Friday, March 31, 2006

It's Man's Work!

It's no secret around my house that we aren't politically correct. Many times if I am needing something to get done such as a small plumbing repair I will sweetly say to my husband, "Honey, I need you to do some man work for me." If I'm feeling really cute I'll butter him up by saying loudly while looking very helpless, "I need a big, strong man to help me. Does anyone know where I can find a big, strong man?!" (strike a pose and bat eyelashes to a ridiculous degree) Works every time... :)

I really enjoy this article about being a man. I love it. And I'm glad I married a guy that isn't afraid to be manly.

Homeschooling: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Homeschooling is a big job. A lot of people simply say, "I could never do that!" (Or, I would never want to do that!) I can understand a lot of why people say that, but for me, the reasons why homeschooling is hard are not the ones you might think of at first.

Yes, it's a lot to purchase curriculum and use it. To make sure that each child is getting their school work done. It's a lot to teach them what they need to know, to respond to their individual strengths and weaknesses, and to capitalize on teachable moments all throughout your daily life. Some home educating parents really get into the one room schoolhouse mindset and love it. And a lot of parents find home educating to be very rewarding. You can be the person your child reads his first book with! You can be there every step of the way, for every magical moment, for every discovery. It's exciting and builds a lot of memories. At times, it's the best place on earth. What better thing could I be doing than this?!

For me, the hardest stuff in homeschooling is the stuff in my own head. First, it's wading through a thousand curriculum choices and educational philosophies, trying to figure out where my ideas fit in, and if the same will be a good fit for my child. What's worse is that this is a never-ending struggle, because every time you hit a funk, or every time your child hits a funk, you can torture yourself by asking, "Did I choose the wrong curriculum?" ("Did I waste all that money on a curriculum that isn't even going to work for us?!?!?!?!") "Should I have chosen math curriculum C instead of A?" And then, when you switch to C and that doesn't work....maybe you should go back to A! No, make that B! Or...maybe you need to start wading through all those catalogs and web sites to find something DIFFERENT! and BETTER! than what you have and what you've tried.

You can love your curriculum choices until something in your life changes, such as having a baby or being ill, and then maybe you can't spend 15 hours a week making authentic miniature wigwam villages or reenacting historical events. Maybe all you can do is point your finger toward a workbook and grunt. But, you don't have workbooks! You have wigwam materials! So whatcha gonna do now, momma?

Even worse than all of the educational options for home education is the constant mental analysis that goes along with homeschooling. "Is my child understanding?" "Is he learning everything he needs?" "Am I making a difference?" "Is my child going to do ok in life with the education I'm providing?"

If you have a more relaxed educational style you may not have lots of quiz and test grades to make you think your child is learning. Your child's progress can be completely void of easily measurable success. Even for those of us that are pretty comfortable with some version of unschooling, there are moments when we panic and wonder what results all of our efforts have really had.

Homeschooling can be really similar to having a growing child. A lot of the time you don't notice the progress because of how close you are to the situation. Relatives that you only see once or twice a year will comment on how much your child has grown, but to you they look basically the same. That sneaky, incremental growth can be very elusive to the motherly eye.

B over at SGF expressed the thoughts of so many homeschool moms in a recent post. Feeling like you're spinning your wheels and doubting that your kids are getting anywhere can be a real discouragement. "I'm offering up my whole life to do this, and I'm not sure it's working!" It can be scary and disheartening.

I homeschooled my children for 6 years before enrolling some of them in our local school. That was 3 years ago. Since then I've homeschooled some of the kids and had some in public school in various combinations. This year has been particularly challenging since I've had my 13 year old and 7 year old sons at home for school. The 13 year old had a specific educational goal for the year that made school at home the best option for him. The 7 year old was in academic peril and needed a break from public school to have some time to mature, and the opportunity to march to his own learning drumbeat. Additionally, I wanted these two boys to have some time together to work out some of their relationship struggles and hopefully build more of a friendship.

The tough issues this year have been things like dealing with attitudes and behavior issues all day long, listening to sibling squabbles and playing my role as referee a lot, spending money on curriculum that was really needed elsewhere, not having as much time to do other things I wanted to do, and on and on. At times I've been so frustrated and felt so overwhelmed and ineffective that as I've vented to my husband he's given his very male solution: Put them back in school if it's so bad!

Knowing the specific reasons for having these two kids home this year is the thing I have clung to through this year. Yes, it would have been easier to just put them back in school. It would have taken a load off of my brain to just change my mind and hand them back to their school teachers to deal with. I might have made some more money with my business or gotten to spend more time doing little tyke things with my youngest child. The house would have been quieter!

But you know what? That's not what I'm supposed to be doing this year. Getting off track wouldn't have been a good thing.

Since I can see what my original goals and thinking were on this school year I can evaluate it aside from my emotions. My oldest son achieved part of his goal, plus learned some valuable things that caused him to change his goal in a way that my husband and I think was really wise. My youngest child is getting time to mature. He is not having a year of pressure from teachers that are required to try to make all the kids learn at the same speed. Know what? He's making progress! It's not jackrabbit fast progress, it's slow-and-steady wins the race progress. And that's just fine. And he still has 5 months before the next school year to keep on maturing, to keep letting concepts gel in his brain. Being home has been a good thing for him even if it hasn't been all fireworks and high-flying accomplishments. What's more is that my boys have made a lot of progress in their relationship. They've created homemade cross bows together (they shoot wooden clothes pins!). They learned to play each others favorite computer games, and my older son has used these games to help the younger one improve in his reading and math abilities. They've done chores together and put up with their mother together. They've had more time with their dad than they would have had if they had spent their days at school.

So, has staying the course been a good thing? You bet! Has it been easy? Not a bit. The worthwhile things are often the most challenging.

Some tips for the homeschool moms out there:

1. Allow yourself space on the curriculum choices. It often takes awhile to get a feel for what you want. If possible, look before you buy. Ask other homeschoolers if you can see the curriculum they use, or even try it out for awhile. If you can stand it, try to stick with what you're chosen for the school year, and if you need something else, look for it for the next year. Eventually you'll feel less overwhelmed.

