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Monday, December 31, 2012

Healthy Pumpkin Waffles!

Pin It Happy Last Day of 2012!  As many spent the holidays saying that they would start their diets in 2013 our family has spent the last month striving to be healthy with our eating habits.  We started out by dusting off the juicer and coming up with some tasty and not-so-tasty combinations for breakfast!  A few days, when there was extra juice I even extended it to snack and lunch time.  After about two weeks of juicing off and on, I switched myself over to a mostly plant based diet and feel great!  No meat, no dairy, no eggs, for the most part, and whole grains all the way.  I do love my cheese and yogurt so it was hard at first, but when I think about how I feel now, compared to how I felt before, it's worth the sacrifice!

Today I really wanted Aunt Jemima to come and visit me with a huge stack of pancakes, slathered in full-fat butter, and hot maple syrup drizzling off the plate!  I came across an "Almost Martha's Pumpkin Pancakes" recipe on food.com that claimed to be milk free and decided to check it out.  I substituted a mixture of ground flax seed and water for the egg, heated up the waffle maker, and let the fun begin.  Here's my modified recipe:

Step one - In a medium bowl mix:
1/2 c.       whole wheat flour
3/4 c.       all-purpose flour
2 tsp.       baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp.    cinammon
1/4 tsp.    salt

Step two - In another bowl mix:
2 Tbsp.     firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c.        pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp.     oil
1 Tbsp.     ground flax seed
3 Tbsp.     water
The ground flax seed and the water take the place of the egg.

Step three - Into the pumpkin bowl add
1 c.           almond milk (or other milk substitute)

Step four - Add the flour mixture and stir just until moistened, leaving it a little lumpy.

My four year old helped me mix everything together.  He got a little excited at the beginning so we lost a little pumpkin!  So thankful that there was more in the can.

We added a ladle full to the waffle iron and watched it puff up and start to cook.  They smelled heavenly!  I opened the first one before the waffle iron light went off because I thought it was ready....mistake!  It came apart and I ended up having to pry it off.  I switched to a baking spray with flour in it for the next waffle and waited until the light turned off before opening it and solved the problem.

My son could hardly contain himself until everyone came to the table, and cried when he had to share the stack with everyone else, so I suggest doubling the batch if you plan on feeding more than three hungry bears!

We added a few veggie sausage patties and delighted in our light, fluffy (and secretly healthy) waffles that we will definitely be making again soon! 

If you try this recipe and come up with any other variations let me know how they turn out!

-Casandra

Here are some other tips I learned in my online research:
  You can substitute up to two eggs in a recipe with flax seed and water.  You can also substitute 1 Tbsp. of oil with 3 Tbsp. of ground flax seed.  This works for up to 1/4 c. of oil in any recipe.  For greater amounts, finish substituting with applesauce.
NOTE: You can substitute flax seed for the egg or the oil, but not for both.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Books for Boys

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My boys have always loved books.  I remember my oldest son listening intently to every word as we opened a new book from the library.  After one reading he would eagerly reach for the book and wriggle down from my lap to find a quiet spot to reread the book for himself.  After two or three readings he would be able to quote the book practically word for word.  Now that he is almost four he is no longer content to just sit and look at the pictures.  He wants to know what the words say and realizes that he can't read them yet!  Of course, he isn't so motivated that he's asking to learn how to read.  He knows the alphabet and the sounds of the letters, but there's just something about hearing his favorite story read aloud that appeals to him (especially when we add in different voices and sound effects!).

As we travel the states I have searched many a thrift store's book rack for early readers and read-aloud choices that would appeal to my rambunctious crew.  Having two boys has really thrown me for a loop though.  I'm pretty sure that my fire truck lovin', train totin', race car drivin' turbo tots would not care to hear Nancy Drew, or some of the other series I loved reading as a youngster.  So I've been on the lookout for books that would appeal to boys.

One such series that we have just discovered is the Nate the Great series.  Nate is a boy version of that famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, who with his trusty dog as his sidekick solves mysteries around his neighborhood for his friends.  These chapter books for early readers have short sentences and enough action to hold my three year old's interest.  He loves them so much that we have to read the entire book in one sitting.  The one we just finished was 56 pages long so prepare your throat before you begin!

You can visit the Random House website to see the entire list of Nate the Great books, read about the author, or download some additional super sleuthing activities for older kids!  There are even a few books about his cousin, Olivia, who sometimes helps him solve a mystery.  Here are a few of the selections we've enjoyed so far. (Click on the title to read the book summary).


Happy reading!
-Casandra

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cookie Mania - Gingerbread Men!

