Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I've been learning lately, Part I - What Grace Really Is

We've been doing this excellent, excellent series at our life group these past 12+ weeks and it's been life-changing! It's called "A Heart Ablaze" by John Bevere. I had no idea who he is before I started the series but have since heard he's quite the popular preacher. And I now know why: he really has the words for our generation, in my opinion. He doesn't mince words but cuts to the chase and, man, it really goes right to my spirit. I really feel like God is really using him to wake up the Church, which is something we so desperately need. Anyhow, I've learned so much and would like to share a few things that God has put on my heart. :) This post is on grace.

Grace is something we hear so often as Christians. And even people who don't do the Christian thing throw the word around sometimes. As I've progressed in my faith, I've almost come to dismiss it as something that's not really integral in how I live my Christian life. Sure, I ask for it when I'm repenting but it almost seemed such a "weak" (for lack of a better word" thing and that we (including myself) use it almost as fallback and pursue our own self-seeking lifestyle again. Even people who aren't Christians say, "At least I can ask God for forgiveness right before I die and He'll extend His grace to me and cover all my sins, right?" Basically, grace = a big cover-up in my mind. So, I was always a bit bothered by grace. But that all changed but I found out what it really was.

I'm sure there are lots of definition for grace but Bevere's definition says that it's 'God's power for you to obey all that He asks you to do'. In Bevere's book of the same title, it states that " Grace is depicted as the ability to live free of ungodliness and worldly desires"(p.100). And we need this grace because there is no way we can obey God fully by ourselves. Now that is a powerful thing! Because I know sometimes that I don't want to listen to God and sometimes I don't even ask God for his opinion about things. But more and more, I'm learning to ask God even about the decisions I've already made in my life and to see if that's what He wants and if it's not (and it's not too late to change it), I will change it. For example, during premarital counseling, we discussed the number of kids to have and we actually both wanted 4! So, that was easy - we'll have four kids. We've been blessed to have been able to conceive quickly (though I've had a miscarriage at an early stage) but now we're asking God is 4 is what HE wants for us or is it less or more. Because we now know (through many experiences) that when He wants something for us and we obey, he will always provide whatever we need to do what He asks of us. He has always come through. And even with the housing situation - we're renting this yr but when our rent is up, we're thinking about buying, possibly. We were pretty sure of that til recently, when we were convicted to ask Him: Should we move? When? Where? Should we rent or buy? And we're not moving anywhere until He lets us know. Because there are so many factors involved with a move and a possible purchase, asking Him is really the easiest way to go. :) Anyhow, moving on..

The part about grace and obedience was also a big part for me. Grace is always there for me, will I use it? It's really my choice. It would be so sad to let it go to waste - almost like a gift card you never use. There is a factor of my responsibility in it, you know? I now see how important it is to have grace when you obey because sometimes He asks us to do the hard things (ie forgive, confess, etc) and we really can't do that on our own. And as I've gotten older, I realize more and more that even the hard things he's call me to do are really for my own good - to set me free from the things that hold me back from healing from all kinds of hurts in my life. And as he chastises like all good fathers do, I'll definitely need the grace to get through.

Thoughts?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We've decided on Homeschool this year and how that's played out...

Sandpaper Letters/Numbers

After lots of prayer and asking around for advice, we've decided on homeschooling for this year. There are many reasons why we chose this:
1) We're most likely in a transition year, meaning we might move again soon. If this job turns out to be a good fit, we will probably start looking for a home to buy. It's definitely time for us to be more permanent as the kiddies are getting older and more attached to their friends. If we do buy, we're going to look in an area
with more ethnic-diversity (probably further north) b/c that is the kind of environment we'd like the kids to grow up in. So we figure, if they are not in school this yr, they won't have to miss moving up with their school friends but start afresh next year at a, hopefully, more permanant place.
2) Pre-K and K are easier grades to ho
meschool than the upper grades, so I thought it was a good year to try. I've always done a little something educational with Aidan before he even went to Pre-K last year (kumon workbooks, counting, etc) and during the period he went to school, so this is an easy transition. Plus, I totally understand phonics, numbers, etc vs trigonometry and calculus, so I thought I'd give it a try being a teacher NOW where the learning curve is not so high. :)
3) In all honesty, we are still undecided about which way we want to go and it might be different with each kid. Since we were thinking about sending Aidan to K at age 6 (next yr) if he were to go to school, we technically h
ave one extra year to decide. Plus, I was told that if you've never enrolled your child in school, you don't necessarily have to let the school know your child is not going....so we're going to hold off til we know a bit better.

I think it will be a constant evaluation and re-evaluation as to which type of schooling is the best for each of our kids. We met some local homeschoolers at a park this past Wednesday and it was nice to see that, within one family, some went to school and some were homeschooled and it worked out great. Each kid was happy in the decision once they all figured out what was best. Anyhow, we're going to keep praying about it and as we know more about each child and how they are faring with homeschool, we can go from there. Doing school at home has been pretty fun so far. This year has been more formal than any year before and the kids actually like it more. I mean, there are still parts of it that are more challenging but the kids are learning to persevere. I think it's also neat to figure out their learning style and what areas they excel in and what kind of encouragement speaks to them. For example, Aidan is challenged by handwriting but he is really motivated by verbal affirmations...so you'll often hear me chant "Go, Aidan, Go! Go, Go, Go, Go, Go!" :) For Jana, her challenge has been shapes but she's really motivated by stickers and hugs, so that's the way we go with her. Plus, we can even help the teacher if they do end up going to school by letting them know our kids' learning styles and what motivates them.

A lot of moms that I've asked have put together their own 'curriculum' for their kids. So, after some researching, we ended up with this:

-Brain Quest workbooks (that's what looked the
most fun to me at Costco that day), an additional handwriting workbook for Aidan that goes from easier letters to harder letters, some Kumon workbooks (mainly for Jana)
-Puzzle Puzz from High
lights for fun games
-some Montessori stuff thrown in - sandpaper letters, Practical Life stuff, etc
-biweekly library trips (finally got signed up for Preschool Storytime!)

-games (Orchard, Games for Math, etc)

-some trips offered by a local Homeschooling yahoo group (A Pumpkin picking trip is next!)

-some not-so-messy crafts (I get a bit nervous doing messy crafts in a rental when it's not so warm outside anymore...)
-still looking for a great book on the basics on Christianity for kids, so reading "The Jesus Storybook Bible" (thanks for the suggestion, Lauren & LT!) and the "Veggietales Storybook Bible" to them so far. Also also want to help the kiddies to practice listening to God and laying hands on ppl and praying for them...fun stuff! :)
-still looking for a good one for telling time and teaching about money - anyone?!

