recipe calling for cornstarch worked much better and lasted a lot longer).
  • Whole Wheat Bread Flour. After getting a grain grinder for my champion juicer, I quit buying whole wheat flour for bread. I also discovered that I could get 25 pounds of wheat berries from Azure Standard for less than the price of wheat berries from WinCo–and the 25 pound bag contains organic wheat, as opposed to the bulk wheat at WinCo, which isn’t organic (and therefore probably is GMO). I grind 4-5 pounds at a time and use it to make the best tasting bread.
  • GF Flours. I have started buying flours from gluten-free grains like millet, teff, sorghum, etc. I also buy tapioca flour (starch, basically). These don’t affect the budget a whole lot, because I buy them in bulk quantities, such as 5 pound bags, or in the bulk section at WinCo. Most of them are not certified gluten-free, either, but in our family that isn’t such an issue as it would be in the home of someone with celiac disease.
  • Exotic Foods. In the early years of our marriage, we lived in south Texas, where things like yuca (cassava), plantain bananas, and other exotic foods were relatively cheap. So we ate them on a regular basis. Now we only rarely buy them. We have found frozen shredded yuca that my husband makes into patties for Manny, and occasionally if I find a few good plantains, I’ll cook them for the family, but rarely. Maybe 2-3 times a year–instead of every week. I also don’t use coconut milk on a regular basis.
  • Bulk items. When we lived in Texas, there wasn’t a good place to buy bulk items. Now, though, I buy things like cornmeal, rice, black and pinto beans, oatmeal, etc, in 25 pound bags and store them in buckets with screw-on lids. It really saves money; I can go to the store at times and spend $30-40 for a week’s worth of food–sometimes less–because I am only getting things that I need for that week; staples are always available. In fact, if we could do without fresh food, we could eat for quite a while with the beans and flours we have on hand.
  • Certain Fresh Produce. This summer we finally planted a garden, and for a few weeks I won’t be buying tomatoes, since ours have finally started to ripen. We have also been given much surplus produce from friends and church members–beets, green beans, swiss chard, etc–that we didn’t grow ourselves. We got some free apples from Freecycle, as well as other fruits either from the wild (wild plums, blackberries, etc) or from friends. So I pretty much just buy bananas for fruit. I have also started buying only organic of certain things–lettuce, celery, and other things. Those items tend to absorb pesticides and other things, more than fruits like bananas or oranges, because the skins are thin.
  • Soymilk. I like to keep a can of shelf-stable soymilk on hand, just in case we need it, but I generally make my own with a soy milk machine. It’s not the best tasting milk, but we’ve gotten used to it, and you can’t tell the difference in baked goods. And at $.25-.50 a quart, there’s just no comparison!
  • Pasta. I can get pasta in bulk at WinCo, and I won’t buy it on the shelf unless I am splurging on a special shape they don’t have in bulk. I also never buy white pasta. I also buy a significant quantity of rice pasta, since both Manny and I are eating a gluten-free diet. Thankfully, WinCo has rice pasta for about $1.50 a pound–probably about what you would pay for your average name-brand pasta in a bag or box on the shelf. The wheat pasta is around $1 a pound, give or take a few cents.
  • Nuts. I buy nuts in bulk at WinCo too. (I feel very sorry for people who don’t live in the states where WinCo has a presence–or who live far from it.) I don’t buy Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts or pine nuts, either. As my friend at Too Cheap for Pine Nuts so aptly put it, “pine nuts . . . are $60940909 a pound. . . . [and] we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend that for a pine nut.” I have also noticed that cashews, which used to be cheaper than almonds, are now almost twice the price. I still buy them, because I like them in certain things (but I dislike the taste of them by themselves), but I have found that almonds work well in place of cashews in certain recipes, such as cashew-based gravy and cashew cheese. I find myself using cheaper nuts and seeds more.
  • Baby Food. For some reason, when my daughter was born, I thought making baby food would be too much work. I can’t believe I ever thought that. Sure, it’s nice to have jars of food on hand for trips to town or church or wherever, or for emergencies, but I can make a jar’s worth of food for pennies, and it tastes so much better than the stuff in the jars, especially in the veggie department. I just whiz whatever in the blender, freeze it in ice cube trays, and bag it for use later. Those metal cups work well for thawing small amounts of baby food over the stove (since we don’t have a microwave).