2. Make written assessments of each child before the school year begins. Write down what they can do, what they can't do, what character issues you see that are great, in process, and needing help. Then list your goals for each child and your reasons for homeschooling them this year. ** You may even want to put up a shortened version of this information on the inside of a cabinet or someplace else where you can refer to it often. Having this written down can help a murky situation clear up, and help you stay focused on your goals through the year.

3. At the end of the year write a similar assessment. Note skills for each child, highlights from the school year, and so forth. Compare it with the previous assessment and see how far you've come. Everybody needs a pat on the back periodically--homeschool moms included.

** I think it's helpful to have more reasons for homeschooling than "feeling called" or some other vague, touchy-feely reason. You will not "feel called" every day. In fact, some days you may feel called to hop a plane to Tahiti and never return! Homeschooling is one educational option of several that may work for your family at different times. Do not think yourself into a corner on this. WHY is your particular individual child going to benefit from homeschooling this year? WHY are you keeping this particular child home this year? What do you hope will be the specific benefits of your educational choices this year?

My husband and I have found a very nice balance by looking at each child's needs each school year, and considering where they will be best served educationally. For the coming school year I can tell you specific reasons why each child will be educated in the way they are, even down to why they are in particular classrooms with particular teachers. Even with my children in public school I am very involved in helping them get the teacher that is a good match for their needs. In future years some may be homeschooled, some may continue in public school, and some may go to private school. We will figure it out as time goes by.

Homeschooling can be a really excellent educational tool. Like all tools, though, it isn't right for every job. Don't be afraid to find the tools that work best for your specific situation!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My Healthy Eating Philosophy

I've been interested in healthy eating for probably as long as I've been a mother. There are a lot of different ideas about what a healthy diet consists of. Some people think that eating like the food pyramid tells them to is healthy. Others focus on vegetarianism or veganism. Other focus on organics, or less processed foods, whole foods, and now raw foods has become a more common idea.

In my years of trying to be healthier I've dabbled in most of these ideas for at least a few meals. :) Some I've stuck with for months or even a year. What I've found is that most changes you make for health are changes your body appreciates, but there is always another healthy thing to do just around the next bend. You have to be kind to yourself or you can get overwhelmed with it all.

I've known people that would only take their own food to eat when they went to a friend's house for dinner, or even with a group to a restaurant. I've known people that refused to eat food served when they were guests in someone's home. I've known people that didn't even get together with other people because they had completely isolated themselves with their food rules. Some wouldn't even let their children attend normal events like birthday parties or receptions because of the many foods there that they did not want their children to eat. I've known people that were so into their healthy eating that I have wished to have them as guests in my home, but felt that the pressure of trying to come up with food that would be acceptable to them would require far more effort than I had to give.

In short, I've seen a lot of healthy eating turn into what I consider unhealthy living, because people were not willing to be flexible and to care for other people more than they cared about the food that went into their mouths.

(Please know I'm not talking about people who have serious medical needs to avoid certain foods. That is a whole different ball of wax and of course in a case like that I know that you need to take care of yourself first.)

As it says in my bio info, one of my life philosophies is "people first." In my life people come before money, before things, before selfishness, and also before food issues.

To me, my health is important. But so are the people in my life. I do not want to be the person that lectures their friends about the soda they drink or the processed food they eat. I do not want to be the person that brings weird stuff to potlucks that nobody will touch. And I definitely don't want to be the person that doesn't go and be with others because of food.

I can take care of my health for every meal of the week, and be a good sport if I go someplace where eating something else is the norm. Last Sunday was a perfect example. We had a luncheon after church. They were serving subs, chips, veggies, and other picnic-y sorts of things. I wasn't going to get picky about the white bread or nitrates in the lunch meats. I ate subs and a few chips, drank water, skipped dessert, and all was well. No big deal. Just eat and have fun with the people in your life! I have 20 other meals this week that I can eat healthier than that!

I have also found that nobody cares what I eat. When I go to small group there is usually dessert, coffee, soda, and so on. I always have water and nothing else. I never say anything about it, and nobody makes a big deal about it. If someone has made something special that they want everybody to try I can sincerely say, "That looks so good! Wow! Thank you for bringing that!" and then apologize that I can't have any because I'm not eating sugar right now. If you do it with a truly loving heart, not quietly judging people for eating differently than you do, it comes out just right and nobody feels weird about it.

So please know, blog friends, that when I share my ideas with you it comes from a place of saying, "Hey! This worked for me. Maybe it'll work for you." If not, then hey--just enjoy the pictures and come back tomorrow. You can smile and go have a Twinkie, love me all the way to McDonald's for a Big Mac and fries, whatever. I like ya just the same even if you do eat junk all the live long day! ;)

Salad Sidekick

I have another favorite aspect to my salads that I just have to tell you about. It's my carrot stuff....

In a food processor:
4 large carrots
half a sweet onion

Whiz it up until it's nicely chopped. Then add:
the juice of one fresh lemon
half a teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons cumin
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
and 1.5-2 cups sunflower seeds or almonds (or any other nut or seed that you like)

Whiz, whiz, whiz!

I LOVE this stuff. You can use it in so many ways. A lot of times I add a lot of it into my salads. Sometimes I eat it all by itself. You can also put it on a burger (meat or veggie) or use it to stuff a sweet pepper and so on.

With a good food processor this is really quick and easy to make, and keeps in the fridge for more than a week. This recipe makes enough to fill two quart jars. I keep it with the other salad goodies and never forget to throw it in with the other stuff I'm eating. Yum!

Super Salads!

One of the ways I try to get lots of raw veggies into my diet is by eating salads. Most days I have at least one big salad, and some days I even have two of them. Many times people will balk at the idea of eating a big salad, saying that they don't really like salad very much. My friend Sooz is one of these people, but when I tell her all of the wonderful stuff that goes into one of my salads she says, "Oh, yeah. Well, that actually does sound good!"

