5 Ways to Survive December, Homeschooling or Otherwise

1.  Forget Elf on the Shelf.  Become rich even.  Create Elf in the Trash.  Elf in the Back of the Garbage Truck.  Elf in the Landfill.  That stupid elf has broken my kids’ hearts too many times.


Certainly remind the kids that The Elf does not really move every day.

2.  Shake the Christmas tree really, really violently then vacuum up all the loose needles just once.

dead tree

Oh yes.  That will be much easier to take care of now.

3.  December never comes and goes without at least one illness.


Declare “No Christmas” for any kid who doesn’t clean up his own puke.

4.  Become an avid non-consumer proponent.


That is so cute.  It only took two old socks.  Magic marker could be used even–if you don’t have buttons.

5.  Open the top of the piano.  Stuff some towels down in there.  And the violin.  Close gently.

piano inside

I don’t have a clue what is wrong with the piano.

Is your house as crazy as ours is right now?  If they could  funnel the energy of kids at Christmas,  they could get the USA off of oil, I’m sure.  The red food dye certainly raises it to a whole new level in our house.  Red food dye is regulated more tightly than sugar here.  Yep.  You read that right.  In some of my kids, that stuff is pure evil.

We are having a ball.  Is it all Zen?  Nope!  Crazy.  Mouthy.  Sick (and I did clean it up, by the way).  Busy.  Unproductively productive.  But when I feel the frustration and overwhelm, I try to use it as a way to STOP and regroup.  (I literally do just that.  When I feel that feeling–I pull up short in mid-stride.)  Something is not right.  What is it?  What can I do about it?  What can I eliminate?  What mind-set can I change and adjust to help deal with reality versus expectation?  Is there a friend I can call who can give me an attitude flip?  Just about nothing matters to me more than helping my kids become content, satisfied, and non-superficial people, and to do that, they need a role-model.  Am I modeling that?

Christmas is about nothing if it isn’t about unconditional love.  Acceptance that great things come from humbleness and simplicity.  May we all know that.  It gets me through December–heck–and the other 11 months too.

Warmest wishes to you this last week before The Big Show.


(PS:  Number six would be, “Expect to be interrupted every two minutes.  Plan on it.”)

(PPS:  I still know that I owe some iodine, butyrate, and blood sugar regulation posts.  They are on my mind, but I just can’t get to them like I want to yet.)


Homeschooling with four

“So, how’s it going homeschooling four?”  Well, let me tell you.

1.  HomeSCHOOLing.  You define school.  Then let me.

2.  The teacher has two functional boobs and one half-functional brain.  Sometimes.

3.  Five o’clock.  Let’s talk about five o’clock.  There’s big hair band music blaring locker-room loud to soothe a screaming baby who doesn’t like the squeaky, squilly violin which is trying to overcome the sound of the blender in the kitchen while the beeping of the oven is ding-ding-dinging while the five-year-old is trying to write her letters, begging for a snack, not liking the answer, then asking how to spell “Can I move to Grannie’s?”  (Y-E-S.  Yes is the answer.  Let’s sound it out.  Yuh—eh—ess.  Yes.)  Someone is practicing piano with the metronome ticking.  The phone rings and a text comes in.  Aaaah.  Relief when I hear someone pull into the drive.  My husband!  Reinforcements!  I run to the door, shut my eyes, pucker up, and open the door.  It’s the Schwan’s man.  But at least my shirt is buttoned.

4.  You want to know “So how long does it really take you to do school when you homeschool?”  All day. It takes all day.  And then, kind of, not all day at all.  Explain that.

5.  That counts!  That counts!  That counts as school!

6.  Oh, good.  It’s only December.  We still have time to start the first semester.

7.  You don’t want to learn to read?  Well, fine.  I don’t have time to teach you anyhow.  Can you cook?

8.  I wasn’t trained for this.  Maybe a nanny isn’t such a bad idea after all.

9.  Can you say one word?  MESS.  Make it plural.  MESSES.  Some on the floor.  Some in the kitchen.  And some up the back of the baby.