And other things that I can’t remember, because we don’t save food receipts.

It’s kind of a balance. I save in certain things so that I can splurge on others. My son drinks hemp milk. That currently costs $38 a case if I buy it from Azure Standard. It would be more if I bought it anywhere else. But it’s the only high-quality fat and protein milk he can drink (other than rice milk,which doesn’t have much of either), so I buy it.

Now it’s your turn. How have your buying habits changed over the years? What do you now buy that you didn’t before? What do you do without now that you used to think was indispensable?

The Invasion

I have been invaded. Or maybe I should say, my kitchen has been invaded. The invaders come in swarms, too numerous to count. They make trails, devour anything tasty, and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

In case you haven’t figured out what they are yet, I’m referring to ants.

Click Image for Source

Specifically, honey or sugar ants. These little critters love anything sweet, and seem to smell it from wherever their home is and come after it. Leave an empty but unrinsed bowl of cereal in the counter, and in an hour or two it will be teaming with the little critters. Spill a drop of juice or honey on the counter and fail to wipe it up, and soon there will be a trail of ants going to and fro, the drop itself obscured by their little bodies.

Lately, with my diligence to get the dishes done right after meals and leaving the sink spotless before bed, the tiny ants have not had much motivation to come into my kitchen. However, one night recently I was just too tired. I didn’t shine my sink and I didn’t wash all the dishes. When I walked into the kitchen, they were everywhere. Climbing in and out of dirty bowls by the sink, making trails on the walls and counters, and in general making a royal mess. But I had to get breakfast ready, and I was too hungry to wait until I had cleaned up the kitchen to begin. So I cleared an area near the stove to work on and began, trying to ignore the devastation going on behind me.

I took a package of tofu out of the refrigerator and drained it in the sink. I noticed that an edge piece was loose and decided to have a nibble (I love raw tofu). I have no idea how it got there, but suddenly the flavor of honey ant filled my mouth. If you have never tasted it, you have no idea how awful it is. It’s not the kind of taste that makes you gag, but it is extremely unpleasant, and totally unexpected.

Well, I just lost it. Somehow that taste in my mouth–which doesn’t just rinse out, by the way–was the last straw. I was tired, my husband had yet to come into the kitchen yet (I don’t know if he was up yet–probably, but just hadn’t come out yet), and the kids were already up, and ants were crawling all over me, and I just couldn’t take it. I called him to come help. I knew if the kitchen were cleaned up, the ants would disappear, but I had already started breakfast and couldn’t just stop and clean for 15 minutes. I did take a minute to spray a cleaner on the ants (which has a soap in it, smothering them and killing them instantly). My dear husband came in and washed up the dirty dishes and wiped down the dead ants and any other ones he found wandering around the walls or wherever.

I know I had been tired the night before, but honestly, 10 minutes to right the kitchen would have been much less traumatic than eating an ant the next morning! So lesson learned: Make sure the kitchen is clean the night before; and if I don’t really have the energy to wash the supper dishes, at least rinse anything sweet out of them! And take a minute to wipe the counters!

There is another lesson, however. Sometimes we allow things into our lives that seem harmless, or maybe it’s just a little neglect of duty, such as really taking the time to spend quality time with God. It wasn’t some big rebellion, saying “God, I don’t need You. I can do it on my own.” Just little neglect. But suddenly, life becomes overwhelming and we just can’t take it anymore. Everything is out of control, and we realize that we just can’t do it on our own after all. Then we must cry out to our Heavenly Husband to come help us. He will clean up the sin and the mess, and bring peace and harmony back into our lives.

Oh, that I may not neglect those little things!

Almost a week ago I discussed my early morning routine. Sorry it’s taken so long to get to this, but I have a good excuse. I’ve been sick. Again. This time it wasn’t quite so bad, just a major head cold, but it’s been some motivation to go to bed at a decent time, and I haven’t felt like writing much during the day.

But now I’m improving, the kids were in bed early, and I want to share with you about the after breakfast routine I have been establishing.