So, today we have Salad 101.

I used to buy all of my salad greens and wash and chop or tear them one by one, but it really took a lot of time and therefore was easy to not be consistent about! I started looking at the bagged greens that are prewashed and decided to give them a try. Up until the other night I actually felt a little guilty for not buying my spinach in a bunch rather than in a bag, but then I did a little investigating. I took a bunch of spinach and weighed it, made a guess at the amount of weight that I could deduct for the very long stems that I could cut off, and took note of the price. Then I went and looked at the bagged spinach and compared the prices. I discovered that the bagged spinach is actually cheaper than the bunches! YAY! I can have my convenience AND a bargain with my healthy food. I love it when that happens.

Now, before we get very far here let me tell you that iceberg lettuce is NOT lettuce for your salad. Iceberg lettuce is almost completely void of flavor and nutrition. Pass on by it, girls. Pass on by. Lettuces for your healthy and delicious salads should be dark green and dark red. Get some drama going on in your salad bowl! When I have the time I love to get a head of the red leaf lettuce and use that along with the spinach. When I don't have the time for cleaning the lettuce myself I get one bag of organic mixed lettuces and use it along with lots of the spinach. If I'm going for cheap, I just use the spinach which is great all by itself as well.

Like many people, I don't really have time to make a salad every day. What I do instead is make a huge salad that will last us about a week. Here's how it goes:

Start with a large bag of spinach, plus either a bag of prewashed lettuce or one head of leaf lettuce. If you decide to rewash the bagged items, make sure you use a salad spinner or something comparable to get the greens really dry. Keeping your salad dry is the key to having it stay nice for you all week long.

I use a very large bowl to alternate the spinach and lettuce, throwing it into the bowl to mix it up. Then I start adding some fun stuff!

Recently I discovered bags of Broccoli Slaw in my produce department. These bags contain shredded up broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage. Again, it's all prewashed, so all I have to do is throw some in! I do not like chunks of carrot, cabbage, or broccoli in my salads, so this texture works out great. It adds color and flavor plus nutrition. One of these bags is less than $2 and lasts me more than 2 weeks.

You can also get matchstick carrots, cut similarly to the Broccoli Slaw, and add those to your salad if you enjoy more carrots, more color, or can't find the Broccoli Slaw at your store.

Cherry tomatoes are the best tomatoes to add to your salad when you want it to stay nice for a week. Just wash, dry, and throw them in! If you can't get cherry tomatoes you can obviously use any other kind, but if you are going to add any tomato that you are going to cut up, don't add it until you are about to eat.

I love sweet peppers in my salad, and you can always find green ones for cheap at the grocery store. However, if you are like me and want lots of pretty color in your salad, spring for the red or orange sweet peppers instead. I LOVE to see little red and yellow and orange treasures in my salad bowl. It is so pretty and makes me feel even happier about eating a salad. Some of my younger children will even come around to peer into my salad bowl and ask for bits of pepper or little tomatoes. They are learning that salads are interesting and delicious!

You can keep your salad in a covered pot in your fridge if you have the space, or just use gallon size or larger zip lock bags. This salad I am describing usually fills two gallon bags in my fridge. They are always front-and-center so when I am feeling hungry I see it and remember to have a salad first. It looks fresh and pretty in my fridge as well.

When it's time to eat, why not have a salad first, even if you're going to eat other things also? What I try to do a lot of days is to eat a big salad first, and then if I'm still hungry I will eat whatever I made for the rest of the family to eat for that meal. I use a Tupperware bowl that has a 12-cup capacity, because I like to have lots of room to stir my salad around and not have it spill over the sides. I usually start with about half a bowl of the salad I've premade, and then I add even more goodies to it!

You can add chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, nuts and seeds, some chopped up hard boiled eggs or some chopped up chicken or turkey, and a lot of times I break up some of the raw burgers that I make in my dehydrator and add those as well. Guacamole is awesome in my salads, and I LOVE to make a fabulous, easy raw salsa, which is my very favorite salad dressing of all time. I have a section of my fridge that has all the salad goodies handy so all I have to do is start grabbing stuff and tossing it into my bowl.

Just like the breakfast smoothies, salads can be really easy and can be adjusted to whatever your eating goals are. For me, I try to make it filling and beautiful, and if I can have it be all raw I really like that. If you can take 5 or 10 minutes once a week you can have lovely salads available to you all week long. If you don't junk them up with tons of regular salad dressing, it's so healthy and delicious. You can make a positive change for your health rather painlessly.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Breakfast Smoothies and the Quest for Health

As I may have mentioned, I've been on a health kick. After spending 2 months of 2005 being ill, plus most of the first 2 months of 2006 being sick, I finally got SICK of being sick! I strongly believe that our health is directly related to the fuel we put in it. Your car wouldn't run well (or at all) if you watered down the gas or put in any liquid other than gas, and your body can't run well on junk food and stuff that does nothing to nourish it or support your health functions.

This time around my healthy eating looks like this:

no sugar
phasing out of items with white flour and other non-whole foods
a heavy emphasis on raw fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds
when I eat cooked foods I try to keep it to "whole foods" (you can read about it in an excellent book called The Healing Power of Whole Foods by Beth Loiselle)

I've put my quest for health on my mental "front burner" for the past month or more, and it's going very well. I've found that especially in the area of raw foods I'm doing much better in keeping up on making raw foods I like and most of the time can eat a large percentage of my daily food in raw foods, which is great.

My goal in changing my diet is to allow my body to get healthy and stay healthy. I am also looking forward to the natural side benefit of this kind of diet, which is weight loss. I have been exercising on my Needak rebounder most days and that is going very well. I am also working with my naturopathic friend and doc with some supplements to help various body systems get going back in the right direction after a lot of years of stress and strain.

As I've been going along this month I've had several ideas that I wanted to share with you so I am planning to share some them in the hopes that some of you might pick up some healthy ideas that will work for you.

