Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Homemade "Jell-O"

Since my sons have been under the weather the last few days, taking care of them, my husband, the house, our pet, their chores, the meals, the extra disinfecting, and homemade remedies has kept me been busier than a gopher on a golf course. :-)  

My youngest has always liked jello, especially when he's sick. But since I don't like all the added ingredients in the commercial brands, I make it myself and thought I'd share how to do it. 
You will need: 

1 heat proof container (I use an 8x8 baking dish)
small containers (optional - for individual servings)
2 packets Knox Gelatin
1 container frozen juice concentrate (black cherry is good)

Combine juice concentrate + two cans of water in saucepan. 
Pour out one cup of juice mixture; reserve.
Heat to boiling. 

Pour juice into baking dish and sprinkle 2 packets gelatin over top. 
Stir till dissolved.

Pour in the reserved cold juice and stir till combined. 

Pour gelatin mixture into individual containers OR leave in original container. 
Refrigerate 3 hours or till firm.

I didn't quite have enough small containers so the extra went into a regular pyrex storage container. 

Making homemade "Jell-O" is super easy and the best part is you know exactly what is in it! It makes a nice treat for kids when they're sick without all the sugar and dyes in store bought varieties.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Mother's Priorities - Natural Remedies

It's that time of year! Autumn is my favorite season, but it does seem to usher in colds and flu. In my opinion, natural remedies should be on every mother's list of priorities.

My boys came down with flu symptoms yesterday and I have been using my arsenal of herbs and remedies and they are already showing signs of healing. I found myself reflecting on how far I've come in my 25 years as a mother and thought I would share a bit of what I've learned with you.

When I was a young mother, any fever was considered bad and children's tylenol was the answer. But now, I don't panic at fevers below 102° because I know their immune response is working.

When I was a young mother, sickness usually meant calls or visits to the doctor, accompanied by a trip to the pharmacy for ill advised, gut-destroying antibiotics or other "medicine".

Now, we only use acetaminophen as a last resort when pain or fever have not responded to natural treatments. But I honestly can't remember the last time we needed more than one dose during an illness. Interestingly enough, experts now have serious concerns about the use and overuse of Tylenol due to its liver damaging effects. And Ibuprofen is now deemed controversial enough that some experts say that if it had been invented today, it would only be available by prescription! Yikes.

My conclusion is that these are two OTC meds that are best left for emergencies or when all else has failed.  We keep them on hand just for that purpose but it is so rare that we use them that I end up throwing away expired bottles that are still mostly full.

As my kids grew so did my mothering instincts and I became fascinated with herbs. They are God's medicine garden. To my delight I've found herbs and home remedies to be mostly inexpensive, readily available and remarkably effective!

I've grown confident in using herbs  based on my experiences. I'm solidly convinced of their healing capabilities. I'm always so sad for people who disregard their use, or even just natural remedies in general. They seem to relegate them to the same category as old wives tales. They would rather see doctors and take pharmaceutical drugs that only mask symptoms, when in reality, they are exchanging a temporary comfort for possible/probable long term harm. Then when abnormal diseases develop, they do not seem to connect the dots with the drugs. So sad!

Here's what I do and it shortens the duration of colds and flu dramatically - sometimes down to a couple of days! And the best part? They strengthen the body and have no harmful side effects.

I always keep some bulbs of Garlic around. It is one of THE most potent herbs. Researching it's benefits and uses is time well spent. It can be used in so many ways, but I like to make poultices with it to get its healing properties absorbing into their systems without risking tummy upset.

I always make a batch of elderberry syrup (ingredients can be found online or at a local Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers) and administer a 1-2 tablespoons every hour or two.

For nourishment, I often make a big pot of homemade chicken soup made using a whole fresh chicken (cut up), garlic, purified water, vinegar, egg shells, celery, carrots, onion and parsley. It is easily digestible and full of minerals and nutrients that nourish the cells for wellness.

I keep their fluids going with herbal teas, purified water and a little orange juice. And the second day, I usually wash their bed linens and put on fresh ones thinking that maybe if I wash away the germs they slept with overnight, they'll be less likely to get 'reinfected'. 

I turn on an air purifier with ultra violet light that kills bacteria in the air. And keep their bedroom window open as much as possible.

And depending on what I have on hand, I give them vitamin C and D, encapsulated herbs like fenugreek, ginger, echinacea, cat's claw, cayenne and slippery elm (cures both diarrhea AND constipation - amazing!). I make teas (infusions) with chamolile, peppermint, ginger, pau d'arco and others.

Another good thing to do for almost any ailment is to sit in the sunshine (weather permitting) for at least 10 minutes at some point in the day. Sunshine and fresh air have a wonderful healing affect on the body. I've sat on our porch in the sun when I've felt odd, a bit dizzy or just feeling under the weather and within the hour I feel "right" again. Sunshine is our friend - so long as you don't get too much at the wrong time of day. :)

I hope you've enjoyed a glimpse of my go-to treatments. I like them because they work very well and aren't too complicated to make and administer.  But don't take my word for it. Study them for yourself and how to use them.

