Puppy Pastimes

im002590.jpgWell, we have five pups left out of the “Magnificent Seven” litter. Two sold by word of mouth (no advertisement!) before we even had them fully weaned, which helped bunches to keep the dog food flowing and also to cover all the ads we needed to place around. These are my ten year old’s puppies. Kind of a nice little hobby-income she’s had the past two years now.

Tuesday morning, in addition to rushing through math worksheets, history homework, and meal prep for a friend who recently had her fifth girl (!)…we somehow managed to bathe two of the eight-week-old pups in the kitchen sink without total chaos! They were lil dumplin’s…so good sitting there like little drowned rats in the process and like spiky half-wet owlets in the drying off aftermath! Each girl sat in front of the fireplace for a half hour afterwards making sure they were good and dry. I would have taken pics but my digital camera batteries had run down! :( All this because we were taking them for show and tell at our homeschool co-op. Need I say…Very Big Hit?

The picture above is of “Frog”, an older pup, up next to one of the newer ones shortly after they were born. This one is ourim002597.jpg youngest daughter with “Frog”–her favorite. Frog’s first sound was a croak, thus the moniker, and we’ve encouraged their relationship, as Frog will be sticking around.

But as for the rest of them…wish us luck…may they sell before they eat us out of house and home!

P.S. We called this litter the “Magnificent Seven” because dh told oldest about the movie (it’s one of his favorite westerns–if you’ve seen it…yeah, I know…) and she named the two males after the two main characters in the movie: Chris and Vince.

Christmas Traditions: Secret Elves

Snowflakes

I love our children’s library!

We bustled into it last night, deposited our customary 30-odd books from last week, and checked out the Christmas book displays. Momentary guilt hounds me if I take more than two or three of the featured holiday stories, but several titles snagged my attention…so I figured, it’s only for the next week!

Three year old daughter trotted over to the bird cage to say hello to “Alpha” (“Bet” died last year, and poor Alpha stands alone) and I thumbed through a sweet story…First Grade Elves by Joanne Ryder. Had a fleeting thought that this book might spark a new family tradition and tucked it into my canvas tote. I soon forgot all about it.

Today my two oldest daughters devoured most of the books we’d checked out, and I came from the laundry room to find them snipping out delicate snowflakes. You see, the first grade elves in Mrs. Lee’s classroom had the great idea to plant nice surprises for each other during the month of December…in celebration of Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. With the secret surprise, they also left a small paper snowflake…to show that the Christmas Elves were behind the treat.

So, I guess my girls and I think alike…and we now have a new secret “angel” (they preferred that over elves) December tradition. A fat stack of 4″ diameter snowflakes rests on the corner of one of my end tables…

I thought I’d share it here, because it would be a lovely tradition for anyone, especially those of you with many children. You could assign names or just bless randomly as we’re going to do.

I’d love to know what Christmas traditions you’ve got in the works…

Apple Pie

Doesn’t this just make you itch to bake? Mmm! Welcome to my blue and white kitchen by the way!apple-pie.jpg

The best apple pie I ever ate was in my Aunt Claire’s home on the West Coast. It was the summer before my wedding, and accumulating great recipes had just become appealing to me! Since then I’ve made at least a hundred pies, and good old-fashioned apple pie remains dh’s favorite, with my Peaches and Cream Pie a very close second. So here is my aunt’s recipe with a few modifications by yours truly!

Aunt Claire’s Apple Pie Filling

  • 7 cups thinly sliced apples (many people recommend using tart apples for pie, but we prefer not! I like layering several kinds in one pie, including a few red delicious!)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon allspice

My modifications to this recipe are simple. I switch the measurements for the white and brown sugars, putting 3/4-1 cup brown sugar and only half a cup of white. Since I use sweeter apples, I don’t bother with the apple juice. I pre-cook my filling on the stovetop about ten minutes before filling my pie crust. If you do go ahead and use the apple juice, just remember to place a pan beneath your pie to catch any excess juice bubbling up and over the sides!

Bake at 375*F for about 35 minutes.

Enjoy!