Today I want to tell you about my breakfast smoothies. I have been into smoothies for breakfast for at least a couple of years now. I started with it because fruit is considered by some health gurus to be the ideal first food of your day. It's easy to digest so it doesn't start out your day by creating a sluggish digestive situation as will happen if you eat a heavy breakfast.

My smoothies usually consist of:

3 bananas
some frozen blueberries (maybe a half cup)
frozen strawberries (probably 1 cup or more)
as much fruit juice as it takes to make the fruits go around in the blender (I use whatever kind of juice I have in the fridge--apple, orange, in a pinch I've used lemons and limes, and if I'm out of juice I just use water)

You can whiz it all up in your blender, smoothie maker, or in my case, a Vita Mix. This recipe makes enough smoothie for everybody here that wants smoothies for breakfast. I love to give my kids smoothies! Typically my husband and I will each have a tall glass, our older kids will have large coffee mug sizes, and the littler kids will have smaller amounts.

One great use for leftover smoothies is to make popsicles out of them. It's very fun for kids to get popsicles for breakfast or treats any time. :) You can also leave the blender pitcher in the fridge with the leftovers in it and have some smoothie later in the day.

Some days I feel hungry for something else after about 3 hours or so, so at that point I may eat some homemade whole wheat bread, some whole grain cereal, drink some veggie juice, or eat my lunchtime salad early. It just depends. Since I've been eating healthier I've noticed that my smoothie seems to take me all the way to lunchtime a lot more often.

There are a zillion variations on this smoothie. When peaches are in season I use those, and I toss in apples, leftover grapes, or whatever other fresh or frozen fruit is around. Some people like to put yogurt, milk, or milk alternatives such as rice or soy milk in smoothies. For me, I like it that I'm just having the fruit. If I had a reasonable way to make juice from apples I would even make my juice that goes in it raw and make it an entirely raw breakfast.

Smoothies can work for anybody: raw foodists, vegetarians and vegans, people with special dietary needs and allergies, and for anybody who just enjoys a really delicious and quick treat to start their day. Try it!

Another Way to Help!

Just after I wrote my post about how you can help stop child trafficking I rec'd a magazine with an article in it about an American family that lives in Tahiland in order to reach out and help women who are stuck in lives of prostitution. They help these women break away from their dangerous lifestyles and get them on their feet with new job opportunities. One of the ways these women learn to support themselves is by selling gorgeous jewelry that they make. These pieces are beautiful and at excellent prices and even low shipping even though it will come to you all the way from Thailand. Go check it out at Pulled From the Fire.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sticks and Stones Didn't Break His Bones but a Magazine on a Hard Floor Did!

Poor Squiggy Magoo. He was running along and slipped on a magazine. Now he has a fractured leg.

He hates the cast and complains about it a lot. I'm spending my time carrying him from point A to B while he yells at me for making his leg hurt, and getting up in the night to use a bent wire hanger to itch inside of his cast when he complains. Good times....good times.

At least he looks happy here. He's the king of the household, with everyone doing his bidding. What's not to love about that?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How You Can Help Stop Child Trafficking

As many of you probably know, the victimization of children through child trafficking has become a huge global problem. Sometimes we avoid opening our hearts to the grave situation these poor children are in because we feel helpless to do anything about it.

I want you to know that there is something you can do!

My dear friend Marla works with a wonderful organization, Zoe International. Zoe is a Christian organization that works to rescue children from trafficking, and also help children that are at risk of being abused this way. Marla is personal friends with the founders that work so tirelessly to help these children and they are real, generous, caring people who have given up a nice, comfortable life in the USA to go and put their life where their values are by serving the helpless, the poor, the abused, the horribly damaged children in parts of the world where they are defenseless and hopeless. Zoe provides a safe home and all of their food, health care, education, job training, and more that these children need to be able to move on from their abusive situation and grow up healthy, happy, and whole.

Marla is available to travel all over the USA to speak to groups about what Zoe does and how people can get involved and help. It can be a church group, a community group, a homeschool group, a college chapel service--anything. It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that people hear about what Zoe is doing!

I promise you that once you hear about the horrible, systematic, mind-boggling abuse that children are put through you will never want to turn your back on this issue again!

Here is what I am asking of you today:

1. If you have a blog or web site, would you share this information with your readers? You can do a quick link here with a short description, or write about it from your own heart.

2. If you have other blogging friends, would you spread the word and ask them to do the same?

3. Go check out the website. If you can, make a donation. Better yet, plan to send them a large one-time gift, or make it a monthly habit. It doesn't matter if you are a Christian or not--these children need help, and Zoe is providing that help! Don't hold back because you're not into religion or whatever. If you know of a similar organization that is also helping children in this predicament that has religious values you are more in support of, then give your money there. I don't care. The point is to HELP. NOW.

4. Would you consider hosting Marla at your group? Let her come and share some stories, some pictures, some good news of how Zoe International is bringing HOPE and LIFE to so many children that are desperate for it! Clickety click and get the ball rolling. They will send you an information pack and go from there.

You know I don't do too many infomercials, but this one had to be done. It's too important not to.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price

OK, let's rumble.

When I was growing up there was K Mart, and K Mart was an embarrassing place to shop. You never wanted to be seen in K Mart, and if you were there and saw someone else from school that was there, the two of you had an automatic unspoken agreement to never tell anyone that you saw them there...mainly because you would also be implicated as being a K Mart shopper.

Today the masses shop loud and proud at K Mart, Wal Mart, Target, and Meijer, plus a wide variety of dollar and discount stores. Apparently cheap is chic. Nobody tries to hide the fact that they shop for bargains at large stores that carry a wide variety of merchandise. We love our bargains, and in many cases we live by them. Discount groceries make the difference between fed and not fed for a lot of people.

In recent years many people have started speaking out about Wal Mart and even declaring that they were no longer willing to spend their money at Wal Mart because of their impressions of WM's business practices. "They destroy small businesses!" "They don't take good care of their employees!" or, "The stuff they sell is made in sweat shops!"

While it's neither here nor there to me whether or not you buy anything from Wal Mart, I've found it curious that these same people will instead take their business to Meijer or some other discount superstore where the prices are quite comparable to Wal Mart.