May God bless your day!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Mother's Priorities - A Healthy Home

Each year I look forward to the arrival of Autumn. The smoky rooftops, twilight skies, falling leaves and crisp cool air are irresistible! I try to bring the beauty indoors and decorate my house and front porch with pumpkins, leaves and shades of orange and gold. 

But then comes the inevitable and I breathe a sad, frustrated sigh as I'm faced with reminders of Halloween competing for attention during the beautiful month of October.  One nice surprise this year has been the lack of any halloween displays in our local Costco.  Makes me wonder if maybe that store is managed by a Christian?

So what does all this have to do with a healthy home? Well, for me, autumn signals the time to start closing up the house and bracing ourselves for chilly weather and eventually winter.  We all want our homes to be as clean and healthy as possible, and one of the most neglected aspects of good housekeeping today is fresh indoor air. 

There are several different ways we can increase the quality of air in our homes. And as homeschoolers, we are home quite a bit so this is becomes a really important area for us to put some effort into. 

Vacuuming at least twice a week will keep dust and dander in check. Change the bag and filters promptly when they're full and don't forget to dust walls, ledges, upholstered furniture and carpet edges when needed.

I like to mop using plain water with a splash of vinegar. Microfiber mops and dust cloths don't require any cleaning solutions at all and capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers. 

Putting a large throw rug at the entry points of your home will help keep chemicals and dirt from getting tracked into the house. 

And it goes without saying that every home should be a no smoking zone. 

Get your Radon levels checked.  Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that significantly raises the risk of lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today, so it is worth getting a test done.  

If you use plug in air fresheners, you should know that a recent study found 20 different volatile organic compounds (VOC's) in chemical air "fresheners", seven of which are labeled as toxic or hazardous under U.S. federal laws. Amazingly enough, current laws do not require this disclosure - only the word "fragrance".  How horrible!

I find that the best scent a house can have is fresh air. A house that smells musty is a breeding ground for mold, mildew, dust mites, accumulated gasses, chemicals and phthalates. Studies show that phthalates disrupts hormones in animals. I wonder what they're doing for people!  Some things we can all do: 

  • Let in fresh air. Every morning, even throughout the cold months, we like to open the front and back doors for a few minutes and let the air "blow through" the house. The windier it is outside the better this works. It really doesn't take long to warm up the air for the remainder of the day. 
  • avoid chemical laden cleaners and laundry products
  • use lemon slices, baking soda and vinegar to achieve a clean scent in your kitchen. 
  • Put houseplants in every room possible. The foliage and roots work in tandem to absorb chemical pollutants released by synthetic materials (wall to wall carpeting is the biggest offender there). Plants are living air purifiers, so fill your home with lots of them. 
  • Humidity levels in your home should be between 30% and 50%. Slightly opening a window when you cook, shower and run the dishwasher helps to vent out excess humidity.
  • Use an electric air purifier. They help keep dust levels down and many of them come with an ultra violet light that also kills germs as the air passes through.  

 And if you don't do any of the suggestions here, just having houseplants and opening the doors for a blow through in the mornings will go a long way in giving your home the fresh air that it needs.  

One last tip I can share: in our home, we sleep with the bedroom windows open every night. Wide open in nice weather and just an inch or so on cold nights. That might seem crazy, but this was a normal practice in days gone by. And it actually helps keep us healthy. We just set the thermostat to about 55 - 58° at bedtime (9 pm) and sleep with extra covers. We close bedroom doors so that the cooler air in the bedrooms doesn't reach the thermostat and signal it to come on. 

What are some ways that you keep your home healthy in the chilly months?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homeschooling Insecurities

A reader shared:  

Even though what I'm doing with him isn't hard, (numbers, letters, shapes, etc...) I still can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm not qualified for this!  I'll get thoughts like, "What if I'm doing him a great disservice?!" or, "I'm not a good enough mom to be a homeschool mom!!!"  It didn't help that I took all my kids to Target today, and an older many stopped us and said, "You kids should be in school!"  Do you remember having thoughts like this when you started? How do you defend yourself to people who tell you  to send your kids to school?

I can only answer for myself. But I believe insecurities like this come mostly from preconditioning. Investigate where those doubts are originating. 

Just what does "a homeschool mom" look like?  Answers will vary because people vary in their ideals. I would describe the ideal homeschool mother as God fearing, kind, loving and industrious. She is a woman who adores her family and is committed to pouring her life into them the way the sun drenches a plat with life giving light. A homeschooling mother knows that "schooling" shouldn't interfere with education. Education happens constantly. Children are sponges and her goal is to be the sweetest drink they know.  

I always ask myself, which would I rather produce: walking encyclopedias or God fearing children of the Most High? I keep this scripture on the forefront of my mind:

For what shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?  Mark 8:36

Homeschooling, to me, is less about the accumulation of knowledge, and more about the accumulation of spiritual fruit. I put a lot of energy into pointing my kids to the Lord.