10.  Get in line.  Get in line.  There are three in front of you.

11.  “Get dressed.”  Elapsed time.  “Get dressed.”  Elapsed time.  “I said get dressed.”  Elapsed time.  “DIDN’T I SAY TO GET DRESSED.  WE HAVE TO GO–NOW!”  Dang it.  Now I understand people who wear pajamas while shopping.  I think they were homeschooled.


This school year, my pre-schooler moved up to “kindergarten,” and we added a new baby to the (scribbled) home-education picture.  We’re homeschooling three now with a baby.  Adding a newborn to our homeschooling family of three has produced moments of sheer pandemonium, where I thought, “Stuff her back in!  Stuff her back in!  I can’t do this!”

Mayhem.  Bedlam.  I can laugh, but our homeschooling experience is metamorphosing.   Metamorphosing.  We’re a little rough and ugly right now, but I can see a murky, gray outline through the ratty looking cocoon.  Therein lies a thing of beauty which will rise up on wings and fly away from me.  Beautiful.  My daughters are learning to learn on their own.  Me–I’m learning to trust the homeschooling system an older, wiser mom told me about.  The system that says a child will learn if you watch for their needs and allow them to.

Yesterday I was coming down on myself for a miserable day of homeschooling.  It literally felt like I hadn’t done anything school-wise all day.  Positive, objective, self-talk is important.  I stepped back and tallied our accomplishments (actually, my daughters’ accomplishments–I was busy being lunch) for the day.  I looked at all that had happened without me.  The girls plowed independently through math and grammar.  They practiced violin and guitar.  The Spanish teacher came.  One attended dance lessons.  One finished reading Harry Potter.  Another e-mailed her grandfather about a book she was reading.  The oldest taught the next two how to use the sewing machine to sew a simple felt purse.  They looked up how to make real chocolate with cocoa butter and cocoa powder and made Christmas chocolates.  Without me.  Without me.  That’s quite a day.

The days of sitting down for three hours together to do school are gone.  Someone once told me, “You’ll get a routine you like–and then it will CHANGE.”  Oh, does it change every single day now.  I quit work to gain more control of our lives, homeschooling, and family, but the whispering winds keep chasing me, never stopping, forcing me to see that, yes, it was a shift of PRIORITIES, but not a gain of control.

School lasted from 9 am to 9 pm.

Wishing you a peaceful home full of happy chaos.



Compromise 2

Whether you have diabetes or an autoimmune disease which you manage with nutrition, every bite counts.  Continued compromises can create failure.  It is December.  A month easily filled with excuses and excess.  Make it a goal now to come out better than you went in once January hits!  You are in control of what goes into your mouth and your kids’ mouths, even if it doesn’t feel that way.  Make some rules and stick to them.  Maybe something like nothing with artificial colors.  Or no eating out all month.  Or only one glass of wine at a social event.  Or no refined flour products.  You know what’s up.  You know your weak spots, and they’re likely different from mine.  But step back.  Be honest.  Make a plan.

There is no cookie worth a blood sugar of 300.  No piece of Pillsbury dough worth joint pain and swelling.  No piece of cheese worth sitting on the toilet for.  No month of parties worth 5 extra pounds.

Make your home a safe zone.  Today.  December 1st.  Give all the unopened, easy packaged snacks to the food bank.  Give the opened ones to friends.  Or throw in the trash and dump leftover Thanksgiving gravy on top so there are no second chances.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m glad.)  Don’t buy more.  Get rid of foods you know are not edifying to your body.

Come out of December better than you went in.


RE-lax. Don’t RE-act. Tips for RE-lationships this Holiday Season.

Little things irritate me.  Do they irritate you?  Stupid things.  Unimportant things.

Like people chomping apples when you’re not.  (You can relate, can you?  Well, then, you’ll want to read about misophonia.  Yeah.  It has a name.)