First of all, it is important to know that I am a S.H.E. all the way through. In case you aren’t familiar with that acronym, SHE stands for Sidetracked Home Executive, with an emphasis on the sidetracked part. And as a mother of young children, it is easy to get distracted! So I finish breakfast and just want to sit for a few minutes. Then I have to feed Manny (because his meal is different, and he often eats a little later than everyone else). Then I have to change a diaper. I also have to make sure Gislaine is getting her chores done (making her bed, collecting dirty laundry, etc). I have to referee any squabbles, answer the occasional phone call, and somewhere in there I need to brush my own teeth, make my bed, and get the kitchen cleaned up. It is so easy to get distracted!

In the past, I often would leave the dishes unwashed until almost time for lunch. Which, of course, would make me postpone lunch, because I didn’t want to do the dishes, and would wait until the last possible moment to start them. This made for more stress, of course. And I was always in a quandary about what to do first. Do I brush my teeth first? Do I make my bed first? Do I do the dishes first?

So finally I made a routine. I said, first thing after breakfast, I take my vitamins. Otherwise I will forget them, and they are supposed to be taken with food. My vitamins make such a difference in my energy and mood, but especially being pregnant now, I need my prenatals!

Then I put the food away and wash the dishes. Before I brush my teeth, make my bed, or do anything else. Granted, it doesn’t always work perfectly. My husband sometimes eats breakfast late, or Manny isn’t finished when I am, or there is some crisis that needs to be dealt with. But for the most part, if I do my best to stay focused, I can get the table cleared and the dishes done within 15-20 minutes. Of course, it helps that I emptied the dishwasher before starting breakfast, especially since the dishwasher is my dish drainer 6 days a week.

After breakfast, next thing I do is brush my teeth and make my bed. I list these two as one item, because the order varies, depending on whether the only bathroom in the house is occupied or not. Once we move and have a master bathroom, though, I think I will always brush my teeth first. I also remind Gislaine to brush hers and help Manny with his during this time, if he has finished breakfast. Sometimes my husband makes the bed before I get to it, and sometimes my daughter does it while I do dishes, but usually I have to do it. And remember, my excuse for not making the bed first thing upon rising is that I like to air it, and it is usually still occupied anyway.

The next thing on my list is laundry. That means sort laundry and start the first (and some days only) load. Now, Flylady starts the laundry as part of her before-breakfast routine, but I like my daughter to pick up the dirty laundry in the bedrooms and bring it out to the laundry room. That is her job. And before breakfast she doesn’t have time for that–if she’s even awake, she’s drinking her water or having her devotional time, and then she eats. So while I’m washing dishes, if she has finished eating, I have her pick up the laundry, make her bed, brush her teeth, etc. She is able to do those things on her own, and it keeps her out of trouble and out of my way so I can focus on getting through the routine.

After the laundry comes what I like to call my Fly Mission. This is actually a Flylady Zone mission. When I finish this series on routines, I will tell about how I have adapted the Zone idea for my new home–which, by the way, is on location but not put together yet. Anyhow, there are 5 zones, one for each week. This week is Zone 4, the Master Bedroom. An example of a mission would be to grab something like a long-handled duster or a broom and go after cobwebs, or to declutter under the bed for 15 minutes. Some zone missions I cannot do, because either the room isn’t cluttered, or we don’t have a dresser in the bedroom (the closet has shelves, so our clothes go on those), or some other good reason. But if the mission applies to my situation, I do it after starting the laundry.

Next on my list is decluttering. Now, I have almost no decluttering to do in this house. I have refused to collect unnecessary things, and most of what I did manage to collect has already been pitched. However, I can use this time to pack something for 15 minutes or less. We are moving in less than a month, after all. I have used this time to pack the kids’ clothes that they grew out of (the most recent ones were piled on a box), to organize my closet, to pack our warmest winter coats (probably a bad idea–it’s gotten cold again), to pack the few books we have here–one medium-small box full, and so on. Sometimes I skip this item, especially if we are running late, because lately we have been going to bed too late (we as in my husband and I), so we get a late start on the morning. I am working on reversing that at least for myself, but even the most organized mother can have delays sometimes.

Next on the list is school. That is, my daughter’s preschool. We don’t do it every day, but I am for 4 days a week. We go through workbooks I picked up at the dollar store, tracing letters and numbers and doing other preschool activities. And coloring. During this time, I keep Manny occupied with several things. First, he gets to color with a dry-erase marker on a special spiral-bound board thing that has letters, numbers, and a space to doodle. He tires of that in about 5-10 minutes, then he wants to play with the wooden tools that his uncle bought for him. I keep these tools out of reach so the pieces of bolts and nuts and such don’t get lost, and he only gets them during “school” time, which keeps them special. After 5-10 minutes he is done with those, and then I give him books to look at until his sister is finished with her school. This way, I know where he is (and that he isn’t making a mess or destroying something somewhere in the house).