My confidence as a homeschooling mom is not based on whether I think I'm smart enough, good enough or ideal enough to homeschool my kids. It is based on stewardship. God gave me these children and holds me responsible for their outcome. Why would I hand them over to an institution for the majority of the day? Why would I want to miss out on a single aspect of the joy of bringing them up? Do you see? 

Homeschooling is mothering. It is parenting. It is natural. Planting this truth into my mind has caused an immune-like response to any doubts about what I'm doing. 

Origins of Maternal Insecurities

Did you know that, for centuries women have been having their babies at home, but during a good portion of the twentieth century, the medical industry duped mothers into thinking they weren't qualified to give birth on their own? As a result, women went to hospitals in droves (and still are) to have their babies based on their doctor's "authority".  And fathers (who were usually present during the birthing of their children) were exiled to the father's waiting room, separated from the miracle of witnessing their own child's birth. 

These same "experts" also purported the idea that breastfeeding was something only practiced by the uneducated and lower classes. It was considered old fashioned and a little disgusting for those who could not afford formula. Why then, in the 1960's did this idea begin to change and women were once again being encouraged to feed their babies naturally?

Think about it. Why do most experts currently (finally) believe that breast milk is the best possible feeding choice for babies?  

Because science finally caught up with the truth and the evidence is irrefutable.  Facts are stubborn things. Children nourished on breastmilk have superior immune responses, lower incidence of illness and higher intelligence in adolescence. These and many more facts have silenced the "experts". 

This illustrates my point about homeschooling. For centuries, a children were educated at home.  But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the "experts" told the public that the education of their children was best left to the professionals. After all, they know what they're doing! But you? Why you're just a mother. What do you know?  Our people have degrees!  And institutions, textbooks, chalkboards, globes, maps, playgrounds and supplies! What do you commoners have? 


In the 1970's, my parents decided that they were going to homeschool. They figured if missionaries could do it, they could do it too. They got their own textbooks, chalkboards, globes, maps, playground and supplies! And they did fine.

As the years went by, and homeschooling grew in popularity and became legal in all 50 states of America, the "experts" found out that all their claims of superiority were completely unfounded. Homeschoolers were smarter, more balanced and out scoring their institutionalized counterparts. 

Eventually the "experts" aimed their missiles at socialization - the one thing they figured that families could not manufacture, right?  For years they hollered, "Socialization!! Those homeschoolers aren't being socialized!! They have to be with hundreds of other children every day!"

Surprisingly, this made parents cower in uncertainty....for a while. Then they woke up. Have you SEEN the freaks emerging and graduating from public schools? And the gap is closing in private schools now. Homeschoolers are not only better socialized than institutionalized peers who were shut up all day with only kids their ages to contact, they are more mature, creative, contemplative and ready for independence and success.

Homeschoolers are equipped to socialize with anyone regardless of age, position, etc, because their daily environment is life. It's natural. They come in contact with grandparents, other families, and the community on a regular basis. We no longer cower at the shouts for "socialization" from educational institutions because we can plainly see their fruit: violent, irreverent, rebellious, God hating, disrespectful, murderous perverts. It's become rare to see anyone who does not turn out warped from a govt school.

So do you see that the primary reason for homeschooling is really  not educational?  It is biblical.  My children were given to me by God.  All public or private educational institutions represent giving up my children. 

Therefore it is not a question of whether I am the best teacher in the world, but that God chose me for my children. Therefore I am the best teacher suited for my children. No one loves them as much or  knows them better than I do.  That is what qualifies me as their best educational option. 

Anything that you don't know, you can learn and teach your children the same.  Teach them to learn! One of the biggest mistakes a homeschooling parent can make is trying to "teach" her children everything. 

Children have a natural capacity to learn and absorb information.  It is like putting a small child into shallow water. You do not have to teach them to delight in splashing, swishing around or playing. It's instinctual. 

Let me clarify: I'm not saying we should just "leave them to themselves" when it comes to learning. But rather that we guide and provide. As they watch me delighting in the water, they imitate me and experience the same delight. I am like a mirror. It's the same with learning. When they are young, learning is synonymous with playing.  

Teaching them numbers, letters, colors, etc is not work. It is fun. Be careful when they are young not to turn it into work. When it's not fun anymore, just stop for the day.  Or stop for a while and then  do some more later in the day.  But when they're little, learning is playing and playing is learning.

Teach them to read, provide them with the right materials and they will naturally learn. But always show your own delight. Delight is more contagious than the common cold. 

Now about confrontations.  You must throw out any double minded thinking and fear.  You are qualified to homeschool by the same person who qualified you to be a mother.  God. He opened your womb and blessed you with children. They are your fruit! 

Anyone brazen enough to actually say, "You kids should be in school!" I might smile and say, 

"Are you from Germany?"
"I've seen what the schools produce and that's why I homeschool."
"They are in school right now. We're learning all the time."

Or  I'd  simply shake my head and give him a visible look of "For shame. You must be one of the drones!" and keep walking. Now, if you are ever stuck standing in line with someone like that then starting arming yourself with information

Saturate yourself with the truth! Your insecurities will disappear.