Or rudely driving below the speed limit in front of you when you’re late.  (You did know that’s why it irritates you, right?  It’s rude.  I mean people have places to go and be, and just because somebody doesn’t, doesn’t mean they should drive slowly in front of us and keep us from getting where we need to be on time.  I mean, it takes me 12 minutes and 32.125 seconds to get to dance class, and that’s how long I’ve allotted.  No more.  No less.  My kid shouldn’t be late due to some driver’s disrespect now should they?)

Or asking what’s for supper.  (Does it matter?  You’ll have to eat it anyhow.  I’m not making anything else.  And, frankly, I don’t even know, so don’t ask.)

However, this is not where or how I want to be in this matter!  And I firmly believe that we don’t have to stay where we don’t want to be.  We have the power to invoke change, if not a tangible change, certainly a mental one.  Kind of like that Thoreau quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”  I see–I see–I see a calm, peaceful, controlled, and open mom, wife, friend, and daughter.  (No, not me.  Literally.  I’m watching The Waltons.)

The Holidays are upon us.  Tensions will run high due to overloaded schedules, overloaded expectations, and overloaded populations in small houses.  People are going to irritate us more (and more and more and more).  Try using the R and E method to keep relationships productive and not destructive.  Use it throughout the next month and one week.  And then keep right on using it all year-long.


When you want to RE-ACT.

RE-SIST.  Stop.

RE-LAX the shoulders.  The jaw.  And the brain.  Some people truly have no idea how they come across.  Some people do.  Maybe Bob’s doing it on purpose, and maybe Bob’s not.

Don’t RE-AD (read) into questions or statements or motives.  Don’t.  Too many misunderstandings happen right here.  But neither brush things under the rug to let hard thoughts fester.  Not good.  Take some comments at face value.  (Your mini-van is a mess.  Yes, it is.  Your shoes were expensive.  Yes, they were.  Your mom is difficult.  Yeah, sometimes she can be.  I don’t make corn casserole that way.  No, you don’t.  I’m tired.  Okay.)

RE-PHRASE the question or statement that bothers you so you can determine what the other person is really feeling. This way you don’t look like an idiot if you misunderstood what the person was saying and you overreact, and the situation escalates.  This also applies to looks that you think people gave you.  The goal is to calmly learn how the other person’s brain ticks.  There should be NO edginess, whining, or high pitch to your voice.  If there is, you’re not doing it right.  Start over. (My mini-van is a mess, but is there a reason you want to tell me?  My shoes cost too much–are you worried about our budget?  Mom likes things done her way–can we still go home for Christmas?  I didn’t know how you made corn casserole, do you mind if I make it my way?)

RE-MEMBER to listen to all answers and not react.  Discuss.  Ask more probing questions to learn about the other person and their feelings.  Again, if there is edginess, whining, or a high pitch to your voice, you’re not doing it right.  Start over if necessary.

RE-CEIVE your fault in the situation.  This is the ouchy part, but if we

  • RELAX,
  • don’t READ,
  • REPHRASE, and
  • REMEMBER to listen, and
  • REPEAT as needed,

we are more likely to see if we need to own up.  (The van is messy, but I’ve been feeling too lazy to clean it.  My shoes did cost too much, and I know it wasn’t good timing to buy them.  You’re tired.  I know I’ve over committed our schedule.)

Don’t settle to be where you are in any area of life that really counts.  Always listen.  Always learn.  Always laugh.  Always move forward.  People are important, not things and appearances.  RE-member the “RE”s.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!




How Do You Eat THAT Vegetable? Butternut Squash.

Squash up some butternut squashVegetable Series: When we changed our eating two years ago, I resolved to be afraid of no vegetable. Not knowing how to cut it or cook it was NOT going to keep it out of my cart. For a long time I’ve wanted to do a series of posts on all the different vegetables we have tried and what we do to the poor things. May you, too, vow to try any and all vegetables in your supermarket! Go get ‘em, tiger.

Okay. We’re back on the vegetable trail.  Have you tried rutabaga yet? Artichoke? Kohlrabi? Jicama?  If not, you ARE missing out!  Today’s featured vegetable, butternut squash, should be one of your favorites.  Why?