After this is free time that I can use to do whatever I want or need to do until time to start my pre-lunch routine. How much time I actually have depends on how long this routine took to get finished. Sometimes I only have a few minutes. Often I will tackle things on my to-do list that I don’t do every day, like ironing, or one-time things like making a call to set appointments. I often check the laundry during this time, especially if I have to do more than one load that day.

Eventually I want to put a quick sweep of the kitchen and dining room into my morning routine, but I need to streamline this one more first.

To recap, here is my after-breakfast routine:

  • Take vitamins
  • Clear table, wash dishes
  • Brush teeth, make bed
  • Sort and start laundry
  • Zone mission
  • Declutter/pack
  • School

This routine still has a lot of bumps in it, but I’m fairly happy with the order of it. Now I just need to become more efficient at it!

Next time I will share about my pre-lunch routine.

What routines have you established to make your life flow more smoothly?

I can almost hear you saying, “What is yuca?” (pronounced YOU-kuh). It is a very interesting root found in many tropical countries, from Africa to the Carribbean, Central and South America, many South Pacific islands, and parts of Asia. I learned to like it when my husband introduced me to it while we were living in Texas.

It is a very starchy, fibrous root with a kind of bark-like skin and white flesh. It cooks similar to a potato, but it is a bit drier and has a rather bland flavor. You may have heard of its other name, cassava, as it is called in many English speaking countries, such as Jamaca. It is also the root from which tapioca is made.

The other night, my husband found this site that talks about many of the properties of yuca, and we were surprised to find that it is a good source of calcium, as well as anti-inflammatory.

My son is allergic to potatoes, which makes buying gluten-free mixes and products virtually impossible. However, tapioca flour and starch can substitute very well for potato flour and starch in GF recipes, and he is not allergic to it at all.

In Texas, we used to buy it for about $1 a pound. Not terribly cheap, but still affordable. We had to remove the skin and the ends, and I learned the hard way to chop it open in the store to check for pure white flesh (instead of flesh with gray lines in it). Sometimes I would find a lot that was good, and then I would skin it all and freeze whatever we didn’t plan on using in the next few days. It could be taken from the freezer and put directly into hot water to cook, and it tasted almost the same as fresh.

Then we moved to Oregon, and the yuca here is almost $3 a pound. So we never buy it. Not to mention that I doubt it will be good quality up here. But my husband found frozen shredded yuca at a Philippino market for about $1.25 per 1 lb bag. He used about two pounds to make a yuca casserole for Christmas dinner (yuca on top and bottom with seasoned veggie burger filling), but it’s a bit expensive to use for the family on a regular basis, and takes a bit of work. However, we discovered that if we took some of the yuca (which is so finely shredded that it is more like a thick batter than anything else), added some salt, and pan fried it in small patties, Manny would devour them. He’s been known to eat more than half a pound of it at one sitting!

Lately poor Manny, who is definitely allergic to eggs, milk, and all nuts and seeds except flax and hemp, has become more and more sensitive to beans. I can’t just feed him grains–most of them aren’t a complete protein, and even if they were, the quality of protein isn’t enough for a growing child. He won’t eat greens (and with the limited amount of food he can eat, it’s next to impossible to hide greens in anything), so using greens to supplement his protein isn’t really a viable option. So we decided to try a little turkey. Daddy bought some at the health food store today. He chopped it fine, mixed it with the yuca, made the patties, and cooked them with a little palm oil (which oxidizes slower than olive oil, is flavorless, and healthier than canola oil). We started with about 2 ounces of turkey and half a pound of yuca. I’m not sure how many patties he ate, but there were only 2 two-inch patties left when he was full.

Turkey isn’t something we’ll give him every day. What we bought today cost over $2, and I’m not positive it was organic  or free range (it didn’t say it was; he bought it pre-cooked and sliced in the deli, not raw). I can buy similar turkey from Azure Standard, only it IS organic and free-range, and costs over $6 for each 6-oz package (just under $6 each if I buy a 10-pack). I figure buying it pre-cooked is better, so I don’t have to deal with raw meat in my kitchen (a friend made that suggestion, and I totally agree with her!).