So, Wal Mart alone is a great villian of the marketplace, but all the other stores are fine, upstanding heroes who forsake their bottom line in order to make the world a better place?

I find that hard to believe.

Recently I heard about the documentary, Wal Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, and of course I had Netflix send it to me. I watched it yesterday with my 13 year old son. It was our current events and critical thinking project of the day.

Let me start out by telling you that I am a Wal Mart shopper by default, mainly because it's the only store of it's type anywhere near me. I also do probably 30% or more of my shopping at small, local businesses, which I love to do as much as I can. A new, local grocery will be opening near me in a few weeks, and I intend to give them as much of my business as I can. I like to shop local because I like to support people in my community that are investing in my community. I want to support local businesses because they are convenient for my family and we want to help keep them in business.

I do not like Wal Mart. I think it's ugly. I do not get a happy feeling when I shop there. I have found over and over again that they have extremely low customer service. I believe that it is what it is: the place where I can get all the stuff on my shopping list for the lowest price, which is normally all I can afford. So, I go, I shop, and I don't complain about it not being as lovely and happy of a shopping experience at it is if I shop at a beautiful health food store or an upscale Kroger.

The Wal Mart movie shows the viewer several different aspects of the complaints against the company. They start out with the charge that Wal Mart purposely tries to destroy small communities and put mom-and-pop businesses out. We see some sad examples of people that worked hard to start and maintain family groceries or hardware stores and once WM came to their area, they went out of business.

It was really sad, no doubt. But the thing I wondered is this: Do superstores change our values, or reflect our values? Is the superstore to blame, or the people?

Also, if Wal Mart didn't come to town, wouldn't Target, K Mart, or Meijer be next? It's not as if WM alone seeks to expand their sales and build more stores. WM alone doesn't put small businesses out. The way people spend their money puts people out.

As for small local businesses, I believe that just as I experience lack of time and money to go to 4 different stores to get my shopping done, most other people feel the same way. Do we really want to park on a busy street, find a parking spot, get our children out on the sidewalk, and go into one specialty store after another in our local downtown? I don't think many people do that. All small town downtown areas nowadays need to rethink their businesses and figure out what people are willing to come downtown for. It's not for milk and eggs and underwear any more.

Another charge against WM was that they don't take good care of their employees. They have low pay and not very great benefits.

I am always puzzled by charges like this. If someone gets offered a job, they know how much they will be paid, and they know what the benefit package is. If you are not satisfied with the deal, you can choose to not take the job. Or you can take the job but continue to seek employment elsewhere. Nobody is forcing people to work at WalMart! If it stinks to work there, don't.

Frankly, I don't believe that WM is such a bad deal. I know a young woman who has a college degree and had a job as a secretary in a professional environment, and she only earned 25 cents more an hour than starting wages at the nearest WM. Last winter when I considered getting a job at a clothing store it paid a couple dollars LESS per hour than Wal Mart! (yikes!)

Many places do not offer health insurance at all, and most, if they do, do not offer it cheap. While I do not doubt that WM could do better for their employees if they wanted to, I do not believe that what they offer is outside the realm of normal in most places.

Do I wish that Wal Mart was more generous with it's employees? YES! Do I wish that people could get good health insurance at lower prices? YES! If it was my company, generosity would be a cornerstone. But at Wal Mart, the theme is low prices. At my imaginary company, people would not shop there because of the prices.

One thing I noticed again and again in this documentary was the crafty use of statistics to imply things that apparently are not true or could not be proven. For instance, a picture of a toy was shown with the retail price, and next to it was the cost to WM to assemble it. What this leaves out is the cost of materials, the cost of shipment, the cost of packaging, and so forth. The two prices we see are not the only prices to consider.

There are MANY more instances where if the viewer is not using critical thinking they would get an inaccurate message. This type of thinly-veiled lying made it hard for me to respect the overall message of the film.

WM factory workers in other countries were shown as working long hours 7 days a week in unfortunate settings. While I believe that this is probably true, I also believe that it is probably comparable to other factory jobs available in these places. The movie tells about wages in American dollars, rather than within the context of the society the workers are in. Most third world countries have an average living wage that is far lower than anything Americans could live on. It's comparing apples to oranges.

Do I think that it's good for people in Bangladesh to have to work in the heat 12 hours a day, 7 days a week? NO, I do not. And if I had a business like WalMart I would make it my goal that every worker in every country made at least 50% more money than comparable employers would pay. I would want them to be the happiest, healthiest, most satisfied workers in their country.

In the meantime, people take the jobs in these countries and are willing to do the work, and I know that WM is absolutely NOT the only business with these conditions and pay scale. There is no way a Target or Meijer shopper is going to convince me that they are living some sort of higher-consciousness global-compassion way of life than a WM shopper. I do not believe it one bit.

One issue that was not brought up that I have maintained for awhile now is about all of the products that are not manufactured specifically by WalMart. Most of the items WM sells are brand name items that are manufactured by someone other than WM. If there is someone sitting in a third world country making L'eggs pantyhose or whatever, that person is getting paid what they are getting paid and working where they work, and some of those pantyhose are heading out to be sold at WalMart, some at Target, some at Dollar General, and some at your mom and pop store. That worker bee in the third world country is not getting paid a different rate for the items that go to Wal Mart. It's all the same to them. So, does not shopping at WalMart help this person? Or should you just cease to buy L'eggs pantyhose altogether? And, if you do that, how will putting that worker bee out of a job help them?

If people are really, truly concerned about these issues so much that they would not be willing to buy from Wal Mart, then they better forsake every other superstore out there as well. I think they should make sure they only buy from local farmers, local seamstresses, and whittle their own kid's toys or buy from local craftspeople in your own area. Because any time you buy from a product made in a third world country, you would probably find that the wages and conditions would not be acceptable to people in our society. When you buy items made in the USA, you can probably bet that those factory conditions are also not ones you would relish spending time in either. If you believe it, live it. Don't lecture me about Walmart and then go pay 3% more for your groceries at Meijer and think you're morally superior.