Kids playing Orchard

It's been fun MOST days (we still have those days where one or both of them would rather not do any 'school' - doh!) but also a whole lot of work. After the kids go to bed each night, I've been trying to plan the next day, prep supplies, and figure out what we should do. Also, we're busy trying to meet friends and plan the play dates to get to know ppl better. So, we end up doing school 3-4 times a week and that's worked out well for us. To help them meet people, we've started Peanut Soccer with them. It's pretty funny watching the 3-5 y.o. try to figure out soccer and not get distracted, though some kids are really coordinated and into the game!! Aidan has also start
ed going to Royal Rangers at church everyday Wednesday night from 7-8:30pm. It's kinda like a Christian Boy Scout group - they have commanders (teachers), learn practical skills and even go on trips! While Aidan is at Royal Rangers, Jana goes to her Rainbows class and learns more about God. We've also instituted Family Time once a week, though some weeks we forget! LOL! But we think it's important for them to learn about how we worship and also teach them a bit about Him through prayer times, a game and sometimes dessert - just to spend time as a family. :) We'll see how it goes as they get older. Right now, Cara just crawls around while we sing, learn and play...haha! So, it's a good kind of busy but it's making me realize I need to cut back on some other things in my life if I want to get any sleep. (But that's another post. :))

Kiddies hard at work during school :)

So, we'd love to see how someone else does homeschooling and what you've found that works for your family! :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Almond Milk And Raw Cacao Nibbles recipes

Hi all: I've been tweaking some of these recipes for myself, so here they are - to my family's taste. :)

Homemade Vanilla Almond Milk
Based off of Renee Loux Underkoffler's Cookbook: Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods
Makes 4 cups

1 cup soaked raw almonds (soaked 8 hours)
4 cups filtered water
Pinch of salt
1 T non-alcohol vanilla extract (very important if you don't want that alcohol taste!)
1 T raw honey (or to taste)

Blend all ingredients together til the almonds are a fine pulp and the pour through a strainer or into a nut bag and squeeze out the liquid. Enjoy! [It works so much better if we had a nut bag but still doable with a fine strainer.] I use some of the almond meal for the next recipe sometimes.


Raw Cacao Nibbles

(I like this name better than Raw Cacao Balls! ;) )
I really prefer the taste of the raw cacao, even over the dutch-processed chocolate powder. Plus, the raw cacao has more antioxidants in it - even more than some red wines! What's not to love? :)

8-10 oz of dates, pitted and soaked for a few hours
A few handfuls of raw almonds, soaked for a few hours (drain water)
A few handfuls of organic, unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 c. raw cacao powder (or to taste)
A few tbsp of the organic, unsweetened coconut flakes, in a bowl

First, food process the dates until it forms a paste, then toss in the rest of the ingredients and food process until it forms a ball and all ingredients are incorporated. Then take a rounded Tbsp of the ball and form smaller balls (or whatever shape you like). Optional: roll in unsweetened coconut flakes to coat. Super yummers!! You can store the nibbles in the fridge for a few days. Enjoy!

As with anything, enjoy in moderation! ;)

Yummy green smoothies!


It's been so great ever since we discovered these green smoothies - not only are they healthy for ya, they're easy and they help you use up your fruits and veggies! Anyhow, we've only been doing green smoothies for about a month and a half but I've learned a lot, so here's a bit of how WE do smoothies. :)

What's in our smoothies?
The simple answer is: whatever we have on hand. Really. :) So the smoothie is a bit different everyday. The kids usually take a sip and ask me 'What's in it today?' - haha! Oh, and we usually prefer organic fruits and vegetables, if possible and if we can afford it. But typically we have:

- fresh fruit (apples, pears, grapes, etc),
- greens (kale, baby spinach, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, etc),
- frozen fruit (mixed fruit, blueberries [esp if your kids don't like the green color! and for the antioxidants], berries, mangoes, etc),
- some kind of liquid (OJ, almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
- and sometimes, some extras (chia seeds, lucuma powder, agave nectar, etc).

And there is no special prep except to peel when necessary (citrus, non-organic fruits) and core. We also cut the fruit into smaller pieces, so it's easier for the blender to handle.

What blender do we have?
We have a Cuisinart SmartPower 7-speed that has a special 'Ice Crush' button. It's been doing a great job, though I do have to run it a while to get the smoothie a bit smoothier and less chunky. However, since we've been using it at least once a day, I think the motor is slowly dying. The Vitamix is on our wishlist! :) Anyone have a used one they want to sell? ;)

How much of the greens to add?
I think it all depends on your (and your families) taste bud. Typically, we use a handful or two of whatever greens I buy. [I have pretty small hands, though. :)] Now, the swiss chard seemed a bit bitter to me (but not to my family for some reason) so when I use that, I use less than a handful. It's always good to start with a little and then 'step it up a notch' when you think it still tastes good enough to drink a lot of it.

What about the 'extras'? Tell me more about those.
I like to put chia seeds in my smoothie for a protein boost and for a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly ALAs). Plus, the way they plump up when you put them in water is so neat - a good 'experiment' to do with the kids. :) Agave is simply a sweetener derived from the cactus plant. It has a low-gylcemic index and has no other taste except sweet. [Baking with it and cooking with it has been great.] I use it when there are a lot of citrus fruits in the smoothie and none of them are sweet. :) I've try to use just a bit to cut the tartness and the kids are pretty good with it, though my main point is to get the kids to drink it, so I make it just sweet enough for them. Lucuma is another sweetener and it's derived from the lucuma fruit. Some say it has a maple syrupy flavor but I haven't put enough in to tell. It does thicken the smoothie a bit if you put enough. I've tried honey in the past and have used raw honey when I could but I found that when it hits the cold smoothie, it is really hard to get it dispersed evenly to sweeten the entire smoothie and then I end up with honey globs on the side of the container. Maybe diluting it with some water first? I'm thinking about some green powders next but we'll see. :)

Any tips?
Here's what has worked great for us, esp if you don't have a high powdered blender. Put the fresh fruit, greens and liquid in first and blend them together. Then add the frozen fruit and the extras. It should blend a bit easier than putting it all in there or putting the frozen stuff on the bottom. Trust me on this one. :) Also, this order helps you put more frozen fruit in there because the volume is reduced after the fruits and greens are blended up. Actually, when you start putting more greens in, you can leave out the greens and just blend up the fresh fruits with the liquid before putting the greens in. Then blend up the greens and lastly, the frozen fruit. Hope that made sense. :)

After you finish divvying up the smoothie, rinse the blender before the smoothie dries on it. After it dries, it's much harder to clean off. The same goes for the cups and straws. Right after we're finished, we rinse everything off.

For the kiddies, I try to give them a fun straw to make it more fun to drink. I also try to put more of the fruits they like or ask them for their input once in a while. "Would you like blueberries or mangoes today?" We also play the 'Guess what's in the smoothie' game. :) We also alternate with the chocolate shake. [See below.]

Sometimes, when I blend the hydrated chia seed in there, it tastes a bit bitter to me (again, only to me). So I end up just mixing it in gently with a spoon after I finish making the smoothie and before I serve it.

If you find that your smoothie separates pretty quickly after making it (and you don't like that), try putting in more frozen fruit or more hydrated chia seeds.

Regarding prices for things, I would call around to see what your local health food store charges for the extras and then factor in gas (if it's far, taxes, shipping, etc) and figure out what's best for you. Or purchase a greater quantity with a green smoothie friend! :)

Any favorite non-green smoothie recipes?
I'll share one for now. This is a recipe based on the Chocolate Shake by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney.