As a third-generation vegetarian, feeding meat to one of my kids is something I really hesitate to do. But we don’t seem to have a lot of options right now. I really hope that he will outgrow many of his allergies eventually, and in the mean time he really needs to avoid anything that makes him more itchy. If giving him a little turkey now and again will make that easier, then so be it.

Now if we could just move to a tropical country where yuca and other non-potato roots are staples in the diet… Hey, there’s no law that says I can’t wish, is there? :)

I decided yesterday that I would fast today. And I did. I drank water, but ate nothing.

There were several reasons for this. First, fasting strengthens the will. Second, it clears the mind. I wanted to have some time to really focus on God’s Word, and besides, it’s a good idea to fast once in a while.

But just because I was fasting, I realized that I couldn’t get out of every responsibility I had that day. I served breakfast to my daughter (thankfully, it was leftover frozen pancakes and waffles, so I didn’t have to actually cook). I made beds, picked up things that were laying around, cleaned the hen house and collected the eggs, etc. I showered and minded the children for a while. When my husband came back from the gym around noon, he took the kids to the playground for an hour or so, and I prepared lunch for them. Then I left home, telling my husband I didn’t know when I would be back.

The first thing I did was to go to a nature park. It has a couple miles of trails with benches scattered along some of them. It is shady and cool with all the trees, so it was the perfect place to be alone in nature with God–the best I can find in this area, anyway.

I had brought my Bible, my iPod (for its Bible program), a devotional-like book that I’m reading, a notebook, and my prayer journal. I spent some time praying, reading, and in Bible study. I was probably there a couple of hours–I didn’t keep track of time. It was a real blessing–away from the computer, away from the demands of the home, alone with God.

When I finished, I went shopping. Yes, even though it was late afternoon and I hadn’t eaten anything all day, I went shopping. They say you should never shop on an empty stomach, but I did it anyway. And I realized that the practice of saying no to food throughout the day as I worked in the kitchen today had strengthened my will to the point that I was able to say no not only to buying something to eat right there, but to also not buy unnecessary items. I guess that the habit of only buying what’s on my list unless I know for sure that we will need it within the next week paid off. That, and having a budget. (If you don’t have a budget, you should!)

But there was a side benefit to this experience. I learned a little something about the power of the will. As I was walking through the bulk section, buying lentils and cashews and such, I noticed a bin of what I think were probably miniature chocolate chip cookies. I say probably, because I didn’t look at them long enough to be sure. I knew that if I studied them or debated about them, I would be tempted to buy them. So instead I turned away and focused on writing the bin number on the tag for the bag of lentils.

As I went through the store, each time I was tempted to buy some snack-like item to eat, I would turn away quickly and focus on what I needed to get for the family for the week. I had resolved to fast the entire day, and I didn’t want to have the regret of eating something near the end. This resolve helped me stay focused on my goal and the task at hand.

And at this moment, it is a little after 9:00 pm, and I still haven’t eaten anything. I have drunk plenty of water, and shortly I will go to bed. I have succeeded in my goal!

But the principle I learned today will be valuable in the future. To resist temptation, I must refuse to ponder on it. If I am tempted to spend time on the computer when I really should be folding laundry and fixing lunch, I need to resist the temptation and go start on the laundry.

So many times in the past, when I was tempted to do something that I shouldn’t do, I would think about it, dwell on how much I wanted to do it, and before I knew it, I was doing it. Now I know that if I resist the first temptation, the second one will be weaker and weaker until the devil will have to come up with another temptation altogether, because that one will have lost its appeal.

But through it all, I know that I cannot do this without God. Sure, there are times I can resist temptation on my own, to a point. But the Christian life isn’t about just not falling into sin. It’s not just about keeping the commandments. The rich young ruler did that. And he still had a nameless longing that he didn’t know how to fill. The Christian life is about putting God in first place in my life and developing a relationship with Him. As I do that, He will empower me to make the right choices. And I will be motivated to do the right things, not just because I have to or because they are the right things to do, but because I love God.