Interestingly, one aspect of WM offering low prices that is not addressed is volume discounts. I believe that this is where the true difference lies in the pricing between WM and other discount superstores. If there are twice or three times as many Wal Marts as compared to Target, K Mart, or Meijer, then WM can get a better price when they buy wholesale. Hence, the slightly-cheaper prices than other superstore counterparts. NOT because all the other superstores are so much different in their practices.

There were some things in the movie that I found truly disturbing and confirmed for me my impression that WalMart is what it is, but the thing I kept reminding myself of is that just because the movie's focus was on Wal Mart in no way means that other businesses do not do the same things.

Overall I found the documentary to be manipulative and therefore it lost my respect. My basic philosophy of doing what I can to support local businesses, while not beating myself up over my geographic and financial limitations, will continue on.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kids Say The Darndest Things....

Half of our church time is a family event called KidStuf. It is a very interactive time with singing and dancing, actors, humor, multi-media presentations, and a time called The Good Book Look where someone talks about what the Bible says specifically about the thing we are learning about.

Yesterday during The Good Book Look the man teaching asked the children, "Who knows what you have to do to go to heaven?" His granddaughter, who is also the pastor's little girl, yelled out....

"You have to die!"

Right on, sister. right on.

Hot Gogs and Mawshmallows

Hello, internet friends! I have not completely forsaken you. I've just been busy. Last week a lot of my time was spent seeing if I could manage to do this job. It sounded easy! And wonderful! I mean, who wouldn't want to do a little round-up blog post every day and make a thousand dollars a month?!

Well, internet, let me tell you--the Club Mom people were very wise. Part of the application process requires that the applicant write three days of sample posts.

And that was all it took to convince me that this is not a job I can do right now.

Basically, in order to do this job, you'd need to spend hours each day reading through tons of mommy blogs until you found noteworthy posts that you wanted to tell others about. Oh, and if you can group the posts up into themes, they'd really like that.

Uh huh.

Well, I used to say things like, "There are so many talented writers in the blogosphere....they deserve to be heard!"

Now that I have spent many hours looking through mom blogs I can tell you instead that, "There are many cruddy writers in the blogosphere. They are best left to themselves."

Truly, it was very hard to find posts that were interesting and well-written enough that they could be recommended to the public at large. I am sorry to say that many "mommy blogs" are indeed very boring and mostly revolve around the mind-numbing minutia of daily life. And if that wasn't bad enough, it's quite hard to get enough recent posts that all work around the same theme.

So, to make a long story short--I decided that I'm not going to apply for that job. There is no way I can devote 5 hours a day to hunching over my keyboard desperately seeking post worthy of a "round-up" blog. Good luck to you if you decide to try to do it.

We got a nice letter from Sallie Mae the other day that said, "Your student loans are all paid off. Congratulations and have a nice life!" How awesome is that?!

I have been remiss in my delay in sharing photos from Squiggy's third birthday which was a week ago. Here you go:

Batman cake! Posted by Picasa

I love the stage kids go through when they come up with the cheesiest smiles ever.... Posted by Picasa

Yesterday my husband cut some small branches off of some trees, and when our little guys noticed the brush they started dragging it into a pile, deciding that we needed to have a camp fire. Next thing you know, Doodles was in the house asking me if we could make "hot gogs and mawshmallows" for dinner. You betcha, kiddo. Off to the store I went, returning with the gogs and s'mores supplies.

The Firecrapper and our kids--camp fire time! Posted by Picasa

It's pretty fun to have camp fires with the kids now that all of them are old enough to understand to stay away from the fire and all that good safety stuff. Occasionally we have to remind somebody of some safety rule, such as when Izzy Man had gotten a stick about 10 inches long that he was trying to roast a marshmallow on. Uh, buddy--watch out! That stick is too small!

Next thing you know Sullen stuck a marshmallow on the end of his finger and said, "Hey dad, is this long enough?" What a goofball.

Roasting marshmallows on a fingertip.... Posted by Picasa

What?! My finger's tough enough! Posted by Picasa

For those of you with pets that live in a glass aquarium, I have a fabulous tip on keeping the thing clean:

We've been having a terrible time with my son's hamster cage stench. It's not surprising, I suppose, that a 13 year old boy does not feel compelled to clean out a pet habitat really, really well. Neither is it surprising that a 13 year old boy doesn't notice that his room smells like pet excrement. However, these facts were unavoidable for the rest of the family. The stink was eeeking out into the rest of the house and we had to come up with a reasonable way to really get that pet habitat clean.

Well, my creative thinking kicked in and I came up with a great idea!

We have another aquarium that is the same size. I had Sullen simply fix up the other place and move his hamster into it. Then we took the stinky one to the sink and really went to work on cleaning it out. Finally we put some bleach water in it and sat it out on the deck. After a while we dumped the water and now the thing will sit in the sun for a few days to air out, and when it comes time for another habitat cleaning, we'll simply move the hamster into the clean home and do it all over again. It's the best way to clean a hamster home that we've found.

That's it for now. You're all newsed-up and got photos AND a tip. What more could you want? Til next time,

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cha Ching, Cha Ching--Some Happy Financial News for Once!

So after all the posts I've shared about our living-on-one income financial pitfalls, I've got happy dance money news to share!

One of our financial goals is to become debt-free. There is a simple step-by-step approach to getting your money under control in Dave Ramsey's book Financial Peace (or the updated one, Financial Peace Revisited). Basically, step one is to save up $1000 in an emergency fund so that you aren't caught in a pickle using credit when your washing machine dies or your Suburban needs a huge repair. Step two is to use the "debt snowball" which is simply paying all of your debts, but adding on as much extra as you can each month to the smallest one. Once that smallest debt is paid, use the money you were paying on it to apply toward the next smallest one (plus whatever extra you can throw in each time). On and on you go until all you have left is your mortgage, and then you do some bigger saving (like 3-6 months of living expenses) and then saving for college or other long term, expensive goals. Then you go crazy and beat down your mortgage as fast as you can, and life is grand by then, I guess.