Chocolate Shake
3 frozen bananas (mine are in chunks)
2 cups almond milk
3 T raw cacao powder (we're thinking maybe 4 next time)
1 t non-alcohol vanilla extract (or else it'll taste a bit like alcohol)
pinch of salt
small squirt of agave
cinnamon, to taste (option)

Blend everything together. Enjoy! It is soooo good! :)

Do I feel any different after drinking these almost daily for over a month?
I would definitely say that I've been feeling more energetic and have been wanting to eat healthier. Kev actually feels the same! :) Oh, and we've been more regular. Haha! Now, some might say that's all psychological but even if it is, I'm all for it. ;)

Hope this helps! And some of you reading this might have been drinking these smoothies longer than I have and have more tips to share. Please do! And feel free to post any questions or email me at mama4jc@gmail.com. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our NYC mini-vacation


We took a mini-vacation to NYC last Wednesday to Friday and it was such a blast! Even though we were unsure how it would go with all 5 of us sleeping in the same space, how to 'do' subways with 3 little ones in tow, how to find parking in the city, etc - it worked out well. :) Thanks to Auntie Celine for allowing us to stay in her gorgeous apartment in Gramercy Park! Anyhow, here's what we did:

DAY 1
We decided to drive into the city instead of doing a bus or train because of all the stuff we had to take with us to make the trip possible (pack-n-play, clothes, double stroller, snacks, toys [in case we got stuck in traffic], etc). Our first stop was the American Museum of Natural History for our Aidan, our dino-lover. Finding street parking was impossible and some of the street signs were so ambiguous that we ended up doing garage parking. Kev had found some coupons online for Central Parking, which made it more affordable. So definitely check for parking garage coupons if you're going to drive in. We also had a great map of the city and a new GPS, which didn't get us lost like the old one did and spoke the walking directions in a fun British accent! :) The kids lasted almost 3 hours before they were clamoring for food - I was really impressed! The museum's gem section is always fun and the hall of Ocean Life was really stunning! Cara got tired of being in the Ergo after her nap, so I let her roam a bit. There's something about her that makes random people come up and want to play with her - haha! I think in the span of 15 minutes, 5 groups stopped to say hi - she was like another exhibit! :D Anyhow, a great place to nurse is the section between all the dinosaurs exhibits where they show a short film. It's dark and you get to watch a short film while nursing. :) Anyhow, after the museum, we hit the famous Shake Shack, which was super close to the museum. By 3:30, there was no line, so we were able to enjoy burgers, hotdogs, fries and shakes pretty quickly after we ordered. It's true - it was all pretty tasty. I would say it's on par with In and Out and the like. After our tummies were happy, we decided to get settled into the apartment in Gramercy Park. It took a while just to get our car, which was ok except the kiddies were getting tired. Then, we had to fight a bit of traffic and all the pedestrians to get to the apt. When we finally got there, we tried to find some street parking so we can unload without getting towed but couldn't find a space. Finally, we ended up parking in half a spot and put on our hazards so Kev could go back and forth with our stuff while I watched the kids and the car. Then, while I settled into the apt with the kiddies, Kev drove to the nearest parking garage that we had coupons for. Phew! The kids had fun exploring the apt and playing with some old toys I dug up from their collection. Then our friends, Sarah and Darren came over for a dinner of delicious Bravo Pizza. Truly, NYC pizza can't be beat! And their fresh mozzarella pie was really well done! :) We also had a great time chatting it up. :) And because the kids were really tired out from little to no naps, they went to bed without too much trouble. We also brought along our new Sleepmate for Cara since she goes to bed earlier than the rest of us and it really helped her to sleep through all the noise. Praise Jesus!
Dinos galore!




Getting to touch some real fossils

Yay, no line at Shake Shack!

DAY 2
We started off the day slow because that's the only way to start any day when you're on vacation. :) We first went to Central Park and played at the Heckscher Playground. That playground is really well planned out. There was lots of do and we all had fun. :) The kiddies also made some friends, which made it more fun. Aidan even met a little boy named Jake who loved Transformers as much as he did and Aidan is still talking about inviting Jake over! Because he was with his nanny, we didn't get a chance to say thanks to his parents for teaching Jake how to share so well - so if you're reading this, thanks for doing such a great job! :) Anyhow, it was also very interesting to see the nanny culture in NYC. I saw more nannies with kids than I saw parents with their kids - I wondering if it's the culture or if it's how you can afford to live in NYC. No judgements, though. We even made friends with a few nannies that we got to talk to. :) We then met up with Naoko and Gregory (and their little Sakura) - our friends from PA that just moved to NYC. We walked to Joe's Shanghai for lunch and man, gotta love their xiao long bao! :) Then, we walked to the big ToysRus in Times Square. Jana got to ride on that big ferris wheel and Aidan got to peruse the Transformers. :) After that, we were on the hunt for some bubble tea. On the way to K-town for some, we had some Red Mango ( I had their regular with mochi, blueberries and mango and Kev had their Wildberry Hibiscus tea which was really good), some Jamba Juice, and finally some Korean bubble tea with yummy pastry. Deeeelish! Then we parted ways and we went back home to have a relaxing evening....

Atop a rock at the park

We are Chinese, you know...;)



Cara sat here to catch all the action

Ready, steady, go!

ToyRus - debating the ferris wheel
Finally got some bubble tea


But, wait, there's more! :) While Kev hung out with the kiddies back at the apt, I grabbed some takeout for us from Pure Food & Wine - this raw food restaurant that is supposed to be the best in NYC. Instead of getting food from the restaurant, I headed around the corner to their takeout section. [I also got to meet this guy who told me he was a raw food guru who gave me recommendations on what to order.] We got the Spicy Thai Lettuce Wraps, Falafel with Tabhouli, their Zucchini and Tomato Lasagna and a pint of the Almond Buttercup raw ice cream. Wow! We didn't really know what to expect because we just got into raw food but almost all the entrees were surprisingly good. It was especially interesting to taste the 'cheese' sauces that were made of nut purees and the cream base of the ice cream that was a mixture of coconut meat and nut puree. [Sorry no pic of the ice cream - we ate it too fast! Ha!] Even though we were full from this meal, it was this light kind of full but not the 'lead in your stomach' kind of full. All in all, a great experience!

Lettuce Wraps

Falafel w/ Tabhouli

Zucchini Tomato Lasagna


DAY 3
We slept in a bit and woke up around 9am and called my cousin Jeff to see where he wanted to meet up. We had to exchange something at the ToyRus, so we ended up meeting there. [Side note: schlepping a double up and down the stairs for the subway is NOT fun but doable, esp if you have a hubby in tow. Now, if your child falls asleep in the stroller and you need to take the subway, I hope you meet some nice people to help you get the thing up and down the subway stairs!] Then we walked around and ended up at Pigalle for lunch. The food was great - we had juicy burgers and crab salad w/avocadoes - the service was very good and I loved the open air seating (their entire wall had doors that opened up so you were inside but could still enjoy the beautiful weather that day!). After that, Jeff went to run errands and we got ready to head back to NJ. We stopped by the Union Square Farmers market and had a little look around. We picked up some purple heirloom peppers and white heirloom peppers and some super yummy juice from Red Jacket Orchards as presents. [The Black currant apple is a favorite!] We had one more stop before we went home: Edgewater, NJ - to meet up with our old friends: Yulin & Win and Erica (and their new baby, Madeline). We went to Mitsuwa for some yummy udon, rolls and mochi. They also lived along the Hudson, so we got to take a really relaxing stroll along the river to and from the store (this was before that sad accident).