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One Christmas tradition we have is making cookies together and this year is no exception.  As a general rule we must make a batch of sugar cookies (Mommy's favorite) and decorate them.  But this year the boys were obsessed with gingerbread men and wanted to make some.  The fact that I've never made gingerbread cookies combined with the fact that we are still unpacking all of our belongings at my in-laws house, I opted for the Big Bag of Betty Crocker cookie mix!


Rolling out cookies with a two year old and a three year old requires much patience!  The boys enjoyed the process thoroughly.


Steven wasn't too interested at the beginning.  He really enjoyed playing with the mini cookie cutters and the measuring spoons.  Later on when I gave him a small section of dough to roll out he decided that sampling the dough was more fun than using the cookie cutters!  (Of course, I was horrified because of the raw egg, but he survived the taste test!)


Joshua, on the other hand, was a Master Chef!  He had been practicing making cookies on the free Little People Learning Market App that we got recently and felt like he knew all of the steps involved!  He wanted to do everything, from mixing the dough, to rolling it out, to cutting out the cookies.  He concentrated so hard on using the rolling pin correctly that as he lifted it high into the air flour sprinkled down into his hair but didn't phase him one bit.  He was really impressed when he cut one out and it stayed in the cutter.


We eventually graduated from the small cutters to the "Daddy" sized gingerbread man.  After punching out three cookies that overlapped I told Joshua that he had made triplets.  His inventive mind also added, "Yeah, their holding hands because they're friends!"  Then he wouldn't allow me to separate them on their way to the oven.


By the time our cookie session was over, Steven was definitely ready for his nap...and covered in flour!

The final verdict?  Steven prefers cookie dough, and Joshua had about five cookies over the course of the afternoon.  I'm pretty sure he approved!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The One Thing We Always Do...

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Homeschool in a Minivan...Part 4


After many months of crazy travel life is settling down to a normal pace for our boys...
  • Lunch at noon 
  • naps at 12:30
  • playing in the back yard
  • trips to the library
  • having all of their toys in the same house!
Reading books on the coffee table!

A few days off the deputation trail really showed me how much of a strain the last few months had taken on their little schedule oriented selves.  As adults we often discuss the stresses that come with living out of a suitcase, always being in unfamiliar surroundings, and not having enough space for our stuff; however, our boys have no way to express those feelings of frustration that arise from time to time.  I remember pulling out of the driveway on our latest journey with the van and car top carrier packed to the hilt and hearing our three year old's concerned voice cry out because he thought we had left his toy trains behind!  I gently reassured him (about 12 times) that we had "everything"...or at least we had the trains.
Yelling something, yet holding on to that train!


The first few days here were spent reacquainting themselves with their old toys and books, blankets, stuffed animals, and every nook and cranny of Grandma's house.  If you asked my older son he would tell you that this is his home and Grandma just happens to live here too!

Our schedule is hardly ever "normal" or consistent while on the road and that makes for confused, cranky children who seem to spend their life reliving the same training sessions over and over every place we go.  Imagine all of the things you've trained your children to do at home.  Now imagine suddenly moving in with your extended family, or a furnished apartment for a few weeks, or a hotel where jumping on the bed is allowed?  For a two and three year old, we don't expect them to remember everything, but there is one thing we always do (or strive to do)...

We try to consistently have Bible time with them on a daily basis.  We don't want our children to grow up thinking that the only time you read God's Word is during a church service.  Our boys love Bible time with Daddy at night.  Just yesterday, our three year old fell asleep on the couch, and when my husband carried him up to bed he asked to read the Bible first.  Of course, he was long gone before his head reached the pillow, but it was sweet to see that he desired to learn more about God.
Reading their story Bible with Daddy.

For the month of December we have been meeting together in the morning to read verses and color ornaments for our Jesse Tree.  I found some great material online here and here.  We've found it works best right after breakfast when everyone is happy and seated around the table.  If not in the morning, then right after dinner is our second choice.  Our sons may not remember all of the moving around and church visits in a few years; but our three year old is already learning trace the story of redemption from Creation to the Cross, and that is something that can forever change his life.

We may not live an exciting life sitting in our minivan traveling up and down the highways, but we serve an exciting God, and we want our children to know Him, and love Him above all!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Homeschool in a Minivan...Part 3

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What to do with two under four?

Go with the flow...

As you may have noticed, this post did not immediately follow Part 2.  Of course, it was my plan all along to do 10 days in a row, but then...life happened!

I am a lover of lists and organization on paper, but in real life, the schedule doesn't always go the way I plan.  I have two busy boys, now two and three years old, who love to turn my world upside down with their crazy inventions of super heroes, trains, fire trucks, and rockets.  Sometimes it amazes me what their little brains can come up with even if they have never seen it before.


Having said that, I must admit that I do not have the perfect schedule.  On most days we are doing well to accomplish getting dressed, getting fed, and not getting hurt!