For people like us, with so very little-to-none extra every month, our outlook on this philosophy was basically that we would do the little debt snowball thing as we were able, and eventually (like, in a hundred years) we'd get the debts paid off.

It's not that we had a lot of debt. Just a lot for us. Two stupid small credit things (about $3000 total) and then the car repair bill of $1000. Aside from that we owe on our Suburban, our stupid student loans (that get bigger and bigger every year thanks to the interest rate), and our house.

Well, times, they are a-changin'.

First, we got our mighty tax refund yesterday. My husband called his dad to tell him that we were sending back the money that they had loaned us last year. His dad said not to pay them back and to just use it toward something we needed to pay off. Cha-ching!

So that left us our entire refund, which was more than enough to pay the two credit bills plus the auto repair bill--gone, gone, gone for-ev-Ah!

The next kicker was that his parents have taken an interest in the student loans. 90% of what we owe is from my husband's years in school. His parents had told him way back when he was accumulating these loans that they would help him pay them off. Well, here we are all these years later and.....(drumroll please)......they are PAYING OFF the student loans. Entirely! Entirely!

Can you say WOW?

Can you say Boy-oh-boy do I feel blessed?

So in one fell swoop we went from 5 debts aside from our mortgage, to one. Only one! That is too cool.

So now we will snowball our brains out, throwing money at our car loan, until we can do the happy dance and say that this too is all paid for. It feels good when financial weights are lifted from one's shoulders.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lost in Translation, take two

The other day I was able to witness a hilarious and odd conversation between two of my children. Izzy Man, almost six, seems to think that a pseudo stutter in his speech is a cool thing. He was upset because Squiggy, just turned three, had hit him. Izzy wanted Squig to apologize, and Squig didn't seem to have an interest in doing so. I was cleaning the kitchen as the two of them talked. Squig was seated on a kitchen chair, his legs short enough that they stick out straight past the end of the seat. Izzy was standing next to him trying to squeeze out an apology.

Izzy: Squiggy, gotta say....say...say...say sorry me.

Squiggy (silent, relaxed, watching, but not willing to speak)

Izzy: Squiggy, say sorry to me!!!

(repeat scenario at least five times)

Izzy: Squiggy, why...why....why...why did you hit me? Why did you do it?

Squiggy (still silent, peaceful, observant)

Izzy: Squiggy, tell me! Say it! Say it to me! Why...why....why did you hit me?

Squiggy (silent)

(repeat several times)

Izzy: Squiggy, say it! Say it to me! WHY did you hit me?!

Squiggy, in a quiet, measured voice: Why did you hit me?

Izzy, totally annoyed now: NO! NO! NO! Not YOU! ME! You hit ME!

Squiggy (silent)

Izzy: Now say it. Say it. Why did you hit ME??

Squiggy: Why did you hit ME??

Izzy: NO! NO! I didn't hit YOU! YOU hit ME!

Then he takes a moment to think about this, because he can see that this "Who's on first" routine isn't quite working out for him......

Izzy: Squiggy, say, "I am sorry I hit you, Izzy."

Squiggy, still silent.

Izzy repeats this several times.

Izzy: Say it! Say you're sorry to me!

Squiggy: You're sorry to me.

Izzy: NO! NO! You are sorry to ME! You hit me! You are sorry! You need to say sorry!

Squiggy just keeps sitting there.

Izzy: Say I am sorry.

Squiggy: I am sorry.

Izzy: No! No! Say, Izzy, I am sorry that I hit you.

Squiggy, quietly: I am sorry that I hit you.

Izzy: No! Say it LOUDER. Say it right out loud to me.

Squiggy, louder this time: Izzy I am sorry that I hit you.

Izzy: Good. Now give me a hug.

(hugs, departs, satisfied)

It was the most fun I've had unloading and reloading the dishwasher in a long time.

Feminist or Traditional? Which wives are happier?

This is an interesting article from At least good for a read, if not a discussion. Impressions? Comments?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

This may explain why I do fine with comments from strangers.....

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have high extroversion.
You are outgoing and engaging, with both strangers and friends.
You truly enjoy being with people and bring energy into any situation.
Enthusiastic and fun, you're the first to say "let's go!"


You have low conscientiousness.
Impulsive and off the wall, you don't take life too seriously.
Unfortunately, you sometimes end up regretting your snap decisions.
Overall, you tend to lack focus, and it's difficult for you to get important things done.


You have medium agreeableness.
You're generally a friendly and trusting person.
But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism.
You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

P.S. to my comments post

Less than six months ago a new Walmart opened up about 7 minutes away from my house. I do most of my grocery shopping there, and when I shop I buy two week's worth of food and supplies, which means that I'm pulling two carts out to the parking lot.

I've never had this phenomenon take place at any other shopping place, but 7 minutes from my house it never fails that someone will comment on all the groceries by saying something like, "I think I'd like to go on home with you. At least I'd know I wouldn't go hungry!" (now say that to yourself with a Kentuckian drawl and a big friendly smile and you'll have it about right)

Now, I could just smile and go on by, or be sour and tell people to mind their own business. Instead, I usually say, "Well, it seems like a lot until you know that I've got six children at home to eat it all up!"

People ALWAYS smile and say WOW and how wonderful and often they will tell me some story of a family they know or grew up in that had upteen children and how many batches of pancakes the mother made to feed them all for breakfast or whatever. It's really been fun. People compliment me (and often I only have one or no children with me for the shopping) and tell me to keep up the good work and all sorts of nice stuff like that.

It's a fun conversation, and interesting that the people I shop with are so similar in this way.

Large Family Issues: Comments from other people

Carmen and Chris have written about the comments they have received about their large families, and I decided to jump in and add my two cents worth because it's quite different from what either of them had to share.

I hear a lot of rants and raves about the rude comments that other mothers of many receive from people. Things like, "Don't you know what causes that?" and "Better you than me!"

In all my years of parenting I have rarely heard a rude word spoken to me or my husband about our family size.