Jana sleeping in


Aidan sleeping in...haha Lunch with Jeff

Union Square Famer's Market

A stroll along the Hudson
Japanese yummies

Anyhow, I'm sure we could have done more but what we really wanted was a relaxing vacation where the kids could have fun and explore and the adults could catch up with old friends - so we were really happy. :) We wouldn't mind going back again sometime...anyone wanna join us?

Monday, August 3, 2009

What's new with us...

So, another update for y'all...:)

Our boxes corner
1. We are finally NJ resident once again. We just can't stay away...haha! Anyhow, the move went well (used Wade Odeall Wade again!) and we are nearly all unpacked. There are still pictures yet to be hung but I'm actually not sure if I'll hang them all up. Because most of the walls are painted, it actually looks pretty good already (no white, empty spaces). Plus, we're likely moving again in a year (we're looking to buy this time around) so I'm less motivated. So, maybe no pics of our home this time...we'll see. ;) And I'm again flabbergasted at how different the DMVs are from state to state. In both FL and PA, the process was rather quick and painless...but not so here in NJ. But at least it's done. Phew! We even got our old license numbers back - cool, eh?


2. Remember our stint with Aidan and Jana sharing a room? Welp, after almost a week of really poor sleep due to the kids fighting and not listening (ok, it was mainly Jana causing issues), we decided to keep them separate and work on Jana staying in her own bed. So, we'll let you know how that goes. She's a bit more persistent, if you know what I mean. Even with the Supernanny method, she's still trying to get out of her bed, even during naps. Sigh. I know it'll get better.


3. Speaking of sleep, Cara has been waking up earlier these days (ok, it's only 7:30am but I'm used to her waking us up around 8am) and it's no fun b/c we've been putting the kids down later at night since we're still on vacation mode (Kev doesn't start work wil the last week of Aug) and want the other kids to sleep in more. So, we're working on helping her sleep longer - curtains, white noise, etc. We'll see what happens. She's cut 2 teeth since we've moved and still drooling up a storm, so maybe it's that? Or maybe that she started crawling and sitting up by herself and feeding herself all within the last 2 weeks, so maybe it's that? But seeing her get more mobile and active is so fun! :)


4. Ever since we saw this show on how there is high levels of pharmaceuticals in our water from ppl flushing meds down the toilet and factory waste, I've been kinda concerned about the quality of our water. In that TV segment, you see frogs (which are really susceptible to changes in the water supply since they're soaked in water for most of their lives and breathe through their skin) born with missing legs, extra legs, male frogs with eggs, etc - it's really disturbing. And they are not yet testing for those meds because they had no idea it would build up in the water to this level. At the same time, I read this post about how Berkey Water filters filter out a lot of undesirable things (microbes, pathogens, heavy metals, etc) but leave in good things (calcium, etc), I was really intrigued. I've always had a Brita but I know they really don't do much. So, we went and got ourselves the Royal Berkey and I am IN LOVE! :) Even Kev really likes it! We even did the food coloring test and poured in purple water and out came clear, delicious water! Anyhow, if you're interested, you can find it here - Royal Berkey
. Now I feel really good drinking the water, esp since the kids and I drink so much of it everyday! Plus, it tastes great! :) [I love this filter so much, I even became an affiliate for them! Hehe!]


The green smoothie before being smoothified
The dessert green smoothie
5. We've also been trying to eat healthier lately and started to drink a glass of green smoothie everyday and eat more greens. When, Aidan [who has never had an allergy in his life and is rarely sick, even when school is in session] got an allergic reaction to some peppers and apples, I started thinking I might need to do something different. So, I tried the organic version of certain fruits and vegetables and he hasn't had one since! I used to not "believe" in organic fruits and vegetables bacause the alternative pesticides that are being used on them are not tested, but because of what happened to Aidan, I'm starting to think there might be something to it. Anyhow, back to smoothies. So, besides from fresh fruits and frozen fruits, I add kale or swiss chard (and sometimes some dairy if I want to make it more of a dessert) and voila! a yummy drink that is good for you! Plus, the hubby and kids will drink it no problem, which is a must! And since drinking it, I think Jana's ezcema-like symptoms is getting better!! :) It also makes me fuller, which is helpful in losing some weight. :) So, any thoughts on Vita-mix or Blend-tec blender? I've been using my Cuisinart from my wedding registry and I think it's dying from all this use. I'm definitely leaning towards Vita-mix because of the better warranty but just curious if anyone had any thoughts.

Aidan's cool bike
Jana's Princess trike
6. The kids finally got bikes/trikes! We've been holding off getting them because we've been moving so much but since Aidan is now 5, we thought it was time. They got riding right away and Aidan is already talking about getting the training wheels off! :) They're also using chopsticks! Our good friend, Lois, recommended these awesome training chopsticks that really work! I think the brand is Edison or something like that...

7. Lately, I've also gotten into some raw foods and have some on the way to try. Let's see, we have: chia seeds (smoothies and maybe breakfast), raw cacao powder (gonna whip up some chocolate shakes and making some more raw fudge balls!), brewer's yeast (for cara's yogurt) and lucuma powder (super nutritious, natural sweetener - different from agave, another fave). Will let you know when we get it and try it out. Can't wait! :)

A scene from Aidan's party
8. Aidan celebrated his 5th birthday with some friends and family this past Saturday! We had a little get together of subs and wings and the kiddies played water games in the backyard. Praise God for beautiful weather and for the gift of friends. We had a great time! Some pics here.

Alrighty, I should get to bed...g'night!
Warmly,


Jackie, Aidan, Cara, Jana and Kevin :)


Monday, July 13, 2009

My thoughts on healthcare reform...

Here are some of my meandering thoughts on healthcare reform. Ta-da! ;)

Healthcare reform is a big topic and I’m by no means an expert in the subject. But, having worked as a healthcare provider and then also having the experience of being a user of healthcare insurance, I feel that I have a lot to say. :) First off, just a little background. Prior to kids, I worked as a dietitian for a few years. I’m also married to a healthcare provider. We’ve had great insurance (but paid a lot for it!) and mediocre insurance (and still paid too much for it) and now have no insurance for our family of 5 because hubby is in-between jobs. I have no party affiliation, though I’m registered as an Independent. So there you have it. :)

Having had all those different experiences, I do feel that our healthcare system does not work well for some but works great for others. I also know that some people don’t even have insurance, which is really detrimental to one’s well-being. With that said, I still don’t think we need to go as drastic as government-run healthcare. I feel that we can start by fixing some of the flaws in our current system – maybe even a major overhaul. But to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, and give more control to a government, which I feel lacks financial wisdom, accountability and responsibilities, might be doing us a disservice. Not all change is a good change. So here’s what I see is a part of the problem with our current system and what I think can be changed.

Because consumers are currently stuck with whatever insurance companies their boss buys insurance from, there is no say in the price paid for premiums or services. I actually really liked the Republican’s plan of giving consumers money to purchase their own insurance, so that it would foster healthy competition between insurance companies, forcing them to be more creative with how to keep costs down, and ultimately drive prices down to draw customers. Why shouldn’t we be able to buy health insurance like we do car insurance or home insurance? Don’t we shop around for the best price and best package before deciding to buy? Don’t we have a choice in what we want to pay, in terms of premiums and such? It’d be great to have that with health insurance.