As many other wise mothers have said, when you are teaching your child at home follow their leading.  My three year old, Super Buzz, hates to color, and will only do so under obligation for any length of time.  So with him, I found that he loved it when I helped him color his pictures, or if he was able to cut or paste a picture together.  However, my younger son will color his little heart out...if I keep a close enough eye on him.  Left to himself too long we end up with chewy, soggy crayons.


We also are on the road a lot since we are on deputation to return to the mission field.  We have spent many days traveling in the car where our learning times have consisted of lessons in volume control, patience, and pointing out the animals from "Old MacDonald" that we pass along the way.

When we are not "dead tired" from traveling and have a moment of normalcy I try to schedule school activities in the morning after breakfast and before lunch.  My three year old knows all of his letters and sounds and numbers up to 10 already so we focus mainly on hands-on work that he really enjoys.  He has really enjoyed the Kumon series of workbooks that I ordered on Amazon.  We also use the preschool level Spectrum standards-based workbooks from time to time to review his pre-reading, writing, math, and basic skills.  As we work together I know that he is learning the skills that he'll need later on when we start K-4 in January.

Practicing the letter M (Spectrum workbook)

My two year old has learned a lot just by participating in circle time and observing his brother work.  He already knows a few letters and numbers and loves to color and paint with us.  He will be working on the ABeka preschool curriculum for 2's and 3's along with some letter of the week ideas from here and here.  Both sites have wonderful preschool materials available and the boys have enjoyed using them in the past.

These past few months have been very busy and we have focused on just keeping it all together and have taken a break from "school time" for the most part unless we have been in one place for a week or more.  We still read together and play games and work on our Spanish vocabulary and songs.  I plan to share a more definite schedule that I have in mind for K-4 after the holidays (read that as revision #4 that still might be revised again)!



-Casandra


Coming up next...Part 4 - The One Thing We Always Do 


 Read the series from the beginning starting here:

Introduction - Homeschool in a Minvan

Part 1 - Decluttering for Life on the Road

Part 2 - Organization for a Certified Pack Rat!

 


Monday, November 19, 2012

International Week of Gratitude

Pin It Say "thank you" is one of the first polite things we teach our children to say with their words or through sign language.  No please, no baba.  No thank you, no baba.  And so out of a sense of obligation in order to obtain their desired object of affection, they may say it but don't always mean it from the heart!

I can be the same way in giving thanks with my own words, when someone does or gives something to me, even in a prayer, because I know it's right to do so; but at the same time, not really being thankful in my heart.

Over at Good Morning Girls this is the International Week of Gratitude in our Bible studies.  Today as I reflect on these verses I am truly thankful that God chose me.
John 15:16  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Ephesians 1:4  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
He chose me!  Before I was born, before the foundation of the world, He chose me!  And while being thankful that He looked upon me in my dreadful state of sin and separation, paying the price to reconcile me to Himself, I am keenly aware that He chose me and then gave me a task - to bear fruit that remains and to be holy and blameless before Him in love.  Neither one can be accomplished without surrendering to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, gaining that vital nutrition that only comes from time spent abiding in the True Vine.

I am thankful -
  • That God chose me!
  • That He saved me!
  • For the Holy Spirit working in my life this year
  • For opportunities to share God's Word with others
  • For a godly husband who loves me
  • For my two beautiful boys
  • For lessons learned on deputation
  • For the opportunity to serve God in Peru
  • For my family
  • For our friends all over the world
HALLELUJAH, THANK YOU, JESUS!  You are worthy of all my glory and praise!

Our Thankful Tree!
 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

30 Second S'mores

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When I was a little girl living in Torrejon, Spain, I would sometimes see other kids running around with chocolate smeared on a slice of bread and I would wonder what kind of disgusting peanut butter they were eating!  Fast forward, um many years, and I had learned that the dark brown spread was called Nutella and was made from hazelnuts not peanuts.  I still eyed it with caution until one day I took the plunge at a friend's house and was hooked.  A simple graham cracker and a little spread was all it took to win me over.
 

Now I know there is nothing "new" under the sun but after sprinkling a few marshmallows on our crackers and spread today the idea hit me that I could make a s'more in the microwave!  One thing that always turned me off about making s'mores was the cost of the ingredients.  My boys are huge marshmallow fans and now I had everything on hand to make my chocolate dreams come true.

It wasn't rocket science and only took 7 seconds for the mini-marshmallows to puff up nicely. It was so good I had to make two and plan to make the boys some after they wake up from their naps.

However, a word of caution about marshmallows!  We buy the minis because the large ones can be a choking hazard.  Also, heating them up can make them too hot to eat right away, or too sticky for little mouths to chew without gagging or choking.  I plan to give the boys "uncooked" or "open-faced" s'mores instead.  Normally they like to pick the marshmallows off and eat them first, followed by scraping or licking the chocolate off, and occasionally eating the graham cracker.  It can be a messy, good time, and makes for a fun treat every now and then.