For a large batch of apple pie filling that freezes wonderfully go read Freezing Apple Pie Filling

More Thoughts on Infant Scheduling

In response to some questions at my other Infant Scheduling post, I’ve been emailing a mother of an almost three week old baby girl this week. Here’s a slightly edited version of my letters to her. Wanted to make this follow-up info available here on the blog…

Dear “Mother” of two-three week old infant,

So daytime naps are the issue. She is still very young. My girls didn’t always take their naps in the crib at that age. I varied the places they slept. Another thing to think about is if you’re returning to work and need to have your daughter accustomed to sleeping in a variety of places…not just in her own cozy crib at home. KWIM? At 2-5 weeks old, I let the baby swing have one nap session, the bouncy seat another, and even a cushioned (w/several blankets) area on the floor be another.

I think wearing her in a sling is fine for a nap now and then, but it’s a little different than the other “sleep aids” because she’s being held by one of you guys. She just might get to liking that a whole lot and fuss for it eventually. Not to say you can’t hold them and love on them, or even rock or bounce them to sleep once in a while. The danger is in them getting used to it, having it done consecutively to the point that they expect it and feel that they need it. Because typically they don’t need it “to get to sleep”…they DO need it during their wake times, to know that all is well in their world and they are loved muchly!

Here’s my first thought. When is her first feeding of the day? If it is in the early morning/still dark hours, I’d lay her back down to sleep. When my babies started sleeping through the night, they slept anywhere from 10-12 hours straight through. So if I put them to bed at 9 pm, they’d wake up for their first feeding sometime between 7-9 am. That’s when I’d start the feed-wake-sleep cycle. Since your darlin’ is still too young to make it through the night, I’d still treat her early morning feedings (anything while it is still dark outside) as middle of the nighters, which would mean you feed her and lay her back down in the bassinet. Maybe her biological clock is telling her she needs more night-time sleep before starting the scheduled part of her day.

On to daily nap times:

If you’ve put her down for a nap, and you know all the obvious things are taken care of (dry diaper, full tummy, no diaper pins poking her, no bubbles needing patted out of her!) then going in to comfort her at intervals is all I can suggest, and you’re already doing that. I’d start by just patting or lightly rubbing her back as she’s lying in bed.

[Explaining why back and not tummy: in my case, our babies never slept well on their backs–somewhat okay propped on their sides but they drifted off best on their tummies! My doctor reassured my concerns by saying that it’s the high-risk infants whose mothers smoked, or who had low birth weights that are at risk for SIDS]

Anyway, first try comforting her without picking her up. If this doesn’t work, then go ahead and pick her up, do whatever you need to do to get her on the edge of sleep and lay her down again…or put her in the bouncer seat or swing, etc. She should outgrow this phase and adjust to normal naptimes in her crib by 5 weeks, I’d think?

The typical 3-5 week growth spurt would cause her to be more hungry, ie: less time between feedings, but it shouldn’t affect her naptimes, unless she doesn’t need many. It could be that she takes after her mama, you indicated that you like to be on the go a lot. You might try only waking her during the daytime when she’s gone four hours from the “beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next”. Four hours was the longest I waited while they were that age. I didn’t “make” them wait that long, but if they were sleeping, I let them go up to that point. Just be careful of your milk supply. Probably up to this point you still have an overabundance, but as she goes longer and longer w/o feedings, and starts sleeping through the night, you might need to add pumping to your routine, so that your milk supply stays up to her needs.

Maybe TMI: Just an extra caution…two weeks postpartum seems to be the time when most women develop mastitis, from a plugged milk duct, so don’t forget to massage/press down on your breasts while baby is nursing, to get every last bit of milk out of each duct. Mastitis is HORRIBLE. I thought I was going to die, I’ve never hurt so badly that I couldn’t keep from crying/moaning out loud, but I was in so much agony and had such a high fever, and with my first daughter I had no idea what was happening to me! I learned my lesson, and came close to getting it with one of my other daughters but caught it in time.

Difference between overstimulation and sleep cues:

Overstimulation always hit my infants hard after they’d been at big gatherings and passed around from person to adoring person! They would cry and cry upon reaching home, and dh and I thought it was no wonder, can you imagine how sore we’d be if people passed us around constantly, and adjusted how they held us and positioned us? Talk about too much for a brand new baby and thank God for baby carriers! I think that’s why infants so often sleep when they’re around groups of people. Could be their natural way of shutting all the brightness and activity out.