There is a problem with where the bulk of the healthcare dollars are going to. Some doctors are getting paid a minimal amount to do procedures requiring hours of work and some have quit because they barely make enough to pay their bills. (Aidan’s pedicatric ophthalmologist only got paid about $200 for doing eyelid surgery. That’s atrociously meager to me.) Insurance companies say they are going under because they’re not making enough money. Consumers are running out of money to pay for groceries because of their hefty medical bills. I don’t understand. Is it the insurance executives who are still earning big salaries? I’m almost scared to ask after the government bail-out money (which I really disagree with, btw) went to bankrupt companies whose execs were still getting bonuses and living it up. Maybe if the insurance companies can stand to make a little less, their companies would make a little more and be able to stay afloat? Please, no more bonuses, extravagant parties and corporate excess. Besides these corporate execs, I want to talk about some doctors that have lost their sensibilities and started to see patients simply as dollar signs. I know many great doctors that put patient care first and they are gems! However, I also know of a few that do certain procedures because it reimburses more and schedule more procedures than their patients really need because it brings in more money. It’s scary! [Please do your homework when choosing a provider!] Lastly, the fact is, many consumers are also abusing the system and milking it for all its worth. My husband has seen firsthand how people can circumvent the system and use it to get unnecessary handicapped parking tags, social security disability, extraneous medication to feed an addiction, depleting the funds for necessary medical treatments for others. In short, it’s really the lack of character on all fronts, that is causing this problem and it’s really a downward spiral. Consumers cheat the system. It’s depleting money from the insurance companies who are paying out ‘way too much’ and their execs are not getting enough, so they decrease the amount reimbursed and/or outright reject payments or coverage for more and more services. The hospitals are not getting paid enough because insurance is reimbursing less, so they raise their prices. Who gets the shaft? It’s those honest folks who are trying to follow the rules but are having to pay for things out-of-pocket because they have super high deductibles or their insurance won’t cover it anymore or they don’t have insurance anymore. It’s also those honest doctors who are putting their patients first and doing what’s best even though they are meagerly compensated. It’s a sad state of affairs.

And let’s talk about the fact that if the government-run healthcare gets passed, taxes will go up for those making more than $250K. Even though we don’t make nearly that much and won’t be affected by this hike, I don’t understand why only the rich have to shoulder the brunt of what they expect this new healthcare system will cost. Isn’t everyone using it? Aren’t the rich already taxes more? Maybe I’m one of the few that will say that – maybe I’m missing something here? Also, why say you’re going to raise taxes using the current system that isn’t even doing the job to collect the taxes it is due? Let’s not mention any names where but there have been politicians on both sides of the fence not paying the amount they’re supposed to. And even if it’s their “accountants fault”, don’t these politicians have enough money to hire accountants that know the current tax law? Anyhow, I don’t want to go there. ;) Let’s start by fix this faulty tax system and ask all the politicians to pay up all the taxes that they are supposed to and then see where we stand financially. And, by the way, President Obama (who makes $400K), the President of Bolivia voluntarily reduced his own pay to show the people that he was serious about making changes to how the government spends money. That's a great idea, don’t you think? ;)

Therefore, I think what we need is more competition, more accountability, more character (though that’s the church’s job), and more emphasis on preventative measures & living healthier lifestyles. And because the government is already riddle with red tape and lacking in accountability for so many other areas, I really think it’s best to keep it out of their hands.

I do applaud Obama on making healthcare reform one of his initiatives and appreciate the fact that he is following through on something that he’s promised. I really hope and pray that our leaders will take the time to really think things through before signing a bill that will impact us and our kids for years to come.

PS I didn't write about universal healthcare because I'm not sure if that's what this 'government-run' healthcare will be. But I have thoughts on that, too. :)

Thoughts, anyone?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Education decisions...

So many ppl have been asking me if I'm going to send Aidan to kindergarten because he will turn 5 on 8/3. And each time they ask, I reply that I'm not sure b/c I'm really not sure. I'm been wondering about this for a while now and there are so many thoughts swimming in my head about this. But the more I think about it, the more confused I am - and here's why:

I've been waffling between sending the kids to school or trying my hand at homeschooling for a while. And I have friends on both sides who are strongly believe in what they've chosen for their kids, which helps me to see some of both perspectives. And this is what I've gathered:

HOMESCHOOLING
Pros: Individualized attention; each kid can learn at their own pace; you can focus more on character because they will be with you more; less exposure to undesirable influences and teachings; flexibility in schedule; can incorporate religion; safe environment (at least more controlled)
Cons: You have to be organized, it's a lot of work; there can be oodles of paperwork and tests to show progress to the state; having young babies around makes it tougher; possible lack in social interactions (that depends on the mom); mom might feel indequate to teach certain subjects; loneliness if no one else by you is homeschooling; paying school tax for a school system I'm not using (that's the frugal side of me talking)
Other considerations: I've heard that if there is a good homeschool co-op nearby, there will be lots of social interaction (ie sports clubs, outings, etc) and lots of support. If I were to actually homeschool, I think having a co-op nearby would almost be a pre-req!

TRADITIONAL SCHOOLING
Pros: Teacher proficient in their subject(s) teaching my child; lots of social interaction; if regular school - exposure to different ethnicities, religions, etc; kids hopefully being a light at school; understanding of our culturel positive peer pressure from good friends
Cons: Being taught things I don't agree with; possibly safety issues (ie Columbine); regular school issues - bullying, teasing, etc; bad education; falling through the cracks
Other considerations: There is also alternative schools, such as Christian schoosl and charter schools but some of them aren't much better in terms of safety and teasing, which is bound to happen when you group kids together. Then there are the financial concerns - since we would love to have another, 4 kids in school will be very expensive...and that's not even counting in the cost of college!

But the questions I really have to ask myself after all this are: why am I choosing the route I am choosing? If homeschool, am I choosing it out of fear? If regular school, am I choosing it because it's easier day-to-day? What if there are no co-ops? Am I trusting God in my decision? The fact remains that public/private school these days are just not what they were when I went to school. Back in the 80s, there were no metal detectors and drugs weren't as rampant as they are today. Also, I feel that kids are being exposed to certain topics like sex and abortion earlier and earlier and I question the wisdom in that. And certain social topics I would really rather cover myself instead of having to correct what's been said at school. Also, with the reports of American schools lagging behind in academics and the solutions that have been set in place that don't seem to do the job, I'm even questioning what kind of education they will receive on the academic end. No doubt there are still great teachers out there (which make all the difference) and I thank all my teacher friends that are still out there (you are sooo needed!), but there are also the bad ones that can make you dislike a subject your entire life. (Though my teaching math might do that to the kids...hehe). Plus, each kid is soo different that it might be possible to choose homeschool for one kid and public/private for another...or would that even happen? That then gets even more complicated. I guess it all boils down to lots of prayer, asking God to show me what is best for the kids...which means spending more time with Him. I should do that more anyways. ;)

Back to Aidan...we sent him to preschool this year b/c after we moved to PA, I had a hard time finding boys his age for him to play with that were not in school. We went to playgrounds, malls, bookstores and libraries. And he really, really wanted some boys to play with. So, we were blessed to have found a Montessori nearby and enrolled him right away. Overall, he had a good time there but was teased a bit for wearing glasses and being different looking. That made him really sad and made me really annoyed. Plus, we had done a lot with Aidan and he was already reading some when he started preschool and they were just covering the basics of how to recognize numbers and letters. And since he was a bit bored and very active, he got in trouble a little. But don't get me wrong, he did learn how to color well and he now knows more of what it means to be a friend, which are important skills. Anyhow, I'm glad I have one more year to think and pray about this because we've decided to wait one more year before making a decision and if he were to go to school, I'd rather wait til he was 6. We'll see what happens, though. Either way, I know that God has a plan for him. :)

Anyone with any thoughts on this?