We do get comments about our six children. Usually ones like, "Are they all yours?" which I never assume to be rude, merely curious. After all, it is quite unusual for families to have six children these days.

My husband gets a little razzing at work, but he's a firefighter and those guys are mostly amazed that we can afford six children and for me to stay home with them (and even I can't explain to them how that's a mystery to me. We'll credit God with that.), and they like to talk about all things sex-related, so I'm sure there's plenty of the "don't you know what causes that" which is really just them trying to get my husband to talk about our sex life, which isn't likely to happen. At our small group recently something was said in good humored jest about "Now we know how they got six kids!" and I just said, "Yes, yes, it's true....we've had sex six times in the past 14 years....."

At restaurants we get watched like we're celebrities, and because our children have some mutant gene that causes them to be extremely well-behaved in public, we inevitably get visitors dropping by our table to compliment us on our beautiful family and polite children. Sometimes we have to stifle a hearty chuckle as we thank them because we're thinking about the ornery fight that happened in the car just before we arrived in the restaurant parking lot.

I can only think of maybe twice in all my years that a person has said something rude to me about having a lot of children, and without exception I have interpreted it more as the person's own issues about parenting. It truly has nothing to do with me or my family.

I don't know why other moms of many experience such rude behavior in their outings, and I just don't see it. Maybe it's because I live in central Kentucky where many people come from large families. Maybe it's because I'm 6 feet tall and confident and people don't want to mess with me. Maybe my children are especially adorable and perfect and so am I and so all the world can't help but applaud us. I doubt it, but I guess it's possible.

Overall I enjoy taking my kids out places. People smile and laugh and compliment us and are generally amazed at the whole thing. They say, "Bless you!" (Thank you! I am blessed!) and "You're a better woman than I am!" (No I'm not!) and "I don't know how you do it!" (to which I always reply, "Neither do I!") My kids are proud of their big family and we have fun showing them off.

Monday, March 06, 2006


So how 'bout them Oscars? Everybody except for ME seems to be surprised that Crash won Best Picture. I called it way-back-when. Despite reading a lot of dismissive reviews about it, I still think Crash is an excellent movie that gives top-notch performances and lots to think about and discuss.

And dear, sweet Reese Witherspoon walks away with an Oscar too. Yay! She really showed how talented she is in Walk the Line and her work is consistently excellent. I'm a big fan of hers and am so glad she was rewarded.


Folks, I have good news. After my terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad hair cut last month, I've been plotting about where I would go and what I would do since I vowed never to return to my former hair hacker. I ended up going to a hair salon where I got an excellent cut and style and I am thrilled with how I look! One of the owners of the place did my hair and she was wonderful. She spent lots of time with me finding out about my hair, what I've had done that worked and didn't work, looked through books with me to get ideas about what I'd like, and then she proved to me how skilled she is by doing a fabulous job thinning out my extremely thick hair and managing to make my hair so much better than I think it's ever been. She spent over an hour and a half with me, and she has got me wrapped around her little finger now. I'll try to get a picture in for your perusal later.

I've gotten tons of compliments on my hair and women at church were coming up asking me where did I get it cut and which stylist did I have, etc. You know you look good when everybody wants to follow in your footsteps. ;)


Thanks to my inspiration from Bird by Bird I've been spending time writing most days. Not just blogging, but doing some writing exercise for myself. It's going well and I feel glad to be developing my writing, getting my thoughts out in written form, and clearing my brain of the stuff that tends to float round and round in my noggin if I don't put it someplace. I've been able to deposit some of my more "drivelly" thoughts into my personal writing, so hopefully this blog can be spared some of that.


I've been on my super-health-kick for over a week now PLUS I've been exercising. I've eaten so many veggies that some days I felt like I would barf if I had to even look at another salad. But, I'm hanging in there. I'm so very tired of being sick, my immune system is very run-down, plus my body will thank me if I can lose some weight. I have this crazy theory that my back might not hurt so much if I weighed 10, 20, or 30 pounds less than I do now.

In the past couple of years when I've tried to eat more of what I consider healthy (a lot of raw foods) I've found it difficult to keep up with it since it's different from what I'm used to making and the ways I normally run my kitchen and meals. Thankfully, this time around I haven't found it all that hard at all. I guess that I'm used to the recipes that I like enough to remember that I need to sprout something or save carrot pulp from juicing or whatever, and just keep making something raw every day. I also got a wonderful, fabulous new food processor, which has helped immensely because I was limping along with a small, half-broken one. Good kitchen tools make a huge difference in how easily food can be prepared!

The recipe book for raw foods that I really love is called Rejuvenate Your Life and can be purchased at the resource store at . Many of the recipes in it are for things that we enjoy eating now as a regular part of our diet, even when we're not on a health-kick. The author is a very creative raw foodist and has tons of ideas for ways to eat a variety of delicious foods that aren't stripped of their nutrients by cooking.

So far I've made raw, healthy cookie bars, treat balls, salad sprinkles, bread, crackers, cookies, snacks, and more. Most days this week I've been able to eat 50-85% raw foods. Last year when I got on a raw kick in January I lost 8 pounds, and I wasn't even exercising. Boy would it be nice to have some results like that this year! However, weight loss is only a side issue for me right now. My body is just desperate for health and my mind can't stand for me to be sick any longer. Something's got to change and I know what it is.


Have a great day, people!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Book Lovers--This is for you!

I don't always have time to check out the blogs for those that comment, but I try to when I'm able. This morning I had a new commenter and went in search of her new blog, Books Found: A Bookselling Family's Journal.

This family has an online bookstore selling used books. Now they use their blog to share some of the more interesting stories of special finds and noteworthy books. It's been a charming read so far and I recommend it to you!

Living Will

A man and his wife are sitting in the living room and he says to her:
"Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state dependent on some machine. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

His wife gets up and unplugs the TV.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Got Lent?

I've been thinking a little about doing something for lent this year. This article talks about the appeal of the lenten season across denominational lines. Will you be giving anything up for lent this year?