Sleep cues would include fussiness, droopiness. Do you let her suck her thumb, or use a pacifier? Sometimes they seem to want to suck on something as they drift off. You could try swaddling her really tight in her receiving blanket, with her arms tucked next to her.

How many naptimes?

If she’s on a 3 hour schedule, say starting at 7 am, she should be napping 4-5 times during the day at this point. Eventually she’ll nap early-to mid-morning, then again right after lunch, once in the late afternoon and then another short nap around 6-6:30 pm. Her naps will gradually spread out but she might still be napping 3 times a day at 9 months old. Depends on how much sleep she needs. Of course, when they get that last nap, they usually stay awake/alert a little later with the last feeding being around 9:30-10 pm. And it’s so variable per infant.

The main thing to remember is that if you can keep the feed/wake/sleep cycle the key thing, she should end up very well-adjusted and sleeping through the night by 8-10 weeks. Barring health problems, that is. The sleep part will work itself out eventually. I remember stressing a lot over wanting mine to always go down in the crib, and my firstborn slipped into that routine with no fuss, but she also refused to nap at church or at Grandma’s house because she became reliant on her own bed! The other two I made sure could sleep anywhere!

And please don’t take my comments on the sling wrong. We never got into sling wearing, but I’ve observed it to be a wonderful thing for other mothers. I had a baby frontpack, but somehow never owned a sling–so I’m really the wrong person to give advice about it. I do know that my girls slipped into “ruts” easily when they got used to dh or I holding them to sleep. That’s not to say they didn’t get their fair share of chest time on daddy while he snoozed in the recliner–and I counted it as a naptime!

One last important thing. Pray for wisdom! There will be times when you’re exhausted and have no new ideas on things to try to help your little one settle in and sleep. New mommyhood is a beautiful and stressful time of adjustment. If you’re unsure about any of it, pray for a breakthrough, and God will give it. He’s told us to “be anxious for nothing but by prayer and supplication, let our requests be made known to Him”…

It’s really awesome, having children that go to bed happily. That even initiate the bedtime process! That’s the reward at the end of all this second-guessing of sleep-training.

So hang in there and when in doubt call upon God for what to do next. No doubt there will be times when the fussing is legitimate, maybe they’ll be tangled in their blankets or have a leg stuck through a crib slat…baby monitors are great for helping you determine what kind of cry it is before you actually open the door and let them know of your presence!

God bless,
Mary

For everyone else’s information, the importance of the feed/wake/sleep schedule is flexibility. There will be times, during growth spurts and such, when your baby will need to eat more often than every 3 hours. Go with it. My own personal rule of thumb was no more often than every two hours, from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.

This method worked for us, it worked amazingly. I don’t rant against attachment parenting, or assert that this way is the “only way”…I share what’s worked for our family and encourage all of you to do what’s best for yours, whatever that may be. We moms need to be on the same side here. The side of healthy, thriving infants, however we may approach reaching that objective.

God bless us all as we try to do our best with our babies, and to Him be the glory!

To Make Life Better…

Croissants
Don’t we adore, more than anything, to cause the light of appreciation and happiness on the faces of those we love the most?

Holidays really bring that out in a woman, I think. Every little girl remembers the magic of Christmas Eve, the flurry of gift wrapping and candle lighting…the festivity of mothers staying up late into the night, stuffing stockings, setting the table for Christmas breakfast, doing whatever it is that mothers do best.

My mom’s baking specialty, hands down, will always be her French croissants. All my childhood friends are sure to remember them fondly, as well as the various church families to which we belonged. They graced every holiday feast and many school faculty break room tables. The eighteen hour process behind their creation isn’t at all hard to comprehend when you’re sneaking one warm from the cooling rack, or peeling back one of the many flaky layers that mom’s floury hands folded in with love.

In today’s world…it is still women’s business to make life better, to make tomorrow better than today.” Helen Thames Raley

The croissant making tradition is one that my mom passed on to me. I just finished rolling and folding my butter-layered yeast dough for the third time, and have put three batches worth “to bed” for the night. Tomorrow morning will see me using every baking sheet in the house to find enough square inches of rising space for the hopefully 6-7 dozen crescent shaped rolls.