Oh Lord, You know how weak I am. Please take my will, refine and ennoble it, and give it back to me. Give me a tender heart, open to the voice of Your Holy Spirit. Help me to be so sensitive to Your voice that the lightest whisper of Jesus will move my soul. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I was listening to Revive our Hearts yesterday, and the speaker quoted from the book The Life of Helen Keller. After describing the scene where Anne Sullivan taught Helen to eat like a civilized creature (if you’ve seen either of the “Miracle Worker” movies, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about; if not, either watch one or read the book!), Anne goes on to say something very profound:

I saw clearly that it was useless to try to teach Helen language or anything else until she learned to obey me. I thought about it a great deal, and the more I think, the more certain I am that obedience is the gateway through which knowledge, yes, and love, too, enter the mind of the child.

I don’t know how to improve on that, so I’ll just recommend that you read it again, 2 or 3 times, and let its meaning really sink in.

Yesterday I had a battle with Manny. Not near as big as Anne had with Helen, but it was something. Lately he has not wanted to eat any cereal except the chocolate-covered “Koala Crisps” (which are gluten-free and actually have nothing he is allergic to in them, which is why I buy them and give them to him occasionally). Trying to get him to eat anything else for supper is a battle. So last night I decided to try something different.

When I offered him the food, I told him clearly that he had a choice to make. He could either choose to eat cheerfully, or he could stand in the corner. He hates standing in the corner, by the way. But he chose not to eat, so by default he chose the corner. I put him there and worked nearby, watching him closely. If he turned around and looked at me, I would remind him to put his nose in the corner. Of course this made him cry again, but I persisted. I started him out at 2 minutes, then offered to let him eat. When he said no, I went 2 1/2 minutes. Then 3 minutes. Then 3 1/2. Each time I offered him the food, showing it to him, and letting him choose between eating and the corner. He tried to interject other options, like “nigh nigh” (going to bed), but I would not allow those options.

I am not sure how long it took, but we were up to 5 minutes between choices, and finally he chose to eat. He said, “Eat, eat,” so I put him in his chair, poured hemp milk on the puffed millet that I had coated with carob powder, and offered him the spoon. He ate the whole thing cheerfully, and was delighted to get some grapes afterwards!

Not only was this a great victory, but Daddy noticed later that evening that he was more compliant and less demanding. I think I have hit on something here.

The truth is, I have been very neglecting of my child training lately. But I have also neglected my walk with the Lord. In the past few weeks, I have been going through a period of revival, which always results in reformation if it is genuine. And this week the Lord convicted me that it was time to start working on my child training. I have been praying for wisdom, because Manny has some serious issues, and he’s too young to reason with, and I let some things get too far. But thanks to this victory yesterday, I am beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

But it’s a very long tunnel! At least, it feels like it! But God is my guide, and I know I will win as long as I remain with Him.

This Post Has Moved!

I have started a new website dedicated to this topic: My Baby Has Eczema

You can read the post here: Help, My Baby Has Eczema: The Beginning

Be sure to check out the comments for this post here and there as well.

Okay, this post is not for me. My son is almost two.  I am writing this for the author of a blog that I follow who just had a baby a few days before Christmas, and now she is starting to feel overwhelmed as hubby goes back to work, mom goes home, etc. She asked on Twitter if any of her followers had blog posts on the topic of surviving with a toddler and a newborn, and since then all kinds of ideas have been flooding through my mind. Of course, since my second is almost 2, I figure I am an expert on the topic (hahaha), so here is my advice, for what it’s worth:

Prioritize

I know that sounds hard to do right now. But take 5 minutes when the baby is asleep and toddler is happily coloring or playing with dollies or something that will keep her attention for that long, and decide what is really important. Spotless floors? Dream on! Making sure mother and all minors are fed? Absolutely. Making sure they get nutritionally balanced, gourmet meals? Forget it! If they get Cherrios & milk for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches for lunch, and takeout for dinner for a month, you can consider yourself a good mother! Hubby can fend for himself for at least the first month! Of course, the newest arrival will be getting nourishment from Mommy or a bottle, so make sure you keep taking those prenatals!

Seriously, though, decide what is absolutely essential to making sure the house doesn’t cave in. Things like meals, laundry (as much as you’d like to skip this–though intensive stain removal can go on the back burner now), dishes (get paper plates & bowls to make this part easier), and sleep (not necessarily in that order). Then stick to it, and only add in things as you have energy (notice I didn’t say time–energy!)