If you need a quick chocolate fix, grab some Nutella today, and happy s'moring!



-Cas
 


Side note:  We found a Nutella wanna-be at a local dollar store and though my husband tried to convince me that it was very good, it was not the same as the "real deal"!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Finishing up GMG study on Colossians

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"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:
but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." I John 2:17
 What an amazing 8 weeks this has been studying the book of Colossians!  God has taught me much through it and my thanks goes out to Good Morning Girls for organizing this study.  If you've never experience a GMG Bible study, I encourage you to join up for the next one.  Starting November 12th, the materials will be available for a 4 week Advent study, starting right after Thanksgiving and finishing up before Christmas.  What a perfect time to study God's Word focusing on Christ.  After all, the reason to give thanks and celebrate is that He came and gave His life for us!

 The part that spoke to me from today's final passage in Colossians was Paul's message to Archippus in verse 17, "And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it." 
He was encouraging him to fulfill the ministry he had been given as God would want him to.   Some authors think that he might have been the son of Philemon and that his task was to help Onesimus be received back into Philemon's house.  Regardless of what his task was, his real responsibility was to obey God's leading in his life.

Paul, who probably had every reason to give up and quit, did not, and he encouraged others to do the same. He gave John Mark a second chance and knew that the most important thing we can do with our lives is obey God's calling to reach the lost. 

Man-made ministry will come and go, but God's will abides.

 As my husband and I travel on deputation to return to Peru it is so easy to look around us and get discouraged.  This passage immediately reminded me that we have received a ministry from the Lord, and part of fulfilling the calling that God has placed on our lives is this phase of deputation.  Although it is not our ultimate goal nor our final destination, it is God's will for us right now.

No matter what the difficulties may be in doing what God has called you to do, know this, "It's not in vain!"  If we truly keep our hearts focused on Jesus, as the next Bible study promotes, then it will be easy for our actions to line up with His will.

Keep growing in the Word day by day!


Casandra

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Daddy vs. the Flu

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As the Queen Bee around here I know what it takes to keep the hive humming along smoothly, but when one of the bees comes down with the flu the hive starts to fall apart! 

In this round of flu season, I was actually the first one to go down in a pitiful heap.  Slumped over on the couch I demanded my rights: a cup of soup, a warm blanket, a pillow, and some peace and quiet.

Daddy came to my rescue and whisked the boys off to do...whatever, and allowed me to rest.

 Reveling in my new found freedom I promptly fell asleep.  Three naps later I thought I was feeling better, until I tried to get up and return to my normal activities!  After about three days of off and on "flu head" symptoms I started to feel better.

But the bug had already infected the hive.  My oldest son was the next victim with three days of fever, and then my husband with a nasty bout of coughing and hacking all over the house.   (I guess those mini-hand sanitizers I got on sale won't last until the New Year!)

When the cough just wouldn't go away and he reached the end of his patience, my husband did the unthinkable (at least in my opinion).  He said the dreaded words...

"Mamita, I can't take it anymore.  I'm making a phone call."

You see, my husband loves to use this horribly, disgusting looking home remedy that he first came across as a single teacher in Peru, South America.  You know the kind that "old wives tales" are famous for.  It's a concoction of brown sugar, water, red onion, garlic, lemon, honey, and eucalyptus leaves that are diced, sliced, smashed, and boiled into a murky brown cup of cold-n-flu tea.


Ever the dutiful wife, I waited while my husband called a friend to get the recipe, and then assisted him in purchasing the ingredients (substituting some tea bags from Peru containing the eucalyptus leaves since we didn't find any in Wal-mart!).  Then when we arrived home I diced the cloves of garlic while he set the sugar to simmering.  He added the water and brought the sugar solution to a boil. After chopping up the onion it too joined the pot along with the garlic.  You can only imagine the smell of semi-burned sugar glaze, garlic, and onion.  When it was good and brown I strained it into a tea cup and squeezed in fresh green lime juice and added several spoons full of honey.

According to the directions he was supposed to drink it right before bed and sleep in a semi-upright position, so making himself comfortable on the couch (complete with pillow and warm blanket) he downed two large cups of his garlic tea.  Awhile later he asked if I felt it was hot in the room and later commented that his eyes were like" burning pieces of garlic" or something like that.

Imagine my amazement when after listening to constant coughing for three days I experienced a silent night.  Before he dozed off, the tea had had its desired expectorant effect on his lungs and he had a blissful night of uninterrupted sleep.

I must admit, I've yet to brave the garlic tea, but after seeing its powers in action, the next time we make a stinky pot I might be tempted to take a sip...a very, very, small sip!

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