Friday, July 10, 2009

This too shall pass...

...this has been my mantra, as of late. With sooo many changes going on with the move and with having three kids, I really have to keep that in mind. Lately, the two older kids started sharing a room b/c we're moving to another 3 bedroom townhome and we would like Cara to have her own room. So, that leaves the older two to share a room, esp since they can really understand rules...or so I thought. But I promptly forgot that Jana just turned three and LOVES to test the boundaries - PLUS, she's more persistent than Aidan, which can be good and bad. Anyhow, we've tried out this new room sitch for the past 3 nights and it's been very tiring. Jana keeps coming out of her bed to bother Aidan or to bother us. We've tried everything we can think of and nothing has really kept her in her bed. So, tomorrow is a new day. We're going to try the Supernanny trick - one of us will be posted right outside the door for an hour or two after they go to bed. That way, we can reinforce the rules right away and hopefully it will hit home that bedtime is really for sleeping. I mean, they can whisper and chat at night for a bit is ok but bouncing on the bed and screaming is not. I'll try to remember to update what happened between packing boxes and decluttering. :) It's almost ironic that Jana started coming out of her room and/or crying in the middle of the night after Cara decided to sleep through the night. I guess I should count my blessings that I'm not getting up for both girls and that Kev has been taking his turn at night since he's between jobs currently. And it's funny how you forget how bad things were....Aidan used to do the same thing and wake us up every time he had to pee at night when he was getting trained. And I remember thinking to myself...when will this end? When will I get a good night's rest? But then it passed and I almost forgot I had to do that. Anyhow, this post is really a reminder for me to keep praying and know that an end is in sight...even if it won't come for a while. And esp. when I'm all riled up from one, two or three of the kids, I have to keep saying this to myself and learn to enjoy the kiddies. :) G'night!
PS Anyone with any tips on how to help them share a room quietly? They do ok when they wake up - they get dressed and read til we get them, most of the time, but it's the going to sleep that's the issue. Thanks in advance! :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quarterly update...

...or that's what it seems like, anyhow. Things have gotten really busy around here - and here's why...

::Family Stuff::
1. We're moving again! Yes, you read that right. Kev got a great opportunity with a friend of his and so we're relocating to the Jackson, NJ area. Does anyone know of a great town to live in down around there?
2. With all this rain we've been getting, it was hard for us to go out and do our daily run/walks around the neighborhood. I'm still working on getting down to my pre-preg weight, so Kev got us EA Sports Active (SA) for the Wii. I was doing well on the Wii Fit but it was getting a bit monotonous since I knew what I would be doing each day. With the SA, they have a preprogrammed 30 Day Challenge that surprises you each day with what your workout routine would be. And I find myself sweating after each workout, which feels great! And, you can workout with someone else, which has been fun for Kev and I!
3. We've been needing to replace Kev's car for a while - a bunch of things stopped working and it started making funny noises. Kev had been researching for a long while now (esp since something fell off his car while he was driving one day!) but finally decided to sacrifice a nice, fast car for a mini-van since we're wanting #4 sometime in the future. So, now we have a Bali Blue Honda Odyssey sitting in our driveway! It's growing on me a bit, though it's so big, it barely fits into our one car garage. *0* I AM enjoying having more room to manuveur around in, esp with buckling the kiddies (though the older two can almost do that by themselves). This thing does eat up gas pretty quick, though....I am sad about that. Kev is now driving my CR-V and gave it a nice cleaning inside and out before he officially claimed it as his. Haha!
4. I'm still sewing and it's been getting more fun as I get to try different projects. I think it's really nice (esp for us Moms) to hold our 'accomplishments' in our hands or to see our kiddies enjoying something we made for them...it's very satisfying! Some pics here.

...and, now, onto some hodge-podge updates on the kiddies:

::Aidan::
He officially graduated from Montessori Preschool at the beginning of May and we're so proud of him. He has really learned a lot of great things, academically and socially. However, his year in school also made us think about moving to a place with more ethnic diversity. Aidan's at the age where he's starting to notice differences in people - he's not making any judgements but likes to point out if someone is really different. Because his classmates are the same age, Aidan's gotten some comments about how he doesn't look like everyone else, which made him self-conscious. This makes me really sad. So with this next move, we are more mindful of looking for areas of greater ethnic diversity - anyone have any ideas of areas around Jackson, NJ that have what we're looking for? Anyhow, we've been doing additional stuff at home and he's been doing much better with writing and reading - go, Aidan! :) He still loves his Kumon workbooks! The latest development is that his love of fish has been surplanted by his love of dinosaurs! I thought I would never see the day but he did tell me he likes dinos more! Now everytime we go to B&N or the library, he heads right to the dino section and now knows more about dinos than me! Oh, and he loves, loves, loves his Legos and is great at making his own creations! See here, here, here and here. :) What else....his sisters: he's still great with Cara and helps out a lot! And his days are riddled with moments where he's playing well with Jana and then squabbling with her...so typical, eh? Haha! And Aidan's first trip to the dentist went swimmingly - he's got great teeth, like Kev - so blessed!

::Jana::
She is our singing, echoing, robot-talking princess. ;) Now that Jana has a good command of the English vocab, she loves to talk, talk and talk. She's on the play phone, talking to everyone she knows several times a day - and it's complete with 'uh-huh's', 'yups' and head nods. She also wants to talk to everyone that calls and it doesn't even matter if you're a telemarketer (though sometimes I'm tempted to hand her the phone...tehe). She also makes up songs on a whim and sings them everywhere she goes - it's pretty hilarious! She still echoes Aidan a lot, esp during meals, and breaks out in a monotone robot-talk randomly. She is still super cuddly and like to say 'I love you', esp when she gets in trouble. ;) She also likes to do school when Aidan does and has been getting better at her shapes ans colors - yay, Jana! Her latest 'job' is babyfood tester! Everytime we open a new jar of babyfood, Jana wants to taste it...and she's liked everything except the winter squash! :) Jana also says very profound things at times: One time I was lamenting about how much work it is to find a new home and how I'm trying to stay at peace. Jana just turns to me and says "God can do it all by hisself [sic] - it's His job". I think I just stared at her for a few seconds b/c I didn't know what to say. Whenever I stare at her, though, she would start to giggle, so that broke me out of staring enough to say "Jana, that's so true!" :D Anyhow, she is definitely back at the testing phase, which can get tiring by 11am. But all her hugs and kisses help to remind me 'our battle is not against flesh and blood'...;) She's also showing an interest in princesses, so for her 3rd birthday this past Saturday, we had a princess day with her cousins - fun stuff! Jana also did great at the dentist, having been inspired by her brother. :)