Simplify

I alluded to this in the previous section, but you really should simplify things as much as possible. When clothes get scarce, throw a load in and wash it. Don’t sweat the baby poop stains around the legs of the onsies. They will come out well enough when you have time to put them on the line later. Stock up on frozen dinners, rice-a-roni, sandwich makings, cold cereals, quick hot cereals (this time of year hot food is nice, and oatmeal only takes a few minutes to make), fresh veggies for munching (avoid broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage if you’re nursing–though if your toddler likes them, have some handy for her!), pasta and pasta sauce, and take-out menus of all your favorite places–especially the ones that deliver. The less you have to think about right now, the more time you will be able to spend recuperating and enjoying your precious children.

Nap When You Can

I know they always say, “Sleep when the baby’s sleeping.” With one, that was easy. With two, it seems almost impossible! It took a while, but eventually I was able to get my two to sleep for at least half an hour at the same time. To be honest, I usually tried to get things done then, but I wish I had taken more time to rest–even if I couldn’t sleep. Hindsight is 20/20, and lack of sleep contributed to some very difficult times for me later (especially since my son had severe eczema, and that was emotionally draining for me, and even more so because I was sleep deprived).

There is a lot of conflicting advice about co-sleeping, but I did it with both of mine for the first few months, and that really helped me get more sleep. It can also be helpful at naptime. By 2-3 weeks baby should be able to handle nursing lying down, and it allows you to relax more than sitting would. If you just can’t fall asleep for worrying that you would roll over on the baby, get a co-sleeper thingy. There are different styles available; one kind slides under the mattress and hangs over the side of the bed; the other kind lays on the bed, but has soft sides that come up to keep baby safe. It’s worth looking into. At 3 or 4 months you should be able to transition baby into sleeping by himself (especially if he does that during the day already).

Cut Down or Eliminate Caffeine

I know it seems like caffeine is your friend, but it’s not. If you are nursing, you are passing it to your baby (which means he’s going to be more hyper), and you’re taking away from tomorrow’s energy reserves to get through today.

When I was a child, I had this kid’s book about health that had a picture of a couple of tired horses trying to pull a heavy carriage up a steep hill. They were giving it their all, and yet the driver was whipping them to make them go faster. And it told me that is what caffeine does to us. Maybe that’s why I never touched the stuff. And let me tell you, it’s not because I never felt like I needed it. There were days I wished I had some around! But overall, it’s much better for everyone to avoid it.

Ask for Help

They say children are meant to be raised in a village. If you were Amish, the neighbors would be over mopping your floors, weeding your garden (if it were summer), doing your laundry, and bringing you home-cooked meals–without you having to ask anyone for anything. But we don’t live like that anymore. Nowadays you have to ask for help. And that is hard on our pride sometimes. But the sooner you do it, the better off you will be.

The first place I would look if you don’t have family nearby is your church. A good church is like a second family. Call the head deaconess or the pastor and ask for help. You will probably need to be specific: “I would like someone to come once a week for the next month and a half to mop my floors and do some important cleaning like toilets and vacuuming major walkways; also, a few home-cooked meals would be lovely!” If anyone in your church has kids your toddler’s age, see if they would be willing to come pick her up once or twice a week in the morning for a playdate to let you take a nap while the baby sleeps and not have to worry that the toddler is getting into something.

Watch Your Coping Mechanisms

For me, adding a second child was not as hard as watching that child slowly develop a severe case of eczema. It was draining for me. By the time he was 7 or 8 months, he was a very miserable baby and I was about to have an emotional breakdown. I found myself trying to cope by watching movies and playing games on Facebook. Looking back, I wish I had looked for other ways to cope, because all I did was hide from my problems while they got bigger and more overwhelming.

Now don’t get me wrong. A good movie now and then is not the issue. It’s 3 movies a day while I ignored everything around me. I wish I had taken more of that time to get down on my knees and plead for strength to get through the rest of the day, claiming promises like Isaiah 40:29-31. I wish I had taken the time to read good devotional books and other good literature instead of letting Hollywood fill my mind with useless trash.

So there you have a few ideas. I hope it helps you and anyone else who finds this post.

I want to tell you about something that happened a few days ago. My husband was sick (but improving), and I was still recovering from the same illness. Summer colds are rough!