My husband will come home after a morning’s work in freezing weather and he’ll scarf a dozen down without trying. Our girls will have one or two small ones before remembering that they’ll get more later at my in-law’s Thanksgiving get-together…

As for me–I’ll sneak one of the crooked ones, and remember a yellow-tiled counter top in Texas, a mother who loved me, who wanted all my todays and tomorrows to be as special as they could possibly be.

“The spirit of tradition is one way that knowledge is passed from generation to generation. It has filled our lives with many ‘rare and beautiful treasures’ over the years and we have tried to pass those treasure on to our children. We share and celebrate our special ways of doing things, many of which come from the traditions that shaped us.” Emilie Barnes

Thanks Mom!

Pumpkin Pie Cake and a Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a blustery one in my corner of the midwest USA…but we’ve got logs blazing in the fireplace, pies and desserts lined up in a row, and pretty soon my three girls will stumble out of bed, get dressed and commence to watching the clock, wishing it was time to head over to their aunt’s for the big family dinner.

Yesterday’s baking spree went so well, we had time to rearrange the living room and set up/decorate the Christmas tree. With a busy Friday ahead, another Thanksgiving family get-together on Saturday, and possible company coming Saturday evening or Sunday…I knew we wouldn’t have another chance. I’m so grateful for this time of year, and for friends and family like you all to share it with.

Here’s a favorite Thanksgiving recipe for you all to try, it’s my mother-in-law’s specialty, and one my dh likes better than pumpkin pie. Plus, it’s super easy!

Pumpkin Pie Cake

Mix well:

  • 2 (15 oz) cans solid pack pumpkin OR 1 (30 oz) can of pumpkin pie mix, and omit 1 TB pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 TB pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk

Have handy for topping:

  • 1 yellow or white cake mix
  • 1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • cinnamon

Pour into an ungreased 9×13″ cake pan. Shake dry cake mix evenly over filling. Pour one cup melted butter over cake mix. Sprinkle with cinnamon and finely chopped pecans. Bake at 350*F for no more than one hour. Enjoy!

Where do you usually spend Thanksgiving and what’s your favorite part about it?

Have a very BLESSED Thursday, wherever you are!

P.S. Today is my day to post at Writer…Interrupted, so mosy over there if you so desire and read Leftovers, Anyone? It’s about books and food, a great combination for a lazy holiday afternoon!

Homemaking: Re”purpose”ing Things

This post is all about ruts. Home decor ruts.

I like to mix things up from time to time, you know, rearrange the furniture…walk through the rooms of my house thinking creatively about what items might be better placed or used elsewhere.

Take for instance the dresser to the far left in my header. It’s a gorgeous antique, much too pretty to be hidden away in my bedroom for practical use. I brought it to the living room a couple years ago and it now holds videos/dvds (top two drawers), blankets (middle drawer), and toddler’s toys (bottom drawer). I have a similar dresser on my back porch and we use its drawers for winter mittens/gloves/hats, outdoor toys, and hubby’s coveralls and work gear.

I’ve had a lovely barnwood wall shelf in our bedroom for a while now, and recently I decided to use it to fill a lonely spot on one of our living room walls. Once hung, it needed something to make it say “country” even more, so I took my vanilla bean heart-shaped wreath down from the bathroom wall and hung it across the shelf’s two pegs…ta-da, I love it there!

Of course, then I had to think twice about what to hang in the wreath’s spot…and I remembered a beautiful wooden shelf with candle that my dh’s grandfather made for us one Christmas years ago. It fit the spot perfectly.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Do a rug switch…perhaps you have one in the laundry room that would be fun in front of the stove or kitchen sink?
  • Bring a favorite vase out from storage and use it as a focal point atop one of your bookshelves or a mantel.
  • Rearrange the books on your bookcase. Leave one of the shelves free for folded quilts, and stack the extra books under an end table.
  • Don’t have enough “pretty dressers” to go around? Do what I did, turn an unused changing table into a dresser by putting linen-lined baskets on each shelf for your clothing. Hang everything that won’t fit in your closet…
  • In the winter, turn your picnic basket into a place to store rolled up bath towels near the tub.
  • Move a desk. Have an extra wide hallway? Or a spot beneath a kitchen window? How about in the living room behind the couch, much like a library table behind a freestanding sofa.
  • I love wooden crates, I have two. One is about 2.5 feet high with a divider and it has a “Georgia Peach” label on one end. It makes the best bedside table, with the divider as a shelf. The other crate is shorter and I use it for a mini-bookshelf. In summer it sits on the hearth in the living room.
  • Besides crates for creative end tables, you could use those sturdy antique milk cans and add a wooden topper. Or stack antique-ish briefcases or luggage pieces, or large hatboxes, or make your own end table with large cement bricks and lumber (this works for bookshelves too).
  • Take two 2-drawer metal filing cabinets, spaced apart, and top them with a cut-to-fit piece of particle board (check it out at the lumber store, they have some beautiful pieces) and you have a pretty decent and versatile desk…you could use 3 filing cabinets and make it L-shaped…