1.  It’s long-lasting , edible interior décor AND does not require a face.  While pumpkins are great for edible, fall interior décor too, those with young kids know that all orange orbs require faces.  (Halloween is over.  That’s not a Jack-O’ Lantern.  That’s a Pilgrim now.  See the arms?)pumpkin

2.  Sweet potato . . . sweet potato . . . where are you?  Drat.  I’m out of sweet potatoes.  Where’s a pumpkin?  I’ll substitute with pumpkin.  Pump-kin . . . pump-kin . . . where are you?  Oh.  No pumpkin either, canned or otherwise.  Well, shoot.  What’s left to substitute?  I AM making this recipe today. . .

Aha!  Butternut squash.  Butternut squash can often be substituted for pumpkin and sweet potato in pies, casseroles, and soups.  Great for poor planners.  (No.  That’s self-deprecating.  Let’s practice re-phrasing and positivity to help reduce stress levels which lead to chronic disease.)  Great for busy moms who prefer to spend time with their kids–rather than shop with them.

3.  “National” pride:  Apples originated from Asia.  Potatoes from South America.  Brussels from Europe.  What about North America?  Don’t we have any yummy, native vegetables and fruits to call our own?  Yep!  Squash.  (I use that tid-bit factoid to get my kids to eat it, along with the miraculous story of how the Native Americans graciously taught the immigrant Europeans how to grow and prepare it.)

Do not be intimidated by squash.  Butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and delicata squashes are usually interchangeable.  Spaghetti squash is NOT interchangeable.  And yellow, summer squash is NOT interchangeable.  Let’s make sure we are on the same page here.   Here is a pile of butternut squash:Cucurbita_moschata_Butternut_2012_G2


We eat a lot of hard squashes in our house, particularly butternut and pumpkin, but here is a no-frills recipe which is simple and gets the following remark:  “What is this?  Sweet potato?  Tastes like sweet potato casserole.”  The hardest part of working with hard, winter squashes is cutting them.

  • Get out your biggest butcher knife to cut that thing in half!
  • Then, lay a half on its flat surface and start cutting it into half-rings.
  • Cut the half-rings into wedges–like you would a pineapple!
  • Use a smaller knife to then slice off the peel left on one side of the wedge.


Butternut Squash Up

What you’ll need:

1 medium-sized butternut squash, cut into pieces
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup oil (I used melted coconut oil but olive oil or melted butter would be great, too)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash of salt

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).
2.  Cut your squash if you haven’t already.
3.  Place the chunks into a casserole dish.  (You don’t want it to really fill the dish by more than half.)
4.  In a smallish to medium-sized bowl, whisk together maple syrup, melted oil, and spices.  Pour over squash and give a quick stir to coat squash.
5.  Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour.  (Baking time will vary based on your oven and on sizes of the squash pieces.)  Squash is finished baking when it is fork tender.
6.  You are not done!  Use a large fork or a hand-masher gadget to squish up the squash.  Then, give it a few good stirs.
7.  Transfer to a pretty serving dish and serve warm.

Family “gustar” report: 6/7 eaters liked this.  (We have company staying with us.)  My youngest eater took her mandatory bite. She used to be my best eater, but she is going through a picky time.  I also served this at a large family get-together, and it was well-received by my mom, dad, and sisters, a fussy, honest crowd.

You can see below the casserole dish I chose, the “wedges” of squash I described, and squashing it up (and why I suggest putting it in another serving dish).

photo 1 photo 2

Do you eat squash?  Which is your favorite?  How do you fix it?


Photo credit:  Wikipedia, public domain photo.   Butternut squash, cultivar variety of Cucurbita moschata, ripe fruits. Ukraine.  Photographer, George Chernilevsky.


Talk About Your Medicines

Doctors and lawyers don’t mix. Well, maybe they do—but they hide their feelings about each other well, which is why I can’t mix with lawyers.  I possess this strange connection between my brain and my face.  Think thought.  Thought plastered on face.  So I have all kinds of friends, but no lawyer friends.  Oops.  Take that back.  My first boyfriend from elementary school is now a lawyer, but he’s a good-guy lawyer.  His last name is a first name.  Don’t you hate that?  So confusing.  “Excuse me.  I can never remember.  Is your name Thomas Todd?  Or Todd Thomas?”