::Cara::
Our little 7 month old is doing swell. :) She went through a phase of waking up 2-3 times at night, which was more than she did when she was a newborn. That was brutal. I can understand that as a newborn but when you go backwards like that, it's so tiring! Anyhow, but praise the Lord, at the beginning of June, she started sleeping through the night - from 7:30 to 7 or 7:30!!!! Let's hope this is NOT just a phase! :) Cara got started on solids around 6 months and she took to it no problem. She had to figure out what to do with her tongue to get it in but once she did it, she barely needs a bib! [But she's still wearing one at every meal b/c I made them for her...haha!] She also hasn't met a babyfood she didn't like yet! :) She's also the recipient of quite a few handmade dresses b/c smaller sizes are so much easier to make. ;) She's getting good at sitting up unassisted and loves to sit in the same room that her siblings are in and just watch the action. I even find her cracking up sometimes when the sibs are doing something funny! She's also my only baby thus far that still smiles at the pediatrician at their 6 month appointment. All in all, she's got a great temperament, which is so nice! The latest is that she's been rolling around in her crib, getting stuck vertically and was not able to roll back on her tummy (her preferred way of sleeping) and it's waking her up at night. I think just today, she's getting better at falling back to sleep on her back. I really have forgotten how many changes babies go through!! And, oh, she's also sporting a new tooth! Go, Cara! :)

I just posted some pics of this past month here - it pretty much summarizes what's been going on, so check it out! :) G'night!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Yay! I finally did it!

Remember my post (last paragraph) from way back about some goals I made for myself to foster my interest? Welp, I finally made some fun stuff using the sewing machine that I borrowed from my sister MONTHS ago! :) Yes, it also took me weeks to figure out that I didn't borrow the power chord and that I didn't have the manual. Hehe. But, nevertheless, I got it all sorted out and made some fun things! I wish I had more time for it, though - right now, I get to sew about once a week for an hour or two. BTW, if anyone has any easy projects or advice, please send them this way. Right now, I have plans to make some drawstring backpacks for the kiddies SOMETIME this year...haha! Anyhow, enjoy the pics!

Flannel/terry wipes (un-paper towels)


Pillowcases (Batman & Wall-E) - super easy!


A set of 6 flannel/terry wipes (can you tell flannel was on sale!? hehe)

Oh, and re: my other goals: I borrowed a bread machine from my MIL a while back and made lots of yummy bread (think applesauce and cinnamon, for example) but found that we had to eat it very quickly to enjoy that fresh bread taste and ended up eating WAAAY too much of it. :P (Not enough freezer space to store it all.) So, I try not to make it as much. Sigh. And most of the pics on this blog were taken with the dSLR, though still have to brush up on my f-stop, aperture skills to really make full use of our camera. But, it's been fun!

So, what have you done to foster your interests, lately? :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update on us all....

It's been a while since I've written, so here's a 'quick' family update on the Hsu's in Nazareth. :)



:::Aidan:::
My 4.5 y.o. has really grown up! He's been enjoying Montessori Preschool a lot and getting better at coloring and listening to the teachers. :) I really love the Montessori method and I'm so glad that he's thriving in it! Aidan's also been getting more and more independent. If I can brag a bit, I pick out his clothes for him for the next day the night before, so by the time I go get him in the morning, he's already dressed and his bed is made - he's just reading quietly or playing quietly. :D He's also been so good at helping out with Cara and since his car seat is in the middle, he helps me soothe her when she's crying and plays with her when she's bored. Aidan has also started reading a bit!!! I've been working with him for a while now, doing the alphabet and sounding them out but I think it's finally hitting home! He read the first 2 Bob Books in the 1st set and has been sounding out signs and words on packages. :) I think what really helped was the Starfall website, the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD & the Leap Frog Talking Word Factory DVD, some random workbooks from the dollar stores, and Eric Carle flashcards we got from Sortfloorbooks (love that site!). He's also been doing better in memorizing his Bible verses - though we've had to throw a little incentive in there for him. Ahem. :) But that is one of the goals we have for the kiddies this year - to get more of the Word in them. It's also been great for me since I haven't been getting into the Word as much as I would like and it'd be great to memorize along with the kids! :)



:::Jana:::
My 2.5 y.o. has really grown a lot as well! She's been talking more and still pretty bilingual - though she's talking more and more in English since she wants to be like Aidan. :) But we still try to talk to the kiddies in Chinese when we remember. All we really ask is that they understand Chinese - speaking it at all is a bonus. :) Jana is also very coordinated and can color well and even use the scissors well - she's been getting into some Kumon books, like Aidan. Don't worry, these Kumon books are fun! See post here. She is also really into memorizing the verses we've been working - she's actually enjoying it more than Aidan! Haha! Jana can also be found putting together imaginative outfits and "breastfeeding" her baby. :) In terms of adjusting to Cara, she's still having a bit of trouble not being the baby but she's trying her best. ;) I think on the days when Aidan is off to school, Jana is a bit better - Cara is usually napping and I get to spend some one-on-one time with her. I also try to tell her that I love her a lot. Hopefully, it's sinking in! :)




:::Cara:::
She's my sweet 3 month old! :D She's babbling lots and staying awake more. She's also really enjoying just being with her siblings and watches them intently! She also recently found her hands, so sucking on them as been a favorite pasttime. She's also been sleeping well and I attribute that to the grace of God and to a mixture of the Babywise method and the Baby Whisper Method. There's also a blog that I love that make Babywise more practical and answers some of the questions someone might have when trying to implement the method. I also want to add that Babywise is not the same method that people have talked about in the past where there is a rigid schedule that babies are put on and must follow or else. It's gotten more flexible and even teaches you to figure out how to read your child so you can better know what they need and why they're crying. I feel like it helps you to organize your day and helps you figure out what the baby needs at that point in time. Then, again, I think I really like my mix because it suits my personality, so it's not for everyone! :)

:::Kev & Jackie:::
We recently purchased the Wii and Wii Fit and it has been great! We play some games together - some competitive and some cooperative, and it's been fun! I've also been trying to strengthen my core and lose some baby weight and it's been helping me with those goals. I really love how I can workout no matter the weather (no more excuses!) and that it's pretty easy to keep to. And another plug for strengthening your core - and this is for you Mommies! I don't know how many times I've struggled with one of the kiddies by either lifting them in a weird position or trying to calm them down from a tantrum and have hurt my back. Then, it takes a while to heal b/c you use your back for almost everything! So, by strengthening your core, not only do you have flatter abs, you will also hurt yourself less! I've done Pilates DVDs in the past, which was good, but got tired of the videos I have - the Wii has a bunch of strengthening exercises and helps you to have good form. Anyhow, regardless of what you use, definitely try working on your abs this winter! :)

We're also trying to go to bed earlier since Cara is still feeding at night and it's going ok - my goal is 10pm but it's been more like 11pm with working out and household stuff. I've also figured out new ways to do some of my chores (like rinsing the dipes at night and getting them into the washing machine to wash in the morning, switched to Tide HE powder so diaper laundry is less tedious, etc) , so I have a bit more free time. I've also been trying to get into the Word more, so I've picked up The Busy Mom's Guide to Bible Study by Lisa Whelchel. (Check out the imperfect ones for a cheap copy!) It's, at most, 15 minutes and gets you in the Word fast and it has a blank page for journaling, which is what I used to do anyways. I've found it highly doable and it gets some of the Bible in my mind for the rest of the day! So, if you're in the market for a new devotional, check this one out!