Anyhow, this particular day, a Thursday, I think, I was tired. It was the end of the day. My husband had been working outside cutting up the tree that had fallen across the bottom part of our driveway (fortunately, not the part that we are using, but still, it blocked the path). Turned out to be an apple tree—a huge one, though only about a dozen years old. It was growing near the drainfield, so the rings were between a quarter and a half inch thick each! At least we have a few other apple trees on the place (with tiny apples on them—I can’t wait to find out what they will turn out to be!).

But I’m getting sidetracked. It was late, around 8:00 o’clock. I was working on something important (probably dishes), and wanted his help to get the kids to bed. But he was nowhere to be seen. I called. No answer.

So I started thinking where he could be. I thought he might have gone on a walk. But so late. And he hadn’t eaten supper yet, either. What was going on?

Suddenly I heard his footsteps on the porch. I immediately began to think of all the things I was going to say, starting with, “Where have you been?” But his first words when he opened the door were, “I’ve brought you flowers.”

A few days old already

Now, let me clarify something about me. I am not a “gifts” person. I don’t feel the least bit unloved if I don’t get a birthday card or an anniversary card or anything like that. Not one bit. And the fact that my husband has never brought me flowers before, at least, nothing significant, and never paid-for flowers does not bother me in the least. Neither of us have “gifts” as our primary or secondary love language, so we’re fine with it.

But still, to think that he thought of me while he was out doing whatever it was that he was doing touched me, and I shut my mouth. It took me a moment to recover from the negative thoughts that had been forming, but as soon as I did, I thanked him for the flowers, and then noticed the daypack on his back. Immediately I knew where he had been. He’d been out picking cherries.

Something else needs clarifying. Before our move, I let my bulk food items (like legumes and grains) run low on purpose. I didn’t want to haul large quantities of food from the old house to the new. And I didn’t have enough money last month to stock up much, so I just bought exactly what we needed of those items. This month, I filled my bean jars and purchased several 5-pound bags of different grains. I even bought 25 pounds of cornmeal (for $12.50—I felt very frugal)! Add to that the fact that it is also fresh fruit season. We’ve been picking pounds and pounds of strawberries, raspberries, pie cherries, and so on at the local U-pick farm. Sure, we get a really good price (I mean, $1 a pound for raspberries is a steal!), but it still costs. So between those two things, I spent the whole food budget allowance before the middle of the month.

Now, it’s not like we don’t have money. I just earned a bunch sewing. So I have some personal cash to spare. And we could borrow money from some other fund if we had to. We’re not going to starve. I can get bananas for my son and things like onions and garlic and tomatoes if I need them. Not to mention I have a well stocked pantry! What it does mean is that I can’t buy lots of fresh produce. And I’ll have to get creative to make foods to use in place of the plantains and sweet potatoes and other things on the menu that I don’t have on hand. When I run out of veggies, for instance, I can always make more green drink!

Put all together, it means that I am very grateful for free cherries. Sure, they’re only wild ones, about the size of medium-large blueberries, with pits as big as regular cherries. But they are as sweet as honey and delicious. My husband picked them in a park behind the high school. No one owns them, and no one else seems to be picking them, so they’re fair game.

It made me think, though. What if my husband hadn’t come in with flowers and cherries? I probably would have chided him for being gone. And he could have had a very good reason to not be home. I need to be more careful of my thoughts.

But thank the Lord, my husband brought me flowers, and saved me from expressing the thoughts I had. God is so good!

Have you ever pulled something out of the fridge and gone, “I wonder how long this has been in here…”?

Yeah, me too. For some things, it doesn’t matter so much how long it’s been there, especially if you have plans to use it in a day or two. But in my house, sometimes my husband wants to know how long something has been there. So here is the solution I came up with:

It’s so easy. All I do is whip out my trusty dry-erase marker (which is on my fridge anyway, because that’s how I write out my daily to-do lists) and write the contents and the date it went in there. This works for anything from Rice Milk (which is what you see above–tutorial on how to make it is coming next week) to leftovers to, well, anything. It will write on metal or plastic (one of the lids is plastic and the other is metal). They will wash off with a damp cloth later. You can write it on smooth plastic storage container lids too. Textured lids will be harder to clean, but I have done it.

I used to try using masking tape, but then I could never find it. Or it was too old and hard to get off. Or it would stick to the lid and make a mess to clean up. This method works so easily and cleans up so nicely!

So that’s what works for me!