I’m talking about lawyers because American Recall Center asked me if I would run a post with the theme “Talk About Your Medicines.” After checking it out, I saw the site, which seems fair and unbiased, was sponsored by a law firm.  “Dang.  I’m shot if I do and will be looking over my shoulder forever if I don’t.”  So I will.  No strings were attached to this post.  They simply asked if I would write a post on medication safety, approaching it based on my experience.  (They did give me a little picture I could use, but I decided I shouldn’t take anything.  Just to be safe, you know.)  I don’t have one of those wordy disclaimers (yet).  But let me say, which I know you all know:  Don’t use anything on my site for medical advice.  It is not intended for that.

Without further ado—three important questions to ask your healthcare providers:

What does this medicine do? Ask them to write what the medicine is for on the prescription. 

The “sig” of a prescription is the line which tells how the medicine is to be taken. It is written in language your doctor and pharmacist understand.  Some alien code derived from Latin.  Example:   ii gtts OD QD.  Translation:  Instill 2 drops in the right eye daily.

I want to ask you to do something for me. When your doctor writes a prescription (or types it to be sent to the pharmacy via computer), please ask him or her to please write what the prescription is for in the sig.  The new sig for the above Martian talk would look something like this:  ii gtts OD QD for glaucoma.  Your bottle would then read:  Instill two drops in the right eye daily for glaucoma.  That way you’ll know that it is not your dry-eye eye drop or an antibiotic eye drop.

Here are a couple more examples:

i po qd for HTN= Take one tablet by mouth daily for hypertension i po bid for depression=  Take one tablet by mouth daily for depression.

Having worked as both a pharmacist and doctor, I have seen first-hand how confusing all those bottles are for people. It gets even more confusing when one medicine can be used for different conditions.  Help keep organized by asking the doctor to add the indication at the end of the directions.  Your pharmacist can usually do this for you as well if you ask them at the time you drop off your prescription.  If the prescription was called in ahead of time for you, then call the pharmacy before you go to pick it up and have them do this for you if they can.  (Laws vary by state)  Alternatively, you can write it on the label yourself, but you’ll have to do it every time.


Is this addictive? Ask your doctor if the medicine has potential to be a habit-forming drug.

Our whole pharmacy staff knew “the seekers.” People who had gotten themselves mired down with addictive prescription medicines.  They’d call in for their medicines way too early.  They’d doctor shop.  They’d feign new health conditions.  Medical doctors get dinged and criticized for not controlling people’s pain nowadays, but let me tell you, I’ve seen “the seekers” and their desperation.  It’s not usually physical pain they try to calm.  It is heart-wrenching the anguish that prescription drug dependence can cause.

It starts simply. Some Xanax for insomnia or wedding jitters.  Some Tussionex for a cough.  Some Vicodin for dental pain.  Some people soar on those drugs and crave more and more and more.  They just can’t stop no matter how much they lose.  Nobody really wants to end up an addict.  But who knows exactly where our Achilles’ heel is?  Having been behind the counter handing out Vicodin and Darvocet right and left, I feel controlled substances are dished out too easily.  (Don’t take offense.  I well-know that they are also needed by many and used responsibly.)  Ask your doctor when he or she prescribes you something, “Could this be addictive?” If so, consider asking if there is an alternative.  There often is.  Or ask him or her to prescribe only a few so there is no temptation if you end up being someone who thirsts for the substance.  And for goodness sake, never use the medicine beyond what it was intended for or share it with somebody else.

Addictive prescriptions are called “scheduled” drugs in the United States. They have specific rules and regulations.  Commonly scheduled drugs are those used for anxiety, pain, cough, and ADHD.  I don’t like people to be in acute pain, but neither do I want them to live a lifelong nightmare with prescription drug abuse.

How can I get off of this medicine? Ask your doctor if there are ways to get off of medicines.