Alrighty, I should really go to bed....cheerio! :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

K & J + 3, so far....


I've been told many times that life with 3 kids is much busier than 2. I would always nod and wonder to myself, how busy is busy? Life had gotten a lot easier since Aidan and Jana were pottytrained, esp since they are both pretty independent and can play by themselves for a while, no problem. So, pre-Cara, I had imagined this busyness would mean all that came with taking care of a newborn (lack of sleep, lots of feedings and diaper changes) and the regular stuff that came with taking care of Aidan and Jana. But now that Cara is out of the womb, I've realized that it is truly busier than I imagined, day to day. Maybe it's the fact that all my kiddies are pretty close in age - Aidan is 4 y 5 mos, Jana is 2 y 7 mo and Cara is 2 mo?

:::School:::
The busiest part of my day is getting all the kiddies ready to give Aidan a ride to preschool MWF. It seems like no matter how early I get up, I always feel pretty rushed getting them into the car. It's either Cara having another poopie or Jana refusing to get into the car with help (so it takes soo long!) or Aidan needing to pick a book so that he can read during the 7 minutes it takes to me to drive him to school. But sometimes it's the milk moustaches that I forgot to wipe or the jackets that refuse to be zipped....you get the idea. Then it's praying that I get a spot in the school parking lot (there are only about 8 spaces for 20 students) so that I don't have to schlep all 3 kids to and fro in the bitter cold. Anyhow, I'm so blessed to have another mom that volunteered to pick Aidan up for me every school day. [Although I have to admit that sometimes I feel a bit guilty for not packing him up myself so I can be there to give him a hug and ask him how his morning went and schmooze with the other moms. :( But thank goodness Aidan doesn't seem to mind and thinks it's cool that he gets to ride with a good friend of his! :) ] But with Aidan at school and Cara in bed doing her long nap in the mornings, Jana has really enjoyed her alone time with me and it's been really fun. :)

:::Naps & stuff:::
Cara has been such a good baby in terms of napping and sleeping! She naps after every feeding, which gives me a chance to hang out with the other kiddies like we used to. Maybe that's why they love Cara so much - she's giving them a gradual transition to being a family of 5. :) She also normally wakes up once, at most, twice, at night, so I'm not as cranky in the mornings. Hehe. I was a bit worried about her lack of 'waking up' at night but she's been gaining weight well, so I'm going to enjoy my sleep. On her off days when she doesn't nap so well, I find myself getting super creative with how to juggle all three kiddies. So, I've been having to pull out the ol' 'box of goodies' more often than usual and relying more on the kiddies TV time. Still doing a cross between babywise and baby whisperer with Cara and it's been really helpful in helping her sleep well and eat well! I also found a new blog on babywise, which has been very resourceful for troubleshooting - here.

::Mindset:::
Cara's not really on any type of schedule, per se, so there are times when I feel like there's not enough of me to go around. So I find myself trying to multitask like crazy and trying to figure out the most efficient way to do things, like picking out our clothes the night before or putting some breakfast out the night before, etc.. But I also feel like I'm always rushing from one thing to the next and trying to think ahead that I'm not always really there in the moment. Do you guys ever feel that way? I'm still trying to carve out some 'me time' but it's getting harder and harder. The older kids spend about an hour to an hour and a half in their rooms everyday and that's when I have some downtime to read the Word or but do some emailing and such. I find myself really needing that or else I get a bit cranky. ;) But sometimes Cara will choose that time to wake up, which allows me some alone time with her (a good thing) but leaves me less 'me time' (not such a good thing). Still trying to figure all that out. I also find myself putting off chores when they are all asleep which leaves me more to do when they are awake or trying to get some house stuff done instead of napping. Oh, to find a good balance....sometimes I don't even know what I really want to do! Anyhow...

:::Ah, Laundry:::
I've also been finding myself almost tied to the washer and dryer lately. I mean, I'm actually the type that loves doing laundry but even for me it's getting a bit old - sheesh! From having 2 kiddies already, I remember that having a newborn means more laundry but I forgot just how much more! :) The washer I have is a front-loader, which has been making the laundry problem worse. It's not cleaning my cloth diapers as well as when I had a top-loader, so I've been having to run more cycles and thus, be in the laundry room more...blah. Plus, even though it says super capacity, it really doesn't hold that much clothing. So on top of having more laundry in general, I'm having to run more loads of normal clothes and go back and forth between the laundry room and whatever it is I'm doing all day long. [Note to self: If I ever get to buy a washer, I'm getting a top-loader without an agitator.] Anyhow, I've almost started to question if I should even keep up with cloth diapers since I hafta do an extra load every other day but then when I look at the fact that I've only bought 1 pkg of newborn dipes and 1 pkg of size and didn't even use up either of those pkgs yet (and Cara's already 2 months old), I feel a bit better. But I love having the disposables around to give me a much needed break sometimes. :) And I've discovered some new detergents since having an HE machine - Nellie's Laundry Nuggets and Maggie's Soap Nuts, 2 great alternatives to your traditional detergents. Very environmentally friendly - hope to do a review sometime soon! :)

:::Out & About - Not!:::
It's sad but I have not yet braved going grocery shopping by myself and here's why. Before with two, I used to have Jana on the top section and Aidan in the bottom because he likes sorting out my food and putting them in piles for me. But now I'm running out of room for food with Cara in tow. I thought of wearing Cara in a baby carrier but because it's frigid out, I didn't want to take her out of the carseat to put her into the Bjorn/sling/Ergo in the cold....and there's no place for the carseat in the cart, anyhow. Still working on convincing the other 2 to walk by the cart & not run off. ;) Plus, Cara really dislikes being in the carseat for some reason so leaving her in the carseat is not really an option. Anyone have any ideas on how to remedy this? I've been looking for one of those stores that have babysitting but still not sure if I want to leave the other 2 just yet. Sigh. So for now I go by myself (which is a treat!) and rush home so Kev can get some relief. :) I am getting a bit of cabin fever with all this staying at home (but it's so much easier) but I hope to be getting out more once it warms up a bit!

:::Carseat update:::
Oh, an update on the 3 in a row in the back of the CR-V thing. [I have 2 Sunshine Kids Radian 65s and 1 Graco Snugride.] It's working great and having Aidan in the middle really helps. He gives us updates on Cara and doesn't poke her. Hehe. He's also good at giving her the pat-pat, to help calm her down sometimes. The 2 older ones don't seem to mind the 5-point harness and it is so much easier to buckle them in that way. Not quite sure what to do when Cara outgrows the infant carseat - will keep you all updated! :)

:::Final thoughts:::
It has been really busy having 3 under 5 but really enjoyable at the same time. It's been refining me further as I relinqish more control and learn to trust God. I'm leaning on God more with the everyday stuff (ie. how to get things done better & faster, how to discipline the kids yet show them I love them, trying to figure out my goals with the kiddies, etc), which is very humbling. But I do praise God for this season and pray that I will learn the things God wants me to learn and also be able to raise Godly kiddies in the process. :D