Anyway, I love to brainstorm these types of things. And I’m always looking for new trips out of the rut, any fresh ideas anyone?

Anything Short of Hell is a Privilege

Some of my greatest epiphanies occur behind the wheel. Thankfully these flashes of insight usually occur when I’m alone, because they’re almost always accompanied by tears. (You guys are going to think I cry all the time. Actually, I never! Just lately…)

For instance, a couple of weeks ago, on my solo way to a baby shower, I was listening to the hymn Amazing Grace. I’d just been fretting about something or other that was feeding my discontentment in a certain area, and wham! The words from the song hit me in the chest and immediately I felt convicted of the following, and I even jotted it down so I’d remember:

How dare we think that God’s plans for us are less than what He promises?

Seems pretty simple, but as with all epiphanies, it was so right on for my internal angsts. The lyrics kept washing over me…

“Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me–I was blind–but now–I see…”

With these truths before me, I definitely felt wretched! I’d been comparing again, and finding my life “wanting”–am I the only one that struggles with this? Anyway, how dare I be discontent with any part of this God-ordained life I lead, one that frankly, is incredibly blessed above and beyond all that I could ever ask or think!

So I may not have the money to complete this or that disaster-waiting-to-happen or some such other tripe that got my contentedness off track to begin with. So what?

Someone once said, “We should not doubt in the dark what He has shown us in the light.”

Worth repeating: “We should not doubt in the dark what He has shown us in the light.”

Yes, I was so blind but now I see.

Because, as Mark Lowry put it so eloquently:

“Anything short of hell is a privilege.”

Don’t you agree? Don’t let a little darkness morph into a faith crisis as I almost did. Rest in God’s sovereignty. We are shaped through our pain.

The plans God has for us are for our good, not for our evil. This doesn’t mean His plans are for our financial gains, or for our material comforts, or for us to be considered popular by the masses, or for one month without health tests. To me, it means that the circumstances He allows in our lives will bear fruit for good, not evil, if we keep trusting!

Father, take the wheel. Because in my hands, it too easily detours…and sadly, wide is the path to destruction when we let our failures take root, and turn into bitternesses, and forget in the darkness what You told us…in the light.

8 Random Things

Jen tagged me so here goes!

  1. Currently reading Sixth Covenant by Brock and Bodie Thoene, sixth in their awesome A.D. Chronicles series!
  2. Loving our Professor B Math…getting into long multiplication and division with oldest, and “vocabulary and symbolism of numeration” (whew!) with 7 year old!
  3. Just listened to the best email forward I’ve gotten in a long time…a phone call made by a 12 year old boy to a Houston radio station89.3 KSBJ’s morning show
  4. Roasted a turkey yesterday and made pumpkin soup with some of it today! So delicious we all had seconds and thirds!
  5. We are so enjoying a weekly Bible study with friends…we’re using Tommy Nelson’s A Life Well Lived DVD series, all on the book of Ecclesiastes. Really. Good.
  6. Got the girls’ room cleaned today! Big group effort!
  7. My oldest daughter has already sold two of her border collie pups and they’ve only been weaned a few days! (5 to go! Any takers?)
  8. I just got some great news from Tricia Goyer, that EVERY writer/blogger should check out! Hint: Would you like to see one of your popular blog posts published?

I’ve actually done the 8 Random Things meme before, so today I stuck with today’s random things. Hope you enjoy some of the links!

And consider yourselves tagged, if you so desire! I’d love to learn more about each of you!