I started blogging when I realized how important nutrition was in my family’s health. We have shed numerous medicines by overhauling our diet (and not in the way I was trained to overhaul a diet which talked about very low fat, calories, and lots of grains).  We have ditched Prilosec (GERD), Flonase (allergies), Miralax (constipation),  Flovent (asthma-type symptoms), albuterol (asthma-type symptoms), and Aleve (for headaches).  As I continue to read and learn, I see more and more that our prescription drugs can be detrimental–drugs that I dispensed and prescribed thousands of times.  Sure, there are times you need them, but often they are just a crutch and excuse to not take the bull by the horns and eat for the body instead of the tongue.

Prilosec and other proton pump inhibitors block acid production and the factor (intrinsic factor) needed for you to absorb vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin). They also change the acid balance being made by the stomach, which in turn decreases the amount of pancreatic enzymes needed to absorb your food, so you’re not absorbing food nutrients as much as you should.  Lipitor and other statin medicines block the formation of not only cholesterol, but also coenzyme Q 10.  Coenzyme Q 10 is necessary for your cells’ production of energy for themselves to function.  I could go on about SSRIs, steroids, NSAIDS, and antibiotics.  All these medicines have downstream effects in the body, and if you can get off of them by changing your diet, THEN DO IT.  Dang it.  Do it.

Ask your doctor what it would take to get off of the medicine. It is true.  There are some medicines that will be required forever.  However, if he mentions diet and exercise, then I encourage you to check out different kinds of nutritional changes such as Wahls’ Protocol, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, SCD, GAPS, Wheat Belly, or another REAL FOOD type of plan.  If he doesn’t mention diet and exercise (like for headaches, irritable bowel, depression, GERD, respiratory issues, sinus issues, acne), I still encourage you to do a bit of searching and start asking questions.

One medicine leads to another, and soon you’re on 10 drugs. Investigate the role of nutrition and lifestyle in your health, and don’t take the answer, “Oh, it’s fine to take it as long as you need it.” as the end of the conversation.

Multiple flowersI wish you health. Be safe taking medicines.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.


Digestive Link Sharing

Fall leavesThere are so many helpful, fascinating topics I really want to get a chance to read on and summarize for my blog posts.  Writing and explaining helps solidify the information in my mind and hopefully the summarized information helps some readers too.  Sadly, I just can’t keep up with all that I want to do in a timely fashion.  So today I’m going to share three links which have been shared with me that some readers may be interested in.  Eventually, I’d like to read and summarize on the methanogens and progesterone links.  But, honestly, I can see it may take me a year to do it.

Link ONE is about how certain microorganisms in the gut make methane which then slows the intestinal transit leading to chronic constipation.  This may lead to the idea that a breath test could be diagnostic and certain antibiotics helpful.

Methanogens in Human Health and Disease

Link TWO is about the effect of progesterone and prostaglandins on women’s colons.  Women with chronic constipation and slow transit have been found to have abnormal levels of prostaglandins and cyclooxygenases in their colons.  When researchers applied progesterone to colon cells from women without constipation, they were able to bring about the abnormal levels seen in cells from constipated colons.  So there is clearly a role between progesterone, prostaglandins, and chronic constipation. 

Chronic constipation in women linked to prostaglandins

Link THREE is about an online, digestive conference coming up.  It is free.  There are some good speakers involved who are on the cutting edge, or at least reading up on the cutting edge, of digestive health.  The speakers are from a wide variety of backgrounds, some MDs and some not.  Usually something like this is a good place to listen, generate ideas, and then verify ideas with research or run them by your doctor.

The Digestion Sessions


Information is key.  Help your doctor help you by learning the new information out there.  Your doctor is like a good coach.  They have strong knowledge and experiences, but they’re trying to orchestrate many, many players all day long.  There is no way on God’s great earth doctors can ever keep up on all of the new information.  Print off credible articles, highlight important information in it which you think applies to you, and then say, “Hey, Doc.  I found this article about my problem.  Could we try it for me or do you think it’s a bad idea?”

Thank you Ashwin, Nishka, and Toni for the links.  I can’t wait to